The Massapequa miracle continues after pitcher Joey Leonetti’s no-hitter.
Massapequa Coast Little League played in Bristol, Conn., on Friday night. clinched its first-ever Little League World Series berth with a 4-0 victory over longtime powerhouse Toms River (N.J.) East in the Metro Region final here.
Leonetti struck out nine, struck out three batters with pitches and issued one walk in a six-inning no-hitter. Looking back on what he called his greatest achievement on the field, Leonetti said he doubted it would see the day.
“I didn’t think we’d make it this far in the Williamsport run,” Leonetti said. “I threw a no-hitter in the championship game. … I didn’t think I was going to do it [either].”
But after three innings, Leonetti’s magic started to show.
“I realized they weren’t catching my fastball and seeing my curveball,” Leonetti said.
Leonetti had a brilliant outing to top the scoring in a spectacular tournament. Williamsport, Pa., starting Wednesday. Massapequa had to beat Toms River not once, but twice, to advance to the Little League World Series here. Massapequa defeated New Jersey 6-3 in extra innings in the opening round in Bristol. The boys then advanced to the finals with a 7-5 win over Fairfield (Conn.) American. His overall record from start to finish was 14-2.
“I think that says a lot about New York baseball,” said manager Roland Clark, who praised his team’s “New York toughness” before Friday’s win. “They want to be competitive and they always want that game and that tough game. … I think the entire metro area has proven that.
Massapequa batted first with an earned run in the bottom of the second inning. After Massapequa center fielder Liam St. George hit an infield grounder with the bases loaded, Toms River cleared home plate and right fielder Mickey Castellano scored.
Clark said he knew his team could make history.
“I looked at the kids [then] and in their eyes to see where their emotions were,” Clark said. “It wasn’t overzealous, it was one of the high fives, [and saying] ‘We’re confident.’
Confidence paid off. Massapequa scored on an RBI single down the left field line by shortstop Christian Beckiers in the fourth. Second baseman Anthony Badagliaca scored the second run.
Massapequa extended their lead to 4-0 in the fifth. In the first, St. George scored on a sacrifice fly from third baseman Michael Clarke, who was a special pinch runner for first baseman Alex Pagano. The next batter, Lucas Minini, moved Castellano to third on an RBI single.
Leonetti struck out Toms River first baseman Logan Machia to cap his no-hitter and extend his team’s best season in Little League’s 72-year history.
Proud parents — who filled the first-base stands and had boxes of yellow and navy “New York State Champions” T-shirts — greeted their Williamsport-bound winners to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” Public Address System. This coincided with Leonetti having Gatorade thrown at him by his teammates.
“I wanted that Gatorade bath,” Leonetti said with a cheeky smile, admitting it caught him off guard.
Beyond making city history, Massapequa became the first Long Island team to reach the Little League World Series since Rockville Center in 1978.
“I can’t wait for these kids to wake up tomorrow and actually feel it when they’re on that bus [to Williamsport],” Roland Clark said.
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