BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — Wantagh’s Anthony D’Onofrio and Anthony Fontana played in a state Class A semifinal for the third straight year Friday.
The seniors, who won the state title as sophomores and lost in the final a year ago, wanted one more crack at a crown. But they won’t get the chance.
Leo Cummings hit a tiebreaking two-out, two-run single to leftfield in the top of the eighth inning to give Lakeland a 5-3 victory over Wantagh at Binghamton University.
“We accomplished a lot,” D’Onofrio said. “It’s a special feeling. I don’t know anyone who has come here three years in a row. I wish we could have won this one, but I know that we have left such a great legacy.”
D’Onofrio went 1-for-3 and scored a run and Fontana pitched 7 2⁄3 innings, allowing five earned runs, seven hits and two walks. He struck out six.
“They are just special people,” coach Keith Sachs said of the seniors. “They are going to be missed. You don’t have kids like that all the time and they are big-game players and this was just another big game that just didn’t go our way.’’
The Warriors (24-4) scored three runs in the fifth to take a 3-2 lead on a run-scoring double by Ryan Murphy, an RBI triple by D’Onofrio and a squeeze bunt by Anthony Vano.
With Lakeland down to its final strike in the seventh, Eric Portella singled to tie the score.
Lakeland’s Evan Berta led off the top of the eighth with a double and Matt Schenck hit a drive to deep centerfield that looked to be caught by Vano, but the umpires ruled that the ball hit the turf. Wantagh disputed the call to no avail, and instead of one out and one runner on, Lakeland had runners on second and third with none out. Fontana retired the next two batters, with the runners holding, but after a walk loaded the bases, Cummings broke the tie.
“Our second baseman and shortstop who ran out on the play said it was a clean catch,” Sachs said. “Obviously, the ball would have bounced away, but it didn’t. It’s tough. It’s a tough one. I thought the three runs we got in that inning, culminating with the squeeze, was going to win us the game.”
Lakeland (16-9) was led by Joey Vetrano, who pitched a three-hitter, struck out nine and homered.
“I am proud of all the guys,” Fontana said. “We are the best team that has ever come through Long Island, and there’s no doubt in my mind that these guys will be back here next year, even though the seniors will be gone.”
“It’s going to be very emotional that I am never going to play on the same field as these guys again,” D’Onofrio said. “We have had some really great memories and I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”