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Newfield's Dylan Johnson pitches, hits and leads his way to Yastrzemski Award

Newfield's Dylan Johnson during a Suffolk baseball game

Newfield's Dylan Johnson during a Suffolk baseball game against Hauppauge on June 9 at Newfield. Credit: Bob Sorensen

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."

Yastrzemski Award winners

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

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