Long Beach entered the final week of the regular season trailing New Hyde Park by half-game in the race for the fourth a final playoff spot in Nassau Conference A1 baseball.
The Marines managed to finish a game-and-a-half in front and clinched a berth in the Class A playoffs with a wild 16-11 victory over visiting Great Neck South May 10. Soon after Long Beach made the most of controlling its own destiny, MacArthur completed a sweep of New Hyde Park to provide the final margin between fourth and fifth place.
“We got a little help from MacAthur and took care of our own business,” Long Beach coach Jason Zizza said. “It feels good to make the playoffs for the second year in a row. It’s a difficult conference to get through.”
Long Beach and Great Neck South split the first two games of last week’s series with each winning at home. Things got a little hairy in the finale after the Marines built a 10-4 cushion. By the end of the fourth inning, the lead dwindled to 11-10. A three-run homer by senior Jake Scafa in the fifth provided breathing room.
“We kept the bats going and shut theirs down over the last two innings,” Zizza said. “The kids knew what was at stake and it was pretty intense. We started the week strong with a big home win, but we didn’t play well at their place and lost 4-2. Great Neck South is a tough place to play with no fence and thick grass.”
The Marines (9-10-1 overall) finished with a 7-10-1 conference mark and joined defending county and Long Island Class A champion Calhoun, Mepham and MacArthur as A1 playoff representatives.
Long Beach entered the Great Neck South series on a five-game winning streak that included a sweep over A1 rival Jericho and non-league victories over Hewlett and Islip.
Sophomore Matty Hayes dominated the Rebels with a complete-game performance on the mound in the series opener May 8. He allowed six hits and only one earned run with seven strikeouts in the 12-2 win. Support for Hayes came in the form of juniors Christian Parisa (3-for-4, four RBIs) and Hunter Stadtman, who went 3-for-4 with two runs scored.
Great Neck South’s Michael Duda won a pitcher’s dual with senior Dylan Cantwell in the middle game of the series. Cantwell pitched well enough to win, Zizza explained, and has been a key piece of the puzzle all season in the starting rotation with Hayes (team-best 3.08 ERA) and Parisa.
“Our offense has been explosive and we were missing two key bats for half the season,” Zizza said. “Our team batting average going into the playoffs is .329.”
Parisa, the primary shortstop, leads the way in batting with a .424 average, 18 RBIs, 12 runs scored and only three strikeouts in more than 60 plate appearances. Scafa had four homers and 16 RBIs in only 13 games. Stadtman (second base) hit .391 with 14 steals and 13 runs, junior center fielder Troy DeFrancesco batted .375 with 17 RBIs, senior third baseman Jack Wachs raked to the tune of .346 with 10 RBIs, and junior Daniel Defonte hit .321 with two homers in a dozen games.