BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — Jimmy Joyce took a moment to reflect.
After Wantagh finished one win shy of its second straight baseball state championship, Joyce leaned over the railing at the top step of the dugout, gazing at the field for the final time in a Wantagh uniform.
“It’s probably one of the best things I’m ever going to go through,” said Joyce, who will play at Hofstra next season. “I’m grateful for my coaches and my teammates. Every once in a while I try to stop and take a look around and take it all in just because I know I’ll never have it again.”
The Warriors lost to Vestal, 2-0, Saturday in the Class A state championship at NYSEG Stadium. Although tears were shed after the final out, the Wantagh players are proud to be the first team in program history to win consecutive county and Long Island championships to advance to the state tournament.
“I was sad, but I couldn’t have been prouder of my guys for making it this far,” catcher Trevor Fagan said. “All the hard work we put in, I mean, we made it to the state tournament two years in a row. It’s everything.”
Vestal (17-7) had a strong pitching performance from Dom Dando, who tossed a three-hitter with one walk and four strikeouts.
“He was keeping us off our feet,” said Fagan, who will play at Sacred Heart next year. “He had a good curveball, pretty decent speed. He was keeping us off balance and he’s a good pitcher. I give him a lot of credit.”
Dando and Wantagh’s Brendan Haas exchanged scoreless frames through four innings. Vestal’s Pat Porter delivered an RBI single in the fifth and Ben Coscia added an RBI single in the sixth for the deciding two runs.
Besides loading the bases with two outs in the third inning, Wantagh (23-6) had only one other runner reach second base in the game.
“We had a couple opportunities early, we had some base runners on, if we broke though, we might have scored a bunch,” coach Keith Sachs said. “But [Dando] got better as the game went on. We had him early but we didn’t get a big hit, but it’s OK. It’s baseball.”
Sachs praised his senior class, which featured Haas along with starters John Conroy, Charlie Interrante, Steve Forman, Vinny DeMaio, Fagan and Joyce.
“Everything they do is a winning formula, so that’s why they’re here,” Sachs said. “It’s not by accident. The way they work, the way they care about each other, the way they listen, the way they play the game, it’s a winning formula.”
“The seniors were awesome,” junior shortstop Anthony D’Onofrio said. “I’m so upset we couldn’t win this game for them.”
But D’Onofrio believes the foundation the seniors left will translate into next season.
“Next year we’re going to come back strong,” he said. “We don’t want to feel this again.”
Fagan said he’ll never forget his championship experiences at Wantagh and he’s proud of the Warriors’ season.
“Every single guy on the team had a purpose and was here for a reason,” Fagan said. “We made the most out of what we had and we made it all the way here. It’s been an amazing experience at Wantagh.”