On June 2, the Wantagh Warriors varsity baseball team defeated Rockv Point 4-2 to earn its third straight Long Island championship, punching their ticket to the New York state semifinals. The victory adds another title to Wantagh High School’s legacy as one of Nassau County’s top baseball programs — one that began its dynasty at the turn of the 21st century.
Two years before the Warriors’ 11 graduating seniors were born, the team won its first-ever state baseball title. The class of 2018 grew up watching their siblings, cousins and neighbors make the playoffs each season, believing that one day they could don the black and gold with their friends and continue the program’s legacy.
Through a bond that has lasted since their first Wantagh Warrior sports clinics as 6-year-olds, the seniors helped the squad to a 76-10 overall record over the past three seasons. They also earned three county and Long Island championships, as well as the program’s second state title, with the opportunity to earn a third this weekend in Binghamton.
“This program’s been strong, but they’ve taken it to another level,” Keith Sachs, the varsity baseball coach, said. “They’ve done things that have we haven’t done before, and we’re going to miss them.”
Anthony D’Onofrio and Anthony Fontana, two of the seniors, were called up to the varsity roster in ninth grade. That year, they learned from the team’s unsuccessful playoffs campaign, developing what would become their championship-winning skills under Sachs, who has coached the program for more than two decades, and his assistant coach, Mike Ninivaggi.
“Coach Sachs told us the season doesn’t start at the first practice — you’ve gotta work hard in the winter,” D’Onofrio said. “You’ve gotta work hard all day, because if you wanna be the best, that’s what you gotta do.”
When team members aren’t practicing, they’re usually found playing other sports, watching the Mets and Yankees at one another’s houses or enjoying team outings at a local mini-golf course or an Italian restaurant. Sachs said the program invites the junior-varsity team to the outings, allowing teammates not only to grow as friends, but also to teach the next generation how to become a tight-knit group on and off the field.
“When you hit adversity, you want to be with someone you truly care about,” Sachs said. “Chemistry is a big deal. Huge. In high school, it means everything.”
“We’ve all been best friends since Day One,” Fontana added. “We’ve played Little League together, even against each other, and we’re hanging out every day. It’s like a family. We’re playing with family.”
As for the program’s future, both D’Onofrio and Fontana said they will be sad to leave the team behind at end of this season, but have high hopes for the young talent on deck, such as fellow starter Mason McLane.
“I know it isn’t gonna be a problem,” Fontana said, “because Sachs and them have been doing this for years, and they’re going to make this team another championship team. I have no doubt that they’re going to be back where we are now next year.”