For Jake Guercio and Jimmy Mattera, it came before the season even began.
For Ray Weber, it came in the third inning of the Long Island Class AA championship game with the West Islip baseball team holding a seemingly insurmountable lead.
For James Kory, it wasn’t until he was asked the question.
“It” being the opportunity to reach Binghamton, where West Islip will play its state Class AA semifinal game after defeating East Meadow, 16-0, on Saturday at Farmingdale State College in front of about 1,000.
West Islip, which earned its second Long Island championship in the past three seasons, will face the winner of the game between Shenendehowa and Cicero-North Syracuse at 10 a.m. Saturday at Binghamton University.
“Coming into the season,” Guercio said, “we knew we had crazy talent and we just had to work hard, and our dreams came true.”
The results were met with an exclamation point as the Lions scored 12 runs in the first three innings. Guercio (3-for-4, two RBIs) got it started, driving in Louis Antos with a triple in the first. West Islip (25-5) added runs on Kory’s RBI double and Mattera’s RBI single.
“This team is just a first-inning team,” said Kory, who went 3-for-3 with four runs and two RBIs. “We go out there, we start right on top and once we do that, we do the rest throughout the rest of the game.”
The Lions tacked on five runs in the second, highlighted by Greg Tsouprakos’ two-run single to right-centerfield. Mattera scored all the way from first with aggressive baserunning.
“That was huge because all season long, once we get an early lead, we’re able to keep it,” said Mattera, who went 3-for-4 with three RBIs.
The offensive outburst continued as West Islip put up a four-spot in the third.
East Meadow did have its chances. After singles by Joe Minucci, Sal D’Onofrio and Marcus Kabigting to open the second inning, Weber recorded consecutive strikeouts and induced a pop-up to end the inning. He celebrated that with multiple fist pumps and a yell.
“I play with my emotions on my sleeve, and today was no different,” Weber said, “so when I escaped those jams, I got a little fired up.”
Weber pitched out of bases-loaded, one-out trouble in the third inning with a pop-up to first base followed by a strikeout.
“I wasn’t at my sharpest,” said Weber, who allowed no runs and seven hits and struck out seven in six innings, “but I knew my defense had my back so if I just threw strikes, good things would happen.”
East Meadow (22-5) had a bright spot when Joe Gangi’s first-inning double broke the school single-season record (14), according to coach John Marciante.
Marciante is proud that his team won its first county title since 2005, but leaving runners on base haunted East Meadow against West Islip.
“I think when we left the bases loaded twice there, that really deflated us, and it’s tough after that to get those runners on,” Marciante said. “Weber’s a great pitcher and we had our opportunities early and we didn’t cash in.”