East Meadow captures Class AA baseball championship

East Meadow celebrated its first county baseball title since 2005 on Wednesday night when it held off Massapequa, 5-3, in the decisive third game of the Class AA finals.
East Meadow celebrated its first county baseball title since 2005 on Wednesday night when it held off Massapequa, 5-3, in the decisive third game of the Class AA finals.
Ron Manfredi/Herald

East Meadow erupted for five runs in the bottom of the first and survived a three-run seventh by No. 4 Massapequa to capture the Nassau County Class AA baseball championship with a 5-3 win at Farmingdale State on June 1. Senior Ryan Wallstedt struck out pinch hitter Albert Fanara with a runner on third base to give the No. 3 seeded Jets (21-5) their first title since 2005.

“That’s the way it’s gone all year for us,” coach John Marciante, who also played for East Meadow’s 1991 County Championship team, said. “This team won a lot of [close] games. That prepared us and led us to this spot.”

Senior Matt Mascia, who pitched into the seventh before being removed after a leadoff walk, didn’t allow a runner past second base and scattered six hits — four that never left the infield — walked two batters and struck out two, relying on a standout defense that played flawlessly behind him. “He just throws 90 percent fastballs and location is everything for him,” Marciante said. “He rolls a ton of ground balls and everybody is alert.”

Mascia had any pressure of pitching in a deciding Game 3 taken off of him in the bottom of the first, when six of the first seven Jets’ batters reached base — and five of them scored. The biggest blow was a booming double to left by cleanup hitter Frank Ippolito that plated the first two runs, seniors Paul Miano and Joe Gangi. Junior Sal D'Onofrio and junior Marcus Kabigting each drew walks — Kabigting's brought home senior Zack Fritz — before Mascia drove in Ippolito with a sacrifice fly.

On the relay throw from shortstop to third, D'Onofrio, who tagged up on the catch, was hit in the helmet and came around to score when the ball ricocheted into the outfield. “To get started off with five runs just made the biggest difference in the world,” Mascia said.

And Mascia did everything in his power to make those runs stand up. No Chiefs’ runner made it past second until their seventh-inning surge, and five of the team’s hits were generated by the bottom third of the order. Following a one-out single by Matthew Pinto in the top of the sixth, Mascia went to a full count on No. 8 hitter Brad Baldinger, whose grounder up the middle was turned into a double play by D’Onofrio.

Massapequa starter Chris Keenan only one-third of an inning before being relieved by Daniel Gdanski. Over the next 4 1-3 innings, Gdanski allowed just one hit and kept East Meadow from turning the game into a blowout. In fact, over the final six innings, the Chiefs’ bullpen allowed only four base runners — two who were hit by a pitch, one on a walk, and another on a single by Minucci.

Massapequa pushed the finals to the limit with a 4-2 victory in Game 2 the previous day behind senior southpaw ace Pat Clyne, who scattered six hits and allowed only one earned run over six innings. Clyne, who won his eighth straight decision, struck out five and walked none. The Jets fell behind by four before pushing across single runs in the fifth and sixth.

East Meadow’s bats were the story in the series opener, a 6-5 win on May 28. Much like the decisive third game, the Jets built an early cushion and withstood a Massapequa rally in the seventh. Senior Minucci knocked in three runs, including a two-run triple in the fourth, Gangi scored twice, and Fritz, Mascia and D’Onofrio all added RBIs. The Chiefs, who trailed 6-1 after four innings, scored four times in their final at-bat against Wallstedt, who cruised through six.