Anthony D’Onofrio said he wanted to set the tone on the first pitch of the game. The Wantagh leadoff hitter wanted quality swings early against Shoreham-Wading River’s hard-throwing Brian Morrell.
“I feel like the rest of the team feeds off my first at-bat,” D’Onofrio said. “If I can get us going we can win.”
D’Onofrio lined a 92-mile-per-hour fastball over the head of leftfielder Vin Uzzi for a leadoff double to start a string of four consecutive hits to ignite a four-run first inning and send Wantagh to a 4-2 win over Shoreham-Wading River Saturday before an announced crowd of 1,200 in the Long Island Class A baseball championship game at SUNY-Old Westbury.
It was the second straight Long Island Class A title for the defending state champions.
Jimmy Joyce and Anthony Fontana contributed run-scoring singles in the four-run rally.
“D’Onofrio is the catalyst,” Wantagh coach Keith Sachs said. “He’s an amazing young person that plays every facet of the game at the highest level. This was a big team win against a very classy and talented Shoreham team.”
Wantagh (22-5) will play in the state Class A semifinal at 6:30 p.m. on Friday at Union-Endicott High School.
Morrell said his game plan was more of the same. The Notre Dame commit, was going to be aggressive and go right after the hitters. He settled down after the first inning and allowed one hit in the final five innings.
“We got to Morrell early and that was huge,” D’Onofrio said. “Once he gets into a rhythm, he’s so tough.”
Morrell dominated the rest of the way, retiring 15 of 18 batters, as Shoreham tried to mount a comeback.
“I went after them and they had an inning,” Morrell said. “From there I had to keep us in the game and help us come back.”
Fontana, the Wantagh starter, was crafty through five innings. He mixed speeds and pitched a smart game keeping the vaunted Shoreham offense off balance. The Wildcats, who hit a Long Island leading 36 home runs, couldn’t figure the lefty out.
Fontana allowed one hit through three innings.
“He had us jumping at offspeed pitches and impatient the first time around,” Shoreham-Wading River coach Kevin Willi said. “The second time through the order we had better swings but it’s a big park and kept some well-hit balls from going out.”
Shoreham (24-2) threatened to have a big fourth inning. Morrell walked and Tom Brady singled before D’Onofrio, playing shortstop, made an outstanding over the shoulder catch while falling down on a bloop into short leftfield.
“It was the defensive play of the game,” Sachs said. “It was critical at that point because it prevented a really big inning.”
After Dean Stalzer lifted a long fly to rightfield to advance Morrell to third base, Jon Luppens and Vin Uzzi contributed back-to-back run-scoring singles to cut the lead to 4-2.
Fontana escaped with little damage when he got Alex Bettenhauser to fly to deep leftfield.
It made D’Onofrio’s web gem all the more important.
“We’ve made the big plays all season,” Sachs said. “Nothing surprises with these guys, especially D’Onofrio. He’s so athletic.”
Fontana exited after he scattered five hits, walked one and struck out one in five innings. Senior closer Brendan Haas fired two hitless, scoreless innings for the save and the Warriors were on their way to defend the state title in Binghamton.
“We had the big inning and played great defense,” Fontana said. “It was a great start to a huge win.”