Pitcher Evan Kay leaps into Matthew Mayer’s arms after Commack...

Pitcher Evan Kay leaps into Matthew Mayer’s arms after Commack won L.I. Class AA crown on Saturday, June 3, 2023. Credit: James Escher

A year later, Commack finished the job.

Last year’s loss to Massapequa in the Long Island Class AA baseball championship game has been the Cougars’ driving force since the offseason.

“After the loss last year, I started a group chat with all the returning players and titled it ‘Unfinished Business.’ That’s been our mantra all year,” Commack coach Matt Salmon said.

Junior Evan Kay led the charge this time around, striking out eight in seven innings in Commack’s 7-0 win over Massapequa for the Long Island Class AA championship on Saturday at St. Joseph’s (L.I.).

It’s Commack’s second Long Island title in program history, but the Cougars will be making their first trip to Mirabito Stadium in Binghamton for a state semifinal matchup with Shenendehowa on Friday. When Commack won the Long Island Conference I title in 2021, the state tournament was not held because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After forcing a pop-out to escape a bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning, Kay walked into the dugout holding up one finger. One more inning.

Kay hit Massapequa leadoff hitter Bobby Gitto with a pitch to start the seventh, but he knew it was no big deal. The next batter, Stony Brook commit Erik Paulsen, grounded one up the middle to shortstop Chris McHugh, who stepped on second and fired to first for a double play.

“After that double play, I looked around for a second and said, ‘This is it. Let’s get this last one,’  ” Kay said.

He got Michael Vilardi to ground out to McHugh for the final out. Seconds later, Kay was at the center of the dogpile on the mound.

McHugh got Commack on the board in the third when he launched a double to the left-centerfield fence, driving in Aidan Murphy from first. Two batters later, McHugh stole third and scored as the throw went into leftfield, giving Commack a 2-0 lead.

“We had all the momentum,” McHugh said. “From that point on, it was our game. Especially with Evan on the mound, he’s not letting up any runs in a game like this.”

McHugh started a two-out rally in the fourth when he was hit by a pitch by another Stony Brook commit, George Adams, who relieved Paulsen to start the inning. Joey DiMotta followed with a single and Connor Schramm (4-for-4) sent a liner to left to drive in McHugh.

Kay looped a single to right to drive in DiMotta. Schramm and Kay scored on a perfectly placed pop-up into shallow right-centerfield by Matt Mayer, giving Commack a 6-0 lead entering the fifth.

“With two outs, I wasn’t expecting too much, but that’s what we do,” McHugh said. “We make something out of those situations, and especially against a D-I pitcher, it’s not easy.”

Commack (24-2) flashed the leather in the fifth as DiMotta made a diving catch in leftfield for the second out and Ryan Krzemienski laid out in centerfield for the final out of the inning.

“I just wanted to attack hitters and let my defense go to work,” Kay said. “They’ve been making those plays all year, especially Krzemienski. He’s made a bunch of those diving catches this year.”

David Garren went 2-for-2 and Gitto was 2-for-3 for Massapequa (23-5). It was the third straight meeting between the two teams for a Long Island title and the fourth since 2017.

“We wanted to play Massapequa because we felt that if we want to be the best, we’ve got to beat the best,” Salmon said. “I think there’s a mutual respect. It’s not so much of a rivalry, just two really good baseball teams that seem to play each other at this time of the year.”

Mayer went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and DiMotta was 2-for-4 with two runs.

“We have more business to finish,” Schramm said. “We’ve just got to play our hardest like we always do. It’s gotten us this far.”

Newsday LogoCovering LI news as it happensDigital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months