Nick Zampieron #1 for Comsewogue celebrates a complete game winning...

Nick Zampieron #1 for Comsewogue celebrates a complete game winning performance during the Suffolk County Class AA Baseball finals at Middle Country sports complex on Saturday, May 25, 2024. Credit: David Meisenholder

Nick Zampieron is playing baseball. And that’s a miracle.

Zampieron suffered a horrific broken leg on the first play of the football season on Sept. 1, putting his participation in the baseball season in doubt.

The speedy wide receiver broke his left leg while leaping for an underthrown pass near the Comsewogue end zone.

“I was running full speed and had to slow down to prevent an interception,” Zampieron said. “When I jumped, I knew something was wrong. When I landed, there was a sharp pain and I was like, ‘Oh, no.’  ”

Zampieron was carted from the field and taken by ambulance to St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, where he needed surgery to repair a snapped fibula and tibia.

Making the injury even more horrifying, it was a noncontact injury on synthetic turf.

During the emergency surgery, a titanium rod was inserted from the top of his knee through his shinbone. His future on the diamond was in jeopardy.

“All I could think about was baseball and how the injury could ruin my senior year,” Zampieron said. “We felt we could win a county championship. And that’s something that hadn’t been done in a long time at Comsewogue.”

After months of intense physical therapy, Zampieron found himself standing on the pitcher’s mound at West Islip High School on Tuesday with the fate of Comsewogue’s playoff ride in his right hand in a Suffolk Class AA elimination game.

His left leg (the landing leg for a righthanded pitcher), rebuilt with that long titanium rod, was sturdy and strong. And his heart, bigger than ever, exploded with pride as he fired his final pitch for the game’s last out and his second save of the season.

Zampieron threw two scoreless innings of relief to help seventh-seeded Comsewogue earn a 5-1 win over No. 4 West Islip.

“His recovery has been amazing,” said his mother, Laurie. “I was afraid he would never be the same. I thought he was broken. I mean, speed is his thing and he had a severely broken leg. He has been resilient and resolute in his recovery effort. We are so happy that he is back playing and the team is in the playoffs.”

The win over West Islip allowed Zampieron and Comsewogue to reach the Suffolk Class AA title series against Hauppauge on Saturday at the Middle Country Athletic Complex.

Top-seeded Hauppauge had sent Comsewogue to the losers’ bracket last Sunday on Mike Oliveto’s walk-off two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth. Now Comsewogue coach Joe Caltagirone handed Zampieron the starting pitching assignment and asked him to keep the season alive by handing Hauppauge its first loss in the double-elimination tournament.

Zampieron didn’t disappoint in Comsewogue’s 9-3 win, dazzling the crowd of 800 with a prolific pitching and hitting display. He fired a complete game, struck out five and allowed three runs, all of which were unearned. He also slammed a two-run home run in the third inning for a 2-0 lead and capped a five-run fourth inning with a three-run homer to make it 7-0. He helped set up Sunday’s finale against Hauppauge, with the winner advancing to the Long Island championship game.

“He’s the best athlete in our school,” Caltagirone said. “Nick’s been the offensive catalyst all season. We all know how important he is to our team. I think he inspired our guys by working so hard to get back on the field. We’re not in the championship without him. He’s the comeback kid.”

It has been a magical run for Comsewogue, which has beaten the top four seeds in the tournament. Even in the eight-inning loss to Hauppauge, with Comsewogue down to its final out and then final strike of the season, Zampieron forced extra innings with an RBI single.

“There is no quit in Nick,” Comsewogue catcher Kevin Schnupp said. “He’s as tough as they come. He was so focused on his recovery and that’s why he’s back on the field. And he’s back to being Nick.”

Zampieron has impacted Comsewogue’s playoff wins. He went 2-for-4 with two doubles and a run scored in a 4-0 win over Smithtown West. He earned the win in a complete-game performance in an 8-2 win over Centereach. He also homered in that game. He went 2-for-3 with two doubles, a run scored and two RBIs in the 5-1 win over West Islip.

“He’s a super-competitive individual,” Caltagirone said. “Nick is self-motivated, team-focused and a leader. He is quiet by nature, but a fire burns underneath that exterior. He has been amazing as a starter and as a reliever on the mound. He’s super-athletic at shortstop and his range has not been compromised by the leg injury. I was so worried when I learned of the injury because I knew he was the key to this team.”

Zampieron earned his seventh win Saturday against two losses and two saves and has an earned run average of 0.78. He’s hitting .488 with 36 hits, including 12 doubles, four home runs, 36 runs, 24 RBIs and 26 stolen bases in 27 attempts.

Zampieron’s mother embraced her son after Saturday’s win. The last time she went down onto the field was a memory she’d rather forget.

“I look back and remember running down from the bleachers and onto the field filled with regret for allowing him to play football,” she said.

When Laurie reached Nick, her eyes filled with tears and her worst fears were realized as the gruesome sight of her son’s left leg caught her off guard.

“I immediately broke down and couldn’t look,” she said. “I was in shock at first. And then I was angry. I didn’t want him playing football — not putting his baseball scholarship and the opportunity at Stony Brook University at risk.”

Fast-forward to Saturday. Zampieron exited the dugout with his arm wrapped in ice, mobbed by friends and family.

“I’m blessed to be back on the field through hard work in rehabilitation and the support of my family and friends,” he said. “We’ve had an excellent year, but we need to win Sunday. There is no consolation in almost being a champion. You either are or you’re not.”


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