The wait is finally over at Bethpage.
It took nearly four decades, but the Golden Eagles are again a county champion in baseball.
Junior Conor Burns and senior Zach Schnabel delivered them the title in the deciding Game 3 of the Nassau Conference IV Championship Series against Plainedge. Burns threw a four-hit complete game and Schnabel drove both runs as host Bethpage prevailed for a white-knuckle 2-1 victory on Friday.
The top-seeded Golden Eagles (19-2) were alone or tied for first place for all but four days of the season, a virtual wire-to-wire performance, to gain their third county title and first since 1983. Bethpage advances to Sunday’s 2 p.m. Long Island title game where it will face Suffolk IV champion East Islip (15-5) at Mitchel Athletic Complex.
"Before we came out to play today, I looked at the championship stuff we have displayed in the school and thought, ‘How great would it be to have our season right there with it?’ " Burns said. "It’s great to be there. Our team made our mark and will always be represented at our school."
"This is an incredibly satisfying moment," said Rob Fisher, who has coached the Eagles since 2004. "Think about the turmoil that had to be overcome. Think about losing last season and playing this one so compressed. I am proud of what our guys did to play through it all. I’m glad they come away with something they can always remember."
Finishing strong was almost thematic for Bethpage. It started the season 6-0 before Plainedge (16-5) handed it a loss to take over first place. The Eagles beat the Red Devils in the regular-season rematch and went on to win 13 of 14 en route to the Nassau crown. And Burns and Schnabel came up big late in the game to complete the feat.
"Burns did a great job at the end," Plainedge coach Colin Fratrick said. "We just couldn’t get that one hit we needed off him."
Burns struggled with control early, issuing all three of his walks in the first inning and allowing Plainedge to grab a 1-0 lead on Tyler Kregeloh’s fielder’s choice. Yet he was big at the end, snuffing the Devils in the sixth and seventh innings with a runner in scoring position.
"I had to buckle down," Burns said.
"He shook off that first inning and got big outs when it counted most," Fisher added.
Schnabel provided the offense with a pair of sacrifice flies to centerfield off Kregeloh in the first and sixth innings, tying the game and then providing the winning run. The shortstop also caught the final out, snaring a bloop to short leftfield before colliding with outfielder Chris Rimaldi.
With the score tied at 1, Burns drew a full-count walk, stole second and moved to third on a Phil D’Aguanno single.
"We had to get the run in," Schnabel said. "I looked for an away fastball to drive and got one."
It was apropos as Schnabel has been delivering for the Eagles all season. After a pair of injuries, he played shortstop as well as second and third base.
"Our season doesn’t come together with out the incredible versatility and performance he gave us," Fisher said. "But that’s sort of what our team was like. There were no egos. Everyone would do anything for the greater good."