Anthony Fontana pitches like he’s double-parked.
Fontana was pitch and time efficient as Wantagh beat Division, 5-2, in the first game of the best-of-three series in the Nassau Class A baseball playoffs. Fontana needed only 81 pitches to dispose of Division and its potent lineup. He scattered five hits, walked three and struck out three to improve to 9-1 on the season.
And he did it in an hour and 33 minutes. The Wantagh senior won for the 18th time in his last 19 decisions.
Fontana’s performance put Wantagh (23-2) one win away from its third straight county championship. The teams will meet in Game 2 at 7 p.m. Sunday at SUNY-Old Westbury.
“He has great rhythm and our defense has been the strength of our team,” Wantagh coach Keith Sachs said. “And he’s such a tough competitor, a real grinder.”
Wantagh pushed across four unearned runs in the first inning. Division starter Nick Fressle recorded the first two outs of the first inning and then the Blue Dragons defense fell apart. Two consecutive infield errors opened the door for Wantagh.
After Fontana and Pat Willix reached on the misplays, putting runners on first and second, Ethan Rockitter lined a double down the leftfield line for the 1-0 lead. Mason McLane followed with a two-run single and Jake Castellano moved McLane to third with a single. Rich Kirchner capped the two-out rally with an RBI single for the 4-0 lead.
“We put together a fantastic two-out rally,” Sachs said. “They opened the door and we capitalized on a few mistakes.”
Division (20-4) scored a run in the fourth. Hunter Traenkle and Jayson Melgar hit consecutive singles to open the inning. A groundout moved Traenkle to third and he scored on Jake Thomas’ fielder’s choice to make it 4-1.
Wantagh responded with a run in the bottom of the inning for the 5-1 lead.
The Warriors defense came up big in the fifth. Pinch hitter Nick Giovanakis walked before Colin Diez and Matt Cavanaugh slapped consecutive singles to load the bases.
James Horodecki grounded hard to second where Mason McLane made the play and fired to shortstop Anthony D’Onofrio, who made the turn at the bag, and fired to first for the huge double play. Pinch runner Jason Lemieux scored on the play.
“We work on that in practice every day,” D’Onofrio said. “Mason made a great throw and I avoided the runner to get the guy at first.”
Fontana wasn’t out of trouble yet. He walked Traenkle, putting runners at first and third, but promptly picked him off before throwing another pitch to end the inning.
“I work on my pickoffs all the time,” Fontana said. “And I trust our defense will always bail me out when I pitch to contact. This is a big team win.”
It was the sixth player picked off by Wantagh pitchers in the playoffs. “We do all the little things that are so important to win these playoff games,” Sachs said. “We had a great crowd and we come 26 strong ready to play. I’m very pleased in our effort.”
Fontana retired the final six batters in order in an economical 15 pitches.
He was in a hurry to win.