At this point of the year, Larry Minor has watched another team from Region XV book their trip to the NJCAA Division III World Series in Tyler, Texas. During the 13-year coaching career of Minor at Nassau CC, the Lions have come close, but didn't win the Region XV title until this season.

Nassau CC (37-11) will make its first trip to the World Series since 1988 and will open the double-elimination tournament at 2 p.m. on Saturday against Montgomery CC (Md.).

"It is tremendous because we have been fighting to get there for 13 years," Minor said. "It has been a long quest. It was always tough because we felt we could have been there also. We had a breakthrough season."

Unlike previous years, everything came together down the stretch with the Lions winning eight of their final 10 games by an average of 9.7 runs.

"It's surreal," sophomore shortstop James Wong said. "We were confident coming into the season, but you don't think it's actually going to happen. We lost in the second round last year of the Region XV Tournament and it was disappointing. It seemed in every clutch situation this year, we came through."

The Lions defeated Suffolk CC-Brentwood, 24-8, in the Region XV final. The pitching staff, one of the strengths of the team, hasn't needed all that run support.

Paul Budkevics is 6-0 with a 1.74 ERA and has 55 strikeouts in 31 innings, Jason Lembo is 6-0 with a 3.81 ERA with 59 strikeouts in 33 innings, Paul Bischoff is 5-0 with a 2.47 ERA, Corey Murphy is 4-0 with a 1.20 ERA and C.J. Ferriggi is 4-2 with a 3.75 ERA. Ferriggi also plays first base and hit .466 with 33 RBIs and third baseman Brian Walsh hit .475 with 33 RBIs.

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"I didn't expect this," Minor said. "Baseball is a funny game. Sometimes you have a lot of talent, but the talent plays as individuals. The chemistry was great. We were strong in all areas. In the past, we might have been strong in one area."

Wong said he was aware that the Lions haven't got this far in 22 years.

"We didn't talk about it much," he said. "We tried to focus on the present, but I knew how important this was for the school and coaches. The baseball gods have been on our side. I hope it continues for another week."