Ward Melville's Andrew Schelberg was living every baseball player's dream. There he stood, bases loaded, one out, bottom of the ninth, trailing first-place Commack by a run. With the home crowd roaring, destiny lay in the 33-inch bat squeezed between Schelberg's fingers.
Commack reliever Ryan Heizman, pitching from the windup, delivered a fastball that Schelberg ripped up the middle and toward centerfield.
"I thought it was a clean single to center,'' Schelberg said. "And the shortstop made an unbelievable stop.''
Ranging to his left, Commack shortstop Jesse Berardi dived and robbed Schelberg of a hit. And what came next made for a bizarre ending.
In spectacular fashion, Berardi flipped the ball from his glove hand to get the forceout at second base. But a hard takeout slide from Chris Cepeda forced an errant relay to first, and as the ball got away and Phil Carballeira scored the tying run, Ward Melville coach Lou Petrucci wheeled Chris Peterson around third. Peterson scored the winning run as the Patriots came back from a five-run deficit to edge Commack, 10-9, Monday in a Suffolk League I thriller.
"Peterson had a good jump from second base on the grounder and I was sending him all the way,'' Petrucci said of the potential game-ending double-play ball. "Berardi's stop was amazing. The ball should have made it into centerfield.''
Kyle Pedroli led Ward Melville with two homers and five RBIs. Ward Melville (13-5) prevented Commack from clinching first place and moved within two games of the Cougars (15-3) with two to play.
"It's a terrible way to lose because we could have closed them out,'' Berardi said. "But we're a resilient team.''
Commack forged a 9-8 lead in the ninth when Paul Maline led off with a double and scored on Joe Baltera's single. With the bases loaded and one out, Berardi lined a shot at Ward Melville reliever Kevin Wiltse, who snared it and threw to first for an inning-ending double play.
"That set up the comeback,'' Petrucci said.
Wiltse picked up the win with 41/3 innings of six-hit relief. Patriots ace Anthony Kay yielded an earned run in the first on Joe Sparacino's double but allowed four unearned runs in the third and two in the fourth as Commack jumped to a 7-2 lead.
Pedroli's two-run homer in the fifth and his solo shot in a three-run seventh aided the Patriots' comeback. Peterson had an RBI single in the seventh before a wild pitch allowed the tying run to score. Pedroli also had a two-run single in the first.
"It's about time, because I've been struggling,'' Pedroli said. "I've been putting in the extra work and felt locked in.''
It's all about timing.