BRISTOL, Conn. — At long last, the drought is over. Long Island will be represented in Williamsport.
Adding to the dramatics, the historic moment came in the form of a masterful performance by Massapequa Coast pitcher Joey Lionetti.
Lionetti pitched a no-hitter against Toms River East (New Jersey) at Leon J. Breen Field on Friday night in a 4-0 victory that sent Massapequa Coast to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Lionetti struck out nine and allowed only four baserunners in the first Metro Region championship game.
“I just wanted to put a zero or two hits on the board tonight,” he said. “It feels great . . . After the third inning, I noticed that they weren’t catching up to my fastball or seeing my curveball.”
Massapequa Coast, which recently won its league’s first state title in 72 years of existence to earn the opportunity to compete for a Little League World Series berth, became the first Long Island team to qualify for the LLWS since Rockville Centre in 1978.
“We were actually booked to go to Cooperstown on Monday,” Massapequa coach Roland Clark said. “And we are not trading this feeling in. Thank you, Cooperstown, but we have a bunch of pins to trade in at Williamsport . . . This says a lot about Long Island baseball . . . This is so exciting and I can’t wait for the boys to wake up tomorrow and realize what they’ve done.”
Massapequa Coast will face the winner of Wednesday’s West vs. Northwest game next Friday at 7 p.m.
Three of Toms River East’s baserunners were hit by a pitch, with the other reaching on a walk to lead off the game.
Regarding his expectations for Lionetti entering the game, Clark told Newsday on Thursday that he was “not looking for a perfect game or no-hitter because in a tournament like this, that’s very hard to come by because of the caliber of the other team.”
Lionetti had other plans.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “They’re such a great team. I’m so proud of myself to do this against one of the best teams I’ve ever pitched against.”
Lionetti, who also went 2-for-3, got into some trouble in the first inning as he walked leadoff batter Michael Mendes and threw a wild pitch.
He worked out of the jam with a strikeout, a groundout to second and another strikeout, stranding Mendes on third to end the threat.
Massapequa took a 1-0 lead in the second on a bases-loaded throw home that got away. Toms River East pitcher Christian Mascaro quickly rebounded in a big way, striking out the next three batters to limit the damage.
Christian Bekiers laced a two-out single in the fourth to drive in Anthony Badagliacca from second. Badagliacca ripped a two-out single of his own before moving into scoring position on a wild pitch.
Clark’s son, Michael Clark, hit a sacrifice fly to extend Massapequa Coast’s lead to 3-0 in the fifth before Liam St. George hit an RBI single up the middle for the final run.
Then Lionetti picked up one final swinging strikeout and threw his glove in the air as his teammates piled together in celebration.
“I didn’t even realize in the first four innings,” Bekiers said of Lionetti’s no-hitter. “I looked up to the scoreboard and was like ‘Wow.’ I didn’t expect that, but he just played an awesome game.”
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman was in attendance to support Massapequa Coast and commended the players for all they accomplished to reach this stage, calling them “winners no matter what that have made Massapequa and Nassau County proud.”
Clark said the night couldn’t have been scripted any better.
“I leave the pen and the paper to the players,” he said. “It was all up to them.”