It’s understandable why Wantagh’s Jimmy Joyce struggles to find just one moment that stands out above the rest in the past 12 months.
Joyce won a baseball state championship as a junior, pitching a one-hitter in the state semifinals and hitting a walk-off home run that day in the final. He followed that five months later as a safety and wide receiver for the Warriors’ undefeated Long Island champions, and Joyce’s one-handed interception was featured on ESPN in his final game.
Then, as if that wasn’t enough, he led Wantagh’s baseball team back to Binghamton and played in another state championship game last week.
“It almost feels like a never-ending peak,” Joyce said. “I feel like I’ve been on top for a while, whatever team I’ve been on, we’ve been winning. Unfortunately, this is the end of it, but this is going to be something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life. It may be the best feeling of my life.”
And Wednesday, it culminated by winning the Diamond Award as Nassau’s top positional baseball player.
“It recognizes all the hard work and what I’ve been doing throughout this season,” Joyce said. “And for it to be noticed brings out pride.”
For Wantagh coach Keith Sachs, Joyce’s accolades are all deserved. Sachs praised Joyce’s work ethic and commitment to improving on the field along with his signature moments.
“Hitting a home run in extra innings of a state championship game, I mean, that’s a dream. That’s like a Roy Hobbs moment,” Sachs said, referring to Robert Redford’s character in “The Natural.”
“That’s one of those amazing moments. He had the same thing in football, the interception they put on ESPN, so he’s had two or three moments that people would only dream of, but the real joy is watching him every day.”
Joyce, who will play at Hofstra as a pitcher and positional player, hit .495 with six home runs, 39 RBIs and 40 runs this season. He stole 11 bases in 11 attempts, and 21 of his 46 hits went for extra bases. Joyce compiled a 9-2 record with a 1.27 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 66 innings.
Joyce led Wantagh to its first back-to-back county championships. He also had a key RBI single in a four-run first inning against Shoreham-Wading River’s Brian Morrell — a two-time Yastrzemski Award winner as Suffolk’s most outstanding player — in a 4-2 Class A Long Island championship win.
“He’s the best player I’ve ever played with in my life, actually,” said Wantagh shortstop Anthony D’Onofrio, who also is committed to Hofstra. “Great leader and he has no ego. This team is going to miss him a lot.”
Sachs also has been impressed watching Joyce every day at practice. Joyce’s athletic ability has allowed him to mirror those plays in the biggest games in high school sports.
“He does things every day at practice that you couldn’t imagine could be done on a field,” Sachs said. “So you just don’t always get that opportunity to do it in a game.”
Joyce never will forget the championship moments and one-handed interceptions but also the dogpiles with teammates.
“The big plays are cool, they’re great, but it’s more of winning as a team,” Joyce said. “There’s nothing more I could ask for.”