When John Conroy stepped into the batter’s box with two outs, two on and his Wantagh team trailing by a run in the bottom of the sixth, he had one thing on his mind. “Coach always says, ‘Play for one and you’ll get a bunch,’ ” Conroy said.
So the Warriors’ leftfielder, who had drilled a two-run single earlier in the game, smacked a hard grounder that turned into an infield hit that not only prolonged the rally but also produced the tying run after a throwing error on the play. Another infield error allowed the second run to score and that was the difference in Wantagh’s ragged but exciting 7-6 victory over Division in the battle for second place in Nassau A-III.
Division had won the first two games of the series, but Wantagh’s victory in the regular-season’s final game allowed the Warriors (11-4) to finish just ahead of the Blue Dragons (10-5) and behind Plainedge (13-2).
“We knew this game was for second place and were really fighting to win it,” Conroy said. “No way did we want to go into the playoffs on a three-game losing streak.”
Not that either team would want to carry over their play from Thursday’s game. Division made five errors and Wantagh made three. “It was not execution at its finest,” Wantagh coach Keith Sachs said, “but there was a lot of heart out there and a lot of good baseball players on the field.”
Wantagh, last year’s state champion, scored four runs, three unearned, in the second inning, highlighted by Conroy’s two-run single to right. The Warriors took a 5-2 lead into the sixth that disappeared when the Blue Dragons exploded for four runs and six hits. The key blows were a double by D.J. Melgar, an RBI single by Vincent Inciarrano and an RBI double by Colin Diez.
“This is an intense rivalry and it has been for years,” Sachs said. “You saw a big crowd with two towns, two teams and two programs that love baseball. There were a lot of tight situations. They fought back and then our kids came back, too. Both teams showed great character.”
Wantagh’s winning rally began with Jake Castellano’s one-out infield single followed by a walk to Anthony Vano. After a strikeout, Conroy delivered his infield hit followed by another error on Jimmy Joyce’s hard smash that scored the final run.
“There was nothing different in my approach,” Conroy said. “You just can’t strike out in that situation. Try to hit a line drive someplace and grind out a run. I love games like this. They’re intense. Every inning, every pitch matters.”