Last season’s final loss never left the East Meadow baseball team’s mind.
Losing the final game of the season is never easy, but when it’s in the quarterfinals and in a No. 8-No. 1 upset, the sting burns a little more and sticks around even longer.
“Last year we went down, everybody thought we were going to be the best last year, we were ranked last year,” said senior Zach Fritz. “This year, we weren’t even ranked. We were underdogs really, everyone didn’t think anything of us but we really came together as a team all season.”
And with the opportunity to seal the deal and complete the redemption tour, No. 3 East Meadow wasted little time and didn’t disappoint, using a five-run first inning to catapult itself to the program’s first Nassau AA baseball championship since 2005 with a 5-3 victory over No. 4 Massapequa Wednesday at Farmingdale State College in front of an estimated 1,200.
East Meadow (21-5) advances to play the Suffolk AA No. 3 seeded West Islip, Saturday at 3 p.m. at Farmingdale State.
After the first three batters reached safely in the first inning, Frank Ippolito drilled a 2-1 fastball for a two-run double to leftfield to drive in Paul Miano and Joe Gangi.
“It was huge,” Ippolito said. “I felt so good. I got in a hitters count, pitch right down the middle, it was great.”
But the Jets weren’t near done. Fritz, who hit a bloop single to rightfield before Ippolito’s drive, scored the game’s third run after Marcus Kabigting worked a walk.
Starting pitcher Matt Mascia helped himself following Kabigting’s walk. With the bases loaded, he hit a sacrifice fly to right to drive in Ippolito and Sal D’Onofrio came around to score after an error on the relay throw to give East Meadow a 5-0 first-inning lead.
“It’s uncanny,” said Mascia, who allowed one run in six innings. “Just going out there, having that five-run lead, if they get a run here or there, who cares, you have five. Just have to play with it. Have to run with it.”
Mascia relied on his defense from there. Despite pitching out of some jams, Mascia kept Massapequa off the scoreboard through six, including help in the fifth inning by shortstop Sal D’Onofrio’s double play.
Massapequa’s Daniel Gdanski kept the Chiefs in the game, allowing no runs in more than four inning of relief. The Chiefs (19-6) made it close in the seventh, highlighted by Brandon Fanizza’s two-run double, but East Meadow’s Ryan Wallstedt closed the door.
“We were the No. 1 seed last year and we got bounced out of the playoffs early,” East Meadow coach John Marciante said. “I really think they came in with a chip on their shoulder and they were eager to prove everyone wrong.”