The Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK baseball team has been denied a title for far too long.
The Hawks have reached the Nassau Class AA finals in three of the past six years but were denied a championship in the first two appearances in 2017 and 2021. The school hasn’t captured a title since 2003.
Junior righthander Michael D’Ambrosio gutted out a 122-pitch complete-game performance to give Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK a 10-6 win over Massapequa in the first game of the best-of-three Class AA finals Sunday afternoon at Farmingdale State College.
D’Ambrosio allowed eight hits and struck out five for his eighth win this season.
“He’s a gamer and he wanted to finish the game,” Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK coach John Givargidze said. “He put us in a great position to win the series.”
D’Ambrosio helped the Hawks (20-6) advance up that mountain that is Massapequa baseball in Nassau. They’re almost there, but there’s still some work left to do to eliminate the five-time defending champion.
“We beat them Game 1 in the championship series in 2017 and they came back and won the next two games,” Givargidze said. “They have been successful in big games, and some of that winning has come at our expense. We’ve been denied for too long and we’ll be focused for Game 2.”
As D’Ambrosio (8-1) had his arm iced in the dugout, he was congratulated by coaches and teammates.
“I knew I needed my best stuff to beat Massapequa,” he said. “And they’re good hitters. But when we needed the big outs, we were able to bear down and get them.”
Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK took a 4-0 lead in the first inning. Liam Schwom led off with a single and moved to second when Sebastian Lippman’s grounder was misplayed, putting runners on first and second. With one out, D’Ambrosio walked to load the bases. Schwom scored on a wild pitch, Nate Sica walked to reload the bases and Sean Farrell followed with a two-out, three-run triple to centerfield.
Massapequa ace Erik Paulsen (7-1) labored through a 28-pitch first inning, with two walks, two hits and a costly error.
Massapequa (20-3) responded with a run in the first. Paulsen lined a one-out single and scored to make it 4-1 when Paul Dulanto smoked a triple to deep centerfield.
Massapequa drew within a run in the third. Robert Gitto singled and Paulsen launched a 380-foot two-run home run to right-centerfield to cut the deficit to 4-3.
“I left that fastball up in the zone, and he’s a really good hitter,” D’Ambrosio said.
Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK tacked on a run in the top of the fourth. With two outs, Schwom and Lippman singled and Andrew Lenski hit a three-hopper down the third-base line that hit the bag and bounded into short leftfield for an RBI single and a 5-3 lead.
Joe Swinarski walked in the fourth and moved to third on David Garren’s double. He scored to make it 5-4 when Patrick Mannino lifted a sacrifice fly to rightfield.
With two outs and Garren at third base with the potential tying run, D’Ambrosio recorded his fifth strikeout to end the threat. Massapequa would get no closer.
“We were able to stay off Paulsen’s changeup and hit his fastball,” said Lippman, the speedy Plainview centerfielder, who will pitch Game 2 of the series. “We had a game plan, and the guys did a great job. It’s amazing to beat a great arm like Paulsen.”
The Hawks scored five times in the seventh against the Massapequa bullpen. A walk, two hit batsmen, an error and three singles, including Schwom’s third hit of the game, contributed to the rally.
“We have 20 guys returning from last year’s team,” Givargidze said. “We had a disappointing end to our season in last year’s county semifinals. And that has been pure motivation for us. We know we’re the underdog and we need one more win.”