Massapequa's Erik Paulsen is mobbed by his teammates after hitting...

Massapequa's Erik Paulsen is mobbed by his teammates after hitting a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the seventh inning against Plainview-Old Bethpage in the Nassau Class AA baseball finals on Wednesday, May 31, 2023 at Farmingdale State College. Credit: George A Faella

Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK still led by two, still stood just one out away from claiming the Nassau Class AA crown in Wednesday’s deciding Game 3. But the bases were packed and the biggest bat in Massapequa’s mighty lineup was headed to the plate at Farmingdale State. 

Erik Paulsen stepped into the lefty box. Minds were racing.

“I know we’re at least tied,” Massapequa coach Tom Sheedy said. “I think you can at least have a conversation, do you walk him? He’s that good.”

Junior catcher Paul Dulanto thought it was over: “When Erik Paulsen’s up, I have full faith that he’s going to get a hit and win us the baseball game and the Nassau County championship for the sixth time in a row.”

Paulsen swung at the second pitch from reliever Anthony Powers. Sure enough, the Stony Brook-bound senior sent that fastball for a fast ride over the rightfield fence — a walk-off grand slam. Top-seeded Massapequa 8, second-seeded Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK 6.

The dynasty still rules.

“It’s something you dream of since you were a little kid, hitting a walk-off grand slam to win a championship game,” Paulsen said after launching his fourth homer of the series. “Dreams come true.”

Massapequa moved to 23-4. Next up: 23-2 Commack in the Long Island championship game/Southeast Regional final at 3 p.m. on Saturday at St. Joseph’s (LI). Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK finished at 20-8.

“My heart’s broken for the boys,” coach John Givargidze said. “They worked so hard all year. To come that close really hurts.”

His Hawks led, 6-1, after three. It was down to 6-4 heading for the Massapequa seventh.

The winning rally began with a walk. Then Patrick Mannino ripped a one-out single. Powers relieved Jacob Kouba.

With two outs, Bobby Gitto got hit by a pitch, setting up Paulsen’s at-bat. The corner infielder/pitcher had already delivered two doubles. He soon got reliever Mike Vilardi a victory.

“The first fastball I got in the zone, I was hunting it,” Paulsen said. “I knew I was going to crush it.”

Michael D’Ambrosio crushed a solo shot in a two-run second for the Hawks. They scored four more in the third.

But Dulanto, another Stony Brook commit, began the comeback with a two-run homer to left in the fourth off starter Nate Sica, who yielded three runs and three hits and fanned eight across five innings.

As Dulanto put it, “We will never stop fighting.”


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