It was only fitting that the Long Island Conference III championship game would come down to the two guys who had a hand in every pitch.
Newfield’s Dylan Johnson and South Side’s TJ Maher battled in a classic pitchers’ duel that came down to the final confrontation Sunday.
Maher came to bat in the seventh inning with two outs, runners at first and second and his Cyclones trailing by two runs. Johnson got him to foul out to rightfield as the Wolverines secured the first Long Island baseball championship in school history.
Johnson fired a three-hitter with 13 strikeouts and one hit batsman in Newfield’s 3-1 win at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue. The Wolverines (18-3) scored all of their runs in the sixth inning.
"I had a ton of energy out there and felt great to lead my teammates to the title," said Johnson, pitching on three days’ rest. "My catcher Mike [Medina] was a wall back there and that allowed me to throw my slider effectively. I couldn’t have done this without my team behind me."
South Side (14-9) also was looking for its first Long Island baseball crown. The Cyclones were making a third appearance in the Long Island title game after coming up short in 1978 and 1982.
Johnson held South Side hitless and struck out 11 through the first five innings.
Dan Fuentes broke up the no-hit bid with a single to left to lead off the sixth, Drew Aromiskis reached on an error and Maher singled to left to load the bases with none out. Johnson recorded a strikeout before Jack Temple grounded an RBI single to left for a 1-0 lead. Johnson then picked up his 13th strikeout and a groundout.
"That was the key to the win, limiting the damage in the sixth," Newfield coach Eric Joyner said. "We had our guy out there and he didn’t let the game slip away."
Newfield’s Dom D’Alessandro crushed a one-out double in the bottom of the sixth. Johnson reached on an error and Josh Jacob was hit with a pitch to load the bases. Medina lifted a sacrifice fly to tie it at 1, with D’Allesandro diving across the plate just ahead of the tag. With two outs, Shane Callahan hit a towering pop-up to center, directly into a tough sun field, and the ball dropped for a two-run error and a 3-1 lead.
Newfield squandered scoring opportunities in the third, fourth and fifth innings. "We had momentum all game and just couldn’t get that first run across," Joyner said. "Mike [Prisco] and I came in here six years ago and we had a plan. This was a special group of players that worked for this achievement. It’s so amazing to share these moments with such great kids."