Travis Bruinsma will take an ice bath sometime Sunday. He's going to need it. And it will be well deserved.
Making his third appearance in four days, the Connetquot ace fired a six-hitter with five strikeouts in top-seeded Connetquot's 5-1 win over second-seeded Ward Melville in Game 1 of the best-of-three Suffolk Class AA baseball finals Saturday in Bohemia. Game 2 is at Ward Melville at 4 p.m. Monday.
Bruinsma (10-2), who threw 91 pitches, also picked up the victory in relief when Connetquot (22-3) eliminated Smithtown East in Game 3 of the semifinal round Thursday.
"My arm feels great and I felt like I got stronger as the game went on," said Bruinsma, who was backed by a five-run fifth inning. "I'm going to run three or four miles tonight and get out all the soreness in my body. And I'm definitely looking forward to a relaxing ice bath."
"He's a true competitor and he's got a lot of guts," Connetquot coach Bob Ambrosini said. "He wasn't happy with the game he started against Smithtown East on Wednesday and I asked him if he was ready for today and he said he's always ready to go."
Ward Melville (21-3) scored its only run in the third. Brendan Palmaccio walked and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. After a strikeout, Joe Flynn was intentionally walked for the 14th time this season and Jeff Towle delivered an RBI single.
Ward Melville's Brandon Lee and Dom Lamonica hit back-to-back singles in the fifth before Bruinsma got Flynn and Towle on pop-ups. Troy Davern laced a single to left and Patriots coach Lou Petrucci waved Lee home. "It was the biggest play of the game, the game-changer," he said. "I had to send him and only a perfect throw was going to get him at the plate."
And Aaron Gagliano made one. The converted catcher fired a bullet strike to Stalem Baez to nail Lee and end the inning. "The play of the game," Bruinsma said. "It fired everyone up."
It certainly seemed that way, as Connetquot responded with five runs in the bottom of the inning. After Cole Clark, Kyle Bannon and Marc Wangenstein singled to load the bases, Christian Nissen lined a two-run single and Dave Brehm launched a two-run triple. "I was looking middle in and he threw a fastball right there," Nissen said.
Gagliano's two-out run-scoring single, his 24th RBI in that situation this season, made it 5-1. "He's been clutch all year," Ambrosini said. "He's the guy you want up there with two outs."
Bruinsma retired the final six hitters, making a spectacular diving catch off a bobbled pop-up by Baez. "The ball drifted in the wind and I was just there to back him up," said Bruinsma, who caught it with his bare hand while falling backward.
"Nothing fazes Travis. He's like the iceman," Gagliano said. "He's just doing his thing."
The iceman cometh. The ice cometh, too.