Massapequa’s Ryan Umano may not have been in the starting lineup for Friday’s playoff game against East Meadow, but he was under the pile of Chiefs players when it finally ended in bottom of the 10th inning.
The pairing of No. 2 Massapequa and No. 3 East Meadow in this Nassau AA semifinal series shaped up to be epic and the opener in the best-of-3 showdown lived up to the billing. The defending state champion Chiefs persevered through seven innings of 13-strikout pitching from the Jets’ Charlie Cucchiara and ended up overcoming an early four-run deficit for a 5-4 win in Game 1.
“We know what it takes because we won the championship last season. You have to be the team with the strongest will to win games like this,” said Travis Honeyman, whose one-out double down the rightfield line led to the winning score. “We’re never out of any game. We can come back from anything. We’re a real tough team to beat – especially in the playoffs.”
Umano was brought off the bench to play rightfield to start the fourth inning because Chiefs coach Tom Sheedy believed it was the right time. Through the 10th, he’d only struck out and popped up at the plate, but had made a big catch in a tough wind in the ninth. After Honeyman’s one-out double and Dan Wolf’s walk, Umano was at the plate when both moved up on a wild pitch then lofted a long fly ball to right that gave outfielder Tyler Patterson virtually no chance to get Honeyman at the plate.
His teammates ran him down behind shortstop and buried him in a dogpile. “There’s no better feeling than winning one for the boys,” Umano said.
The Jets (18-4) will try to rebound from the heartbreaker in Saturday’s 11 a.m. Game 2 with Matthew Fried on the mound at East Meadow. Massapequa (18-4), winners of nine straight, will pitch Derek Haag.
Sean Kennedy’s three-run homer to right in the second inning and Patterson’s solo shot in the third put the Jets up 4-0. Cucchiara had five strikeouts through two innings but the Chiefs pushed two across on run-scoring singles by Nick Schwartz and Honeyman in the third. Tyler Sohn knotted the score on a two-run homer to left in the fourth.
Cucchiara allowed only one hit and one walk over the rest of his seven innings. Massapequa held the line with Kenny Galvin pitching the seventh, eighth and ninth without allowing a hit. “Kenny’s our guy,” Sheedy said. “He’s the quarterback on our football team, throws hard and what a job he did today.”
“I just throw,” Galvin said. “I’ve got the best defense on the Island behind me. They’re going to make all the plays.”
Sheedy pointed the number of contributors in this Chiefs win – five pitchers, four players with RBI and four with runs scored – and said “we have confidence in every player on this roster. Everyone knows their role and is ready. [Umano] came through today, but it could be anybody on any day.”
“We beat a team that was as good as advertised and had an excellent pitcher,” he added. “Our guys just know how to find a way to win.”