Wheatley has never won a state baseball championship, and that won’t change next weekend in Binghamton.
But the Wildcats exuded pride about their accomplishments in 2016 moments after a season-ending 5-0 loss to Marlboro Central in the Southeast Regional Class B final Saturday at Farmingdale State. A win would have sent Wheatley (21-6) to the state semifinals for the first time since 2013.
“We didn’t expect to go this far and really just took it one game at a time,” leftfielder Evan Mattioli said. “We were really happy to get this far.”
Marlboro Central’s Jack Rusk made sure this was as far as Wheatley would advance. Though he threw 33 balls, he needed only 70 pitches in a five-hit shutout. He did not record a strikeout.
Dukes coach David Onusko said this was the third time this season that Rusk completed a game in 77 or fewer pitches.
“He definitely wasn’t throwing hard, but he had us off balance,” Wheatley coach Paul Paino said. “We weren’t really zoning it up. We couldn’t get a good piece of him. We were getting little pieces, and it wasn’t enough. We didn’t really square him up all day.”
Wheatley, which did not get more than one hit in any inning, did not place a runner in scoring position with fewer than two outs until Brian Doria led off the seventh with a bloop double. The Dukes (20-2) were aided by a spectacular diving snag and long throw by shortstop John Mooradian, an over-the-shoulder grab by leftfielder Austin Casey and a sliding catch in foul territory by first baseman Nicolas Mongelli.
On the other side, Wheatley could not cut off two balls that went into the gaps for third-inning triples. The first, by Mooradian, led off the inning, and he scored on Sam Mongelli’s sacrifice fly. Nicolas Mongelli split the gap with one out, knocking in two runs.
“They capitalized on their hits,” Mattioli said. “They just kept getting hits after hits after hits, and that’s what we couldn’t capitalize on.”
Sam Mongelli led off the fifth with a single, stole second and advanced to third on a groundout before scoring on a suicide-squeeze bunt by cleanup hitter Cole Nicolis, who beat an errant throw to first and advanced to third before scoring on Nicolas Mongelli’s sacrifice fly. “That really hurt us,” Mattioli said.
The hurt will last only so long. When the Wildcats reflect on 2016, they’ll remember the season in which they won the program’s third Long Island title. “We’re proud of the guys,” Paino said. “Long Island champions — we haven’t had that too many times. Very proud of them, all of them. They had a great season.”