The imposing leftfield fence at Calhoun High School — with an even higher mesh netting above it — was no match for the middle of East Meadow’s lineup.
Zach Fritz and Frank Ippolito homered in No. 3 East Meadow’s 12-1 victory over No. 2 Calhoun in Game 1 of their best-of-three Nassau AA baseball semifinal series Saturday morning. Game 2 will be played at East Meadow at 4:30 p.m. Monday.
In the fifth inning, Fritz blasted a two-run home run over the 304-foot marker, a drive that easily cleared the fence and produced a 6-0 lead.
“I was lucky enough they were at least throwing to me once or twice today,” said Fritz, who went 3-for-3 with three runs and three RBIs. “I was happy I was able to get it done for my team.”
With the protection that surrounded No. 3 hitter Fritz, Calhoun (15-8) faced a “pick your poison” dilemma. Cleanup hitter Ippolito drove in two runs with a double after Fritz was intentionally walked in the third.
“I’m always motivated when he’s intentionally walked,” Ippolito said, “and it happens a lot, so I’m used to it.”
Ippolito capped his day with a three-run home run in East Meadow’s six-run sixth inning. He finished 2-for-4 with six RBIs and two runs scored.
“Off the bat, I knew it was gone,” he said. “It felt really good.”
But the Jets (18-4) weren’t getting it done only with the bats. Ippolito made a great diving catch while crashing into the leftfield fence. Joe Minucci, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI, made a diving catch in rightfield. Paul Miano had a strong day in centerfield and went 2-for-3 with two runs and an RBI. All this helped Ryan Wallstedt hold Calhoun to one run in six innings. He allowed six hits, walked three and struck out four.
“He’s been pitching big games and he wants the ball and you know he’s going to keep you in the game,” coach John Marciante said. “Nobody’s impressed by the radar gun, and the big strikeout numbers don’t really happen, but he throws strikes, he keeps everybody off balance. You could see the frustration, and before you know it, it’s the sixth inning.”
Wallstedt, who pitched on four days’ rest, said he felt strong and motivated throughout the game.
After suffering an upset as the No. 1 seed early in last year’s playoffs, East Meadow’s season is about revenge.
“Game 1 is always the biggest,” Fritz said. “Everyone has a lot of adrenaline the first game going on, and to take the first game is always the biggest thing.”