Elimination games started early for Valley Stream North this spring.
Just to qualify for the Nassau Class A baseball playoffs, the Spartans had to beat three-time defending county and Long Island champion Wantagh in each of the last two regular-season games.
They did. Then, seeded No. 13 out of 18 teams in the double-elimination tournament, North captured its first two postseason matchups before fifth-seeded Bethpage denied it a trip to the semifinals.
The Golden Eagles stayed alive with a 4-2 road victory on May 20 and bounced the Spartans a day later with a runaway 15-2 win at home.
“It was a very successful season and unfortunately only one team goes home truly happy from the playoffs and that’s the county champion,” North coach Phil Sanfilippo said. “Of all the coaches I talked to, they unanimously believed we were in the toughest conference. We had a difficult start getting swept by Division but got better and better each week.”
The Spartans (9-6 in Conference A-IV; 14-9 overall) couldn’t overcome the absence of senior pitcher/third baseman Colin McGreevy for what proved to be their final 13 innings of 2019. McGreevy, who blanked Bethpage 4-0 in the second playoff game with a one-hit masterpiece, suffered a severely sprained ankle in the third inning of the first playoff defeat. He was scheduled to be on the mound the following day.
“It was a clean slide into third base, but Colin was in instant agony,” Sanfilippo said of the play that sidelined McGreevy, who in addition to winning four games led the team in RBIs with 18. “He was carried off the field and it was pretty obvious he wasn’t going to be able to pitch some 20 hours later,” he added. “It’s a shame because he had by far and away the best outing of his life against Bethpage the week before.”
The senior-led Spartans had plenty of chances to win a third straight playoff game, the coach noted. They managed eight hits and drew two walks against Bethpage winning pitcher Rich Gennaro. “We left a small village on base,” Sanfilippo said. “We had the tying run on multiple times. We just couldn’t get that clutch hit.”
Senior Chris Manzi, who pitched a perfect game against Floral Park during the regular season and opened the playoffs with a gem in a 4-3 victory over No. 4 Calhoun, was the hard-luck loser May 20. Manzi (5 wins, 1.58 ERA, 60 strikeouts) earned All-County honors.
Senior second baseman Joe Gisonda (.361 average, five homers, 27 runs) homered twice in the playoffs, including a three-run blast in the win over Bethpage, and made what Sanfilippo said was one of the best defensive plays he’s ever seen to preserve the win over Calhoun on May 15. Gisonda made a diving stop deep in the hole and threw out the potential tying run at the plate in the bottom of the sixth.
Gisonda and senior shortstop/pitcher Eddie Ye (four wins, one save) both earned All-Conference honors.