Mike Handal was well aware of the history at play — nine losses in the previous 13 meetings.
And when given an opportunity to grab some bragging rights, he delivered with the go-ahead RBI in the bottom of the eighth inning.
“It was definitely in the back of our minds going into the later innings,” the Garden City outfielder said of the Nassau All-Star seniors’ mindset following a 5-4 victory over Suffolk in the 14th Rawlings Blue Chip Grand Slam Challenge at St. Joseph’s (L.I.) on Friday night. “We were hungry for this.”
Proceeds from the matchup benefitted North Shore LIJ’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park.
Handal’s single to rightfield broke a tie at 3 and put Nassau ahead 4-3. A throwing error later in the sequence extended the lead to two.
Handal was named the Nassau MVP with two RBIs, and West Islip outfielder Jake Guercio was named both the offensive and Suffolk MVP. Oceanside catcher Dylan Judd earned defensive player of the game honors.
St. Anthony’s pitcher Jared Restmeyer’s scoreless eighth earned him the win, and Locust Valley’s Thomas Eletto forced a groundout with two runners on after surrendering a run to earn the save.
Plainedge’s Jason Bottari scored the tying run for Nassau in the sixth on an RBI by Handal to even the score at 3. A run-scoring double-play groundout gave Suffolk a 3-2 lead in the fourth after back-to-back sacrifice flies by Port Washington’s Jack Stolper and Bottari tied it at 2 in the third.
Guercio scored his second run of the night in the third on a wild pitch to give Suffolk an early 2-0 advantage. He finished 2-for-2 with a stolen base and made an acrobatic diving catch near the leftfield wall in the first that got the crowd buzzing.
“It’s an honor to come down here,” MacArthur assistant coach Steve Cashman said. “I think the best part of it is that all these guys have one moment together at the end to end their high school careers and be on the same field one last time together.”
Copiague pitcher Franklin Parra, who was originally slated to start for Suffolk, sat out after being selected by the Mets in the 11th round of the MLB first-year player draft on Wednesday. He said he’ll wait “until after graduation” to decide whether he will sign with the organization or commit to play college ball at San Jacinto College.
Catcher Logan O’Hoppe of St. John the Baptist was also in attendance following his 23rd-round selection by the Phillies. O’Hoppe confirmed his decision to sign with Philadelphia and said the two sides would meet to discuss contract terms during the weekend.