There was no sleight of hand, no magic and no trickery. Randall Alejo was just a good old-fashioned escape artist in a good old-fashioned pitchers' duel.
The Patchogue-Medford starter faced a bases-loaded, one-out jam Wednesday in the top of the seventh inning of a scoreless game against Longwood. Facing the heart of the order, the 6-foot righthander had to be mistake free.
Alejo recorded a strikeout before ending a nine-pitch at-bat against No. 3 hitter Jose Matos by inducing a groundout to shortstop.
Pat-Med (9-5) then went quietly, prompting extra innings. The Raiders finally broke through in the bottom of the ninth. Tyler Miller led off with a walk and scored on an overthrow on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Gerard Phil for a 1-0 Suffolk League I victory.
Sophomore Gio Cocchiaro pitched two perfect innings to earn the win. Alejo struck out 10 and worked around five hits, one walk and two hit batsmen over 108 pitches.
“We just kind of grind it out,” said Pat-Med coach Anthony Frascogna, who added that his team clinched a playoff berth. “These are our games.”
Frascogna said Alejo sits in the mid-80s but can touch 90 mph, and he challenged Matos in the game’s biggest moment. Matos was right on Alejo’s fastball — fouling four straight — and eventually scorched a grounder to Patrick Dallas at short, who fired across the diamond to get Matos at first base.
“He always fights,” Alejo said. “That’s a good fight. I like that. I just kept throwing the same thing at him, changing locations with my two-seamer and four-seamer.”
Alejo and Longwood's Steven Murphy matched zeros for seven innings, but Murphy had more left in the tank for the Lions (11-6). He tossed eight clean innings but was handed the tough loss. He walked Miller in the ninth, pushing his pitch count to 109 before being relieved by Jake Dannenberg.
“When I see a pitcher going at it, I’m going to fight back and do the exact same thing,” Alejo said, crediting Murphy. “That’s what I do.”
Not to be outdone, Cocchiaro struck out the first two batters of the eighth with a sharp curve and sneaky fastball. He varied his delivery, modeling himself after Pat-Med star Marcus Stroman of the Blue Jays.
“Stroman went here, and you know he mixes it up a little bit,” Cocchiaro said. “You have to idle it sometimes, mix it up and throw them off.”