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James Cardinale’s 2-run single gives Commack Class AA title

Commack defeated West Islip, 8-6, to win the

Commack defeated West Islip, 8-6, to win the Suffolk Class AA championship, at West Islip High School, on Wednesday May 31, 2017. (Credit: Newsday/Owen O'Brien)

Commack’s James Cardinale will be the first to admit it wasn’t his best performance on the mound, but he made sure to make up for that with a swing of the bat.

A half-inning after West Islip rallied to score four runs and take the lead, starting pitcher Cardinale had the opportunity to control the outcome. He sent a tiebreaking single into rightfield to drive in Andrew Chidester and Peter Theodorellis in the sixth inning to give No. 2 Commack an 8-6 win over No. 4 West Islip on Wednesday and a sweep of the Suffolk Class AA finals.

“I was trying to get it with a vengeance,” Cardinale said. “They just came back, they took the lead when I was pitching. So I really just wanted to make sure I came back for my team, and that’s what I did.”

Commack will play Nassau AA champion Massapequa (20-6) for the Long Island title Saturday at 7 p.m. at St. Joseph’s College. It was the Cougars’ third county championship, and their first since 1997.

“When we first met (our players), it felt right, it felt special,” said Commack assistant coach Matt Salmon, who played on the 1997 championship team. “Coach (Bryan) Bonin and I are really good friends, and I just knew we had a chance to make a run with our guys. They competed, and I’m just really proud of them.”

Commack (22-3) started with a four-run third, highlighted by RBI singles from Jake Krzemienski and Johnny Pohlman. West Islip (19-8) responded with two runs in the bottom of the inning before Tim McHugh launched a solo home run to give Commack a 5-2 advantage.

But West Islip kept the pressure on, and Greg Tsouprakos’ two-run single made it 5-4. After Joe Valentino’s sacrifice fly tied it, Tommy Parson delivered an RBI single to cap a four-run fifth that gave the Lions a 6-5 lead.

“We always bounce back and we’re always fighting,” said Commack’s Jason Salerno, who went 2-for-4 with a double and a run. “And we always come out with a win.”

That was best displayed in the following inning. Theodorellis powered a triple off the leftfield fence to drive in pinch runner Travis Krzemienski to tie it at 6 before Cardinale’s winning hit.

Jake Krzemienski threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings for his second win out of the bullpen in as many days. And in a rare off game for Cardinale on the mound, it was his hit at the right time that made a championship possible.

“They’re just tough kids,” said Bonin, a first-year coach at Commack. “We tell them never give up, and always fight and always stay focused no matter what’s going on.”

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