The moment was subtle but dynamic in its delivery. And Dylan Johnson is all about the delivery. Whether he’s pitching or in the dugout, Johnson is a fabulous leader.
He’s at his best when failure seeks doom. Such was the case in Newfield’s Suffolk Conference I championship against South Side. The Wolverines, making their first appearance for a Long Island baseball title, were in the bottom of the fourth inning of a scoreless game.
Johnson launched a one-out triple, giving some hope as the go-ahead run. That optimism vanished when a suicide squeeze bunt attempt failed and Johnson was thrown out at the plate.
And in the worst of times, Johnson shines. The senior brushed himself off and leaned into the batter with an embrace and a few comforting words.
"I told him we’re good, no worries, we got this," Johnson said. "It was one moment. And I wasn’t going to let that be the defining moment in the game. It’s important to stick together no matter what happens."
Johnson went on to throw a three-hitter and strike out 13 as Newfield edged South Side, 3-1, to claim the school’s first Long Island championship at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue.
Johnson finished the season with a 7-0 record, three saves and a 0.65 earned run average. He struck out 78, walked 10 and allowed 21 hits in 51 innings. Opposing hitters batted .127 against him.
For his accomplishments, Johnson was presented the 53rd Carl Yastrzemski Award, given to Suffolk’s top player, at a ceremony at the Newfield High School varsity baseball field Wednesday afternoon in Selden.
"It’s been a fantastic four years watching him grow into an excellent all-around player," Newfield coach Eric Joyner said. "His pitching is certainly something everyone focuses on. But he also had a very productive season swinging the bat."
Johnson batted .447 with 27 hits, 23 RBIs, 16 runs scored and 16 stolen bases.
Forty years ago, Johnson’s uncle, Raf Cepeda of Comsewogue, won the Yastrzemski Award. Johnson adds another trophy to the family showcase as he becomes Newfield’s first Yastrzemski Award winner.
Johnson also pitched in big games all season. He fired a 10-strikeout one-hitter to clinch the regular-season conference title with a 4-1 win over West Islip. It was Newfield’s first conference title since 2005. He also threw a six-hitter to beat Eastport-South Manor in a 4-1 conference playoff semifinal.
"There’s going to be failure in this game and Dylan has been playing varsity since ninth grade," Joyner said. "He understands it’s how you respond to those disappointing moments that will ultimately define what kind of player you are. He is a tremendous leader and so supportive of our younger players — and a real role model on how the game is supposed to be played."
Johnson’s signature moment came in the top of the sixth inning against Eastport-South Manor in that Conference III playoff semifinal. The Sharks opened the inning with three straight singles to load the bases.
"How many teams fold in that spot and the game gets away from them," Joyner said. "Not us, not with Dylan Johnson on the bump. He believed he could escape the jam and shut it down and he did. And our defense believed in him and that’s where leadership takes you. It puts you in a different mentality under any kind of dire circumstances."
Johnson, who is committed to St. John’s University, induced a 1-2-3 double play and then recorded a strikeout to escape the jam. Newfield scored three times in the bottom of the sixth for the win.
"That’s the piece that no one sees, the teammate part," Newfield assistant coach Mike Prisco said. "Dylan is so confident. He’d say, ‘I got this, we got this,’ and did that all year long. Every single game, almost every inning, he would gather the team and have them huddle around him and demand their attention. His words were always positive and supportive. There was no ego and that’s a rarity with a superstar player."
When the team decided to dye their hair red as a show of unity, Johnson was right in there with them.
On Tuesday night, Johnson received a text from Joyner telling him to text the team to meet at the varsity field to give out some awards and acknowledge the accomplishments of the season.
"He was the voice of the team, the soul," Prisco said. "There was never any division or separation from the team, it was always about team unity. He had no idea the meeting was to celebrate him."
2021 — Dylan Johnson, Newfield
2020 — No season
2019 — Max Nielson, Ward Melville
2018 — Matt Hogan, Half Hollow Hills East
2017 — Brian Morrell, Shoreham-Wading River
2016 — Brian Morrell, Shoreham-Wading River
2015 — Nick Fanti, Hauppauge
2014 — Jesse Berardi, Commack
2013 — Matt Crohan, Riverhead
2012 — Mike O’Reilly, Shoreham-Wading River
2011 — Alec Sole`, Sachem North
2010 — Jimmy Briggs, Lindenhurst
2009 — Steven Matz, Ward Melville
2008 — Marcus Stroman, Patchogue-Medford
2007 — A.J. Nunziato, Ward Melville
2006 — Glenn Gibson, Center Moriches
2005 — David Collado, Copiague
2004 — Brian Johnson, East Islip
2003 — Estee Harris, Central Islip
2002 — Scott King, Connetquot
2001 — Tim Layden, Deer Park
2000 — Jason Gouge, East Islip
1999 — Dominick Ambrosini, Connetquot
1998 — Rick Riccobono, Commack
1997 — Rob Rizzo, Half Hollow Hills West
1996 — Mark Frole, Lindenhurst
1995 — Mike Cabales, East Islip
1994 — Ross Gload, East Hampton
1993 — Bill Koch, West Babylon
1992 — Mike Ciminiello, Smithtown East
1991 — John Garside, Glenn
1990 — Anthony Graffanino, East Islip
1989 — Brady Forseth, Smithtown West
1988 — Jim Mecir, Smithtown East
1987 — Keith Osik, Shoreham-Wading River
1986 — John Thoden, Patchogue-Medford
1985 — Ron Witmeyer, East Islip
1984 — Ron Witmeyer, East Islip
1983 — Rich Vichroski, Northport
1982 — Chris Bayer, West Islip
1981 — Raf Cepeda, Comsewogue
1980 — Kevin Baugh, Deer Park
1979 — Boomer Esiason, East Islip
1978 — Neal Heaton, Sachem
1977 — Jim Walker, Whitman
1976 — Victor Nicotra, Islip
1975 — Mike Heiser, Whitman
1974 — Al Willet, Patchogue
1973 — Len Locascio, Commack South
1972 — Neal O’Hara, Northport
1971 — Tom Veryzer, Islip
1970 — Don DeMola, Commack South
1969 — Richard Walsh, Central Islip
1968 — Skip Borowicz, Huntington