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Nick Rizzi delivers winning hit as Ward Melville beats East Islip, 1-0

Ward Melville pinch-hitter Nick Rizzi (black helmet) is

Ward Melville pinch-hitter Nick Rizzi (black helmet) is mobbed by his teammates after his walk-off RBI single to right-centerfield in the bottom of the seventh to beat East Islip in Game 1 of the Suffolk baseball Class AA semifinals on Saturday, May 23, 2015. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Players live for that moment they can grab and make their own.

And Nick Rizzi had his moment Saturday.

He was called on to pinch hit for Ward Melville with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning of a scoreless tie with the winning run at third base.

Rizzi was unsuccessful in seven other pinch-hit attempts this season, but this time he was golden. He drilled a 2-and-0 fastball into centerfield for an RBI single that drove in Troy Davern and gave the host Patriots a 1-0 win over East Islip in the first game of their best-of-three Suffolk Class AA semifinal series.

"It was a fastball on the outside corner and I just went with it," Rizzi said. "I knew it right off the bat that it was a game-winner."

Rizzi then found himself underneath an enormous dogpile at first base as the Patriots charged from the third-base dugout across the field to meet their hero.

"I turned around and the guys were going crazy," he said. "It was so exciting. They dumped water all over me. My first pinch hit of the year, and at the right time."

Rizzi pinch hit for starting pitcher Joe Barbieri, the other hero for the Patriots on this day. The senior allowed five hits and struck out eight in the complete-game effort to improve to 8-1.

"I had confidence in my curveball and located the fastball well," Barbieri said. "I was able to throw the curveball in the dirt with two strikes and trust that Jeff [Towle] would block it. Our defense has been solid, and that makes it easy to pitch."

Ward Melville (20-2) will face the Redmen in Game 2 in East Islip at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Barbieri and East Islip senior starter Casey Krebs traded scoreless innings into the last frame. Krebs allowed three hits and three walks and struck out three through six innings.

"He deserved better but we couldn't push a run across," said East Islip coach Sal J. Ciampi, whose team beat Bay Shore and Hauppauge by the same 1-0 score earlier in the tournament. "He shut out a very good offense for six innings and battled like he has all season."

East Islip (18-6) had a scoring opportunity in the fourth inning when Mike Demarest was hit with a pitch and Brendan Dowd singled to put runners at first and second with none out.

"We couldn't get the bunt down to move the runners over," Ciampi said. "That was a key inning and their pitcher fought his way out of the jam."

As good as Barbieri was, Krebs was his equal. He threw five one-hit innings and retired 14 of 18 batters at one point.

"This was a classic pitchers' duel," Ward Melville coach Lou Petrucci said. "It was anyone's game with a break here or there."

That break came in the seventh when Davern singled and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Brandon Wilson.

Petrucci was asked why he thought Rizzi was the right choice for the situation.

"He's had very good practices and I felt he was ready for this chance," he said. "And man, he made me look good, didn't he?"

He made all of Ward Melville feel good.

Connetquot 5, Smithtown East 3: Zach White singled home David Brehm and Brandon Morse in the fifth to give top-seeded Connetquot (20-2) a 5-3 lead over fourth-seeded Smithtown East in Game 1 of their best-of-three Suffolk Class AA semifinal series in Bohemia. Marc Wangenstein went 2-for-4 with two runs and Morse was 1-for-3 with two runs. Game 2 is at Smithtown East at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

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