In typical Massapequa fashion, the final play of the Long Island Class AA baseball championship game was a defensive gem.
Shortstop Phil Cottone backhanded a hard grounder in the hole and fired across the diamond to first baseman Nick Schwartz, who made the catch before a diving Jack Altieri reached the base.
As soon as the umpire emphatically punched out Altieri, a wild celebration ensued as Massapequa punctuated a 7-1 win over West Islip to claim its second straight LI Class AA championship at SUNY Old Westbury.
Massapequa (20-6) advanced to the semifinal round of the state’s Class AA tournament against Horseheads at Union-Endicott High School in Binghamton at 2 p.m. Friday.
It was Massapequa’s sixth Long Island title since 2006.
West Islip (25-3), which won the LI Class AA crown in 2016, had its winning streak end at 21 games.
Massapequa starter Christian DeNave fired a four-hitter. He walked three and struck out five in his third complete game of the season.
“He’s a perfect example of our pitching program,” Massapequa coach Tom Sheedy said. “He’s built himself up to be strong at the end of games.”
West Islip threatened to score first but the Massapequa defense came up big. Tommy Parson singled, Mike LaDonna walked and the runners stole second and third with none out on a fake bunt by Anthony Cinquemani.
On the ensuing pitch, Cinquemani lifted a fly ball to centerfielder Aidan Cooney, who made a perfect relay throw to Schwartz in the middle of the diamond. The junior turned and fired home, where Andrew Primm applied the tag to cut down Parson and keep the game scoreless.
“An enormous defensive play that shut down a potentially big inning,” Sheedy said. “We kept them off the board and that’s big. You always want to score first.”
The Chiefs did just that. They took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Mike Grisanti drilled a one-out double, moved to third on Mike Moreno’s single and scored on Wade Kelly’s forceout.
“It was such an important turnaround,” Sheedy said.
DeNave retired nine in a row through the fourth inning before the Chiefs tacked on two more runs.
With one out in the fourth, Johnny Castagnozzi doubled and Grisanti and Moreno drew walks to load the bases. Kelly lifted a sacrifice fly and Aidan Cooney added an RBI single.
The Chiefs scored four more runs in the fifth for a 7-0 lead. Schwartz crushed a leadoff triple and scored on Primm’s single to start the rally. After two infield errors loaded the bases, Grisanti lined a two-run single and Kelly hit a sacrifice fly.
“We’re just so relaxed when we hit,” Schwartz said. “And we drive the ball.”
The rest was left to DeNave, who was touched for two singles and a run in the sixth inning but struck out three in the final two innings.