Clarke’s Nick Berasti delivers during Game 3 of Nassau Class...

Clarke’s Nick Berasti delivers during Game 3 of Nassau Class A final against Wantagh on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

There are phrases heard often in high school sports that one never hears uttered by anyone in the Clarke baseball program. “This is our year” is one of them. “This is the team” is another.

“My guys aren’t kids who play baseball — they’re baseball players,” Rams coach Tom Abruscato said. “To us, every year should be the year and every team should be the team.”

Every year isn’t their year, but this one certainly is after Nick Berasti shrugged off Saturday’s mediocre performance in Game 1 of the Nassau Class A Championship Series against Wantagh and delivered a sparkling four-hit shutout for a 5-0 victory in Tuesday’s deciding Game 3 at Farmingdale State.

Dylan Vikara drove in two runs, Giancarlo Rengifo had a run-scoring triple and the Rams played seven errorless innings in the field.

“[Berasti] goes to the mound with a you’re-not-hitting-me attitude,” Vikara said.

“Berasti is a leader — it’s something special in the way he carries himself,” Rengifo said. “His [demeanor] says ‘no hitter is going to beat me in any situation,’ ”

Clarke (22-5) is a county champion for the eighth time and first time since 2019. The Rams will next play Suffolk champion Kings Park (21-3) at 11 a.m. on Saturday in the Long Island Class A title game at Middle Country Athletic Complex. Clarke will be going for its fourth LI crown and first since 2009.

“We hit as many bullets as they did, but theirs found gaps and ours found their gloves,” Wantagh coach Keith Sachs said. “Clarke is an excellent team and when they got the lead early, we couldn’t bunt and hit-and-run — the things we like to do — because we were behind.”

Clarke loaded the bases on a hit-by-pitch and two walks in the bottom of the first, but only got one run on Vikara’s sacrifice fly. They scored twice in both the third and fourth innings. Vikara’s run-scoring double was the key hit in the third. In the fourth, Rengifo had a run-scoring triple that went to the wall in left-centerfield and scored when the cutoff man’s throw missed the mark for an error.

Abruscato is a bit of a savant at managing pitch counts against the state mandated limits. He took Berasti out of Game 1 before he’d thrown too many pitches so he’d have an array of options for a deciding game.

The senior righthander’s big moment came in the sixth with the bases loaded and one out. He got the next two hitters to swing at third strikes to escape and came off the mound pumping his fist.

Berasti said that his mental approach doesn’t change from start-to-start, but he did change some tactics. He rarely throws a sinker, but deployed one liberally to get this win.

“We thought I could be effective if I pitched them inside and low,” he said.

“I almost didn’t want to give Berasti the ball for this game, but he really deserved it,” Abruscato said, seeming on the verge of emotion. “He’s gone through some things off the field in the past year and he’s meant a lot to us. I’m really happy for him.”


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