Jimmy Joyce was in a mess.
With a three-run lead and one out remaining in the first game of the Nassau Class A baseball championship Saturday, Wantagh’s righthanded starter lost his command.
Joyce left a pitch up to Bellmore JFK’s Reid Oreste, who doubled into the left-center gap. Peter Cuttita, the No. 9 hitter, followed by reaching on an error. Then the lineup turned over to Frank Bruno and Michael Schwartz, a pair of lefties, and Joyce walked both.
“I couldn’t throw a strike to [the lefties],” Joyce said.
One run in. Tying run on second. Go-ahead run on first.
But Wantagh coach Keith Sachs’ confidence in Joyce never wavered.
“It’s his game,” Sachs said.
It sure was.
Joyce, who had two of Wantagh’s four hits, got Jason Coules to fly out to centerfielder Joe Murphy to finish his complete game as Wantagh defeated Bellmore JFK, 3-1, at Farmingdale State College. The second game of the best-of-three series is scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday at Farmingdale State.
“Jimmy’s outstanding,” Sachs said. “He can do everything.”
The junior, who is committed to Hofstra as an infielder, coasted into the seventh after getting George Savas to line out softly to shortstop Anthony D’Onofrio with two outs and runners at second and third in the first. He allowed just five hits on the hot and humid afternoon. Joyce never let more than one runner reach in an inning, outside the first and seventh.
Wantagh (21-4) scored its three runs in the third inning. Mike Derham walked leading off against Coules, who threw a complete game. D’Onofrio walked with one out, and John Fitzgerald hit a fly ball to center field. A poor relay allowed Derham, tagging from second, to score. Joyce followed with a triple that bounced once to the center field wall, and scored on Will O’Brien’s bloop single.
The third inning “just gave the whole team confidence,” Joyce said.
That inning aside, Wantagh struggled against Coules. The sophomore walked two, hit one and allowed four hits.
“He did a nice job,” Sachs said. “From what I see that’s what he is — he’s a tough kid.”
And despite the seeding, the No. 7 Warriors knew No. 11 Bellmore JFK would be as tough its starting pitcher. The Cougars reached the championship by sweeping top-seeded Carey.
“Seeding doesn’t mean anything,” Joyce said. “[No. 4] North Shore, out. Carey, out. It’s two teams playing their best baseball right now.”