When Connor Pedersen stepped to the plate in the bottom of the fifth inning with the score tied on Sunday night, Bryan Bonin — standing in the third-base coach’s box — had a feeling something big was going to happen.
"If I could pick any of my 25 guys to be up there in that spot, that’s the guy I want," the fourth-year Commack coach said.
With runners on second and third and one out, Pedersen ripped a pitch into centerfield for a two-run single to give Commack the lead in its 3-1 win over Massapequa in the Long Island Conference I championship game at St. Joseph’s Athletic Complex in Patchogue.
"I got a pitch high in the zone and just drilled it up the middle," said Pedersen, who drove in three runs.
In the previous at-bat, Jack Lagner contributed a perfect sacrifice bunt down the third-base line to move the runners up. "He’s been doing a good job with that all season," Pedersen said.
Pedersen also got it done with his glove at shortstop. He had four assists and a putout and made the biggest defensive play of the game in the sixth.
Massapequa (18-3), winner of the previous three Long Island Class AA championships, had runners on first and third with two outs after Connor Kelly drew a walk. With his brother Frank on third, Connor attempted to steal second on the first pitch of the next at-bat, but the Cougars (18-3) had a play set up.
Catcher Anthony Chiapetta fired to Pedersen a few feet in front of second base. Pedersen caught the ball and quickly fired to third, picking off Frank to end the inning.
"I was getting frustrated when we were on defense and teams had first and third and it became second and third with no problem," Bonin said. "We put in two new plays Saturday at practice and it worked a day later."
Massapequa tied the score at 1 in the fifth when Jordan DeStefano laced an RBI double to the rightfield wall to drive in Mike Vilardi. Winning pitcher and UConn commit Craig Pihlkar struck out Vincent Mallon to strand a runner at third.
Pihlkar struck out seven in a complete game and allowed six hits and three walks. Losing pitcher Liam Carroll struck out 11 in a complete game and allowed three hits and five walks.
Johnny Catuosco (1-for-1 with two walks and a stolen base) led off the game with a single and reached third on Lagner’s bunt single, which forced an errant throw. Pedersen then lifted an 0-and-2 pitch to right for a sacrifice fly.
"It shows that he doesn’t care only about himself. He’ll do anything he can to help the team win," Catuosco said of Lagner. "He’s a great player and I’m glad he’s on our side."