Jimmy Joyce likes the number three.
Joyce plays third base for Wantagh.
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He hits third in the order.
He wears the No. 3 jersey.
“It’s never not been my number,” he said.
But when the opportunity is right, he has no problem with one or two.
Joyce drilled a first-pitch fastball for a two-bagger in the 11th inning Monday, scoring John Conroy for the go-ahead run in Wantagh’s 5-4 win over host Division.
The result separated Wantagh (12-1) and Division (11-2) by a game in the Nassau A-II standings with two more in the series this week.
“As a team, we’re the most confident team in the county right now,” said Joyce, a Hofstra commit who struck out four times in five at-bats before the winning double. “If we play to our ability, I don’t think anybody can beat us.”
For a while, it looked like Division would.
Wantagh ace Will O’Brien struggled early with his command. He walked four Blue Dragons and allowed four runs in the first two innings before retiring 16 of his last 17 through seven.
On the other side, Brandon O’Brien worked fast, threw strikes and kept Wantagh off balance with his breaking ball. He held the Warriors scoreless through five innings.
“I thought he mixed up the pitches well,” Wantagh coach Keith Sachs said. “He knew when to bounce a pitch and when to throw it for a strike. I think he had us off stride. He was difficult to figure out.”
But after starting the sixth with a strikeout, O’Brien left his curveball up against John Fitzgerald and Joyce. They each singled and scored on Trevor Fagan’s two-out base hit. Will O’Brien scored on an error, and Fagan touched home on Conroy’s walk later in the inning.
“It was nice to find a new way to win because we’ve been pretty much mistake-free all year,” Sachs said. “We could have just thrown in the towel against a good team being down by four.”
Sachs lifted O’Brien after seven innings and inserted Bobby Hegarty, who normally pitches the third game each week. Working quickly, Hegarty allowed just one hit and struck out four in four innings to earn the win. He retired the last 10 Blue Dragons that stepped to the plate.
“He wanted to come in, and he has to win us one game a week,” Sachs said. “Why not the first game?”
One, two, three — what’s the difference?
“He already asked if he could” start the third game, Sachs said. “We told him let’s relax and wait and see. Maybe he’ll close three games this week instead.”