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Smithtown East's Cusano beats East Islip

Smithtown East starting pitcher Justin Cusano (44). (May

Smithtown East starting pitcher Justin Cusano (44). (May 10, 2012) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

The stage is set.

By defeating East Islip, 3-0, Thursday, host Smithtown East was able to stay alive in Suffolk League III and set up a showdown with the Redmen for the regular-season baseball championship Friday at East Islip.

Senior Justin Cusano pitched a gem for Smithtown East. The lefthander threw a four-hitter with five strikeouts and no walks.

"Justin was outstanding,'' coach Ken Klee said. "It was certainly his best high school performance.''

If the Redmen (15-2) win Friday, they will win the league championship outright. If the Bulls (14-3) win, they will share the title, but they own the tiebreaker for playoff seeding.

Cusano immediately got run support when first baseman Doug Milne hit a home run to deep left in the bottom of the first. It was the senior's first homer of his high school career.

Cusano settled in from there, getting back-to-back strikeouts in the second inning before getting help from his defense in the third. After Paul Donderno hit a single with one out, centerfielder Chris Rubin and leftfielder Christian Vetter made back-to-back diving catches to end the inning.

"That's our bread and butter, pitching and defense,'' Cusano said. "That's what's going to win us games, and the defense was outstanding today.''

The Bulls scored two more runs in the fifth, when Demetri Lettas scored on an error and Rubin hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Matt Kelly.

Smithtown East's defense came up big again in the seventh. With one out and runners on first and second, second baseman Will Bennett caught a line drive and tossed the ball to shortstop Nick Auricchio, who stepped on second for the game-ending double play.

Ken Rotunno pitched six innings for East Islip, allowing two earned runs and four hits and striking out five.

The League III deciding game will begin at 4:30 p.m.

"We're looking forward to it," Cusano said. "We're gonna come out and give them a fight."

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