Kyle Ambury looked the part of the guy who had just watched a game almost implode.
The catcher's uniform was crusted over in light brown dirt and his eye black had smeared to around his chin, leaving a long dark trail that caked around his mouth. He was smiling, though, and that sort of said it all.
The Warriors (21-5) allowed two unearned runs with two outs in the seventh and pitcher Matt Dybus stranded the tying run on third as Wantagh held off Division, 3-2, in Game 1 of the Nassau Class A finals at Farmingdale State Monday. Game 2 is today at 4:30 p.m.
Said coach Keith Sachs: "It went from easy to scary. It feels like these games always end with the tying run at the plate."
It started out easy enough with another overpowering performance by Dybus. Ambury watched and Dybus dealt. Said Ambury, "I'd call it so they'd expect something else and then I'd tell him to pop in that fastball."
Dybus allowed only one hit through six innings and struck out the first two batters he faced in the seventh. Greg Menz singled to right and advanced to second when a potential lineout by John Cruz was misplayed by shortstop Derek Novotny. J.J. Kissane followed with a single to right to drive in Menz.
Kissane stole second and Ambury threw the ball into the outfield, with Cruz scoring and Kissane moving to third. But Steven Lander grounded out to second to end the threat.
"I wanted to kill [Novotny]," Dybus said playfully.
"I would have let you," Novotny yelled back.
But difficulty gave way to motivation. "I got mad," Dybus said. "And when I get mad, I get an extra 2 mph on my fastball."
The grit is nothing new for Wantagh, a usually hard-hitting team that found itself scratching for runs against Mike Rostenberg.
Tom Megale singled home what proved to be the winning run in the fifth inning after Ambury reached third on an error.
Wantagh was 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Said Sachs, "For a team that hit a bunch of home runs, we had to create a few.''