Wantagh is off to a strong start in its quest for a third straight Long Island Class A baseball title.
A 10-3 win at Hewlett on April 11 moved the Warriors to 6-1 heading into a bye week at the mid-point of the season. Longtime head coach Keith Sachs is encouraged by the early spring record since the team of mostly new starters has yet to hit peak form.
“We are finding ways to win without playing our best baseball,” Sachs said. “We can still find ways to improve.”
Senior ace pitcher Anthony Fontana is propelling Wantagh to early season success with his arm and bat. The Furman commit tossed a two-hitter in a 6-1 home win against Jericho on April 3 and has recorded clutch hits as the number three hitter in the lineup to help the Warriors achieve six straight wins.
Fellow senior Anthony D’Onofrio is also a force on the mound while also jumpstarting the offense as leadoff hitter. The Hofstra-bound D’Onofrio went 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs in a 12-0 at Hewlett on April 9 to kick off an eventual three-game sweep of the Bulldogs.
“He has been incredible,” said Sachs of D’Onofrio. “He does it all.”
Fontana and D’Onofrio are part of a strong core in the top of Wantagh’s lineup that also features senior outfielder Anthony Vano as the number two hitter and Molloy College-bound pitcher Patrick Willix in the cleanup spot. Vano delivered a walk-off RBI double that plated D’Onofrio with the winning run in a dramatic 9-8 win against Hewlett on April 10 that also featured a two-run homer from Willix.
“Our top four hitters can hit with anyone,” Sachs said. “We have a very solid lineup.”
The pitching staff led by Fontana and D’Onofrio along with senior Matt Reich and junior Mason McLane has responded after the season-opening setback to allow one run or less in three games. Sachs said another key to the winning streak has been stout defensive play especially from third baseman Ryan Murphy.
“Defensively we have been very solid,” Sachs said. “When you cut down on errors it helps you win games.”
Wantagh returns to the field next week for a crucial series against Plainedge starting at home Monday at 4:30 p.m. The three-game slate could go a long way toward deciding who captures Conference A-II and gets the chance to host a four-team bracket in the upcoming double elimination round of the Nassau County Class A playoffs.
“You always feel better playing at home,” Sachs said. The routine helps and it’s a nice advantage.”
For the 23rd straight year, Sachs planned a special spring break trip for his team in an effort to boost chemistry on and off the field that included seeing the New York Mets face the Washington Nationals in D.C. and the Philadelphia Phillies’ home opener. The Mid-Atlantic journey also included playing exhibition games in Maryland.
“We got to spend a lot of time together,” Sachs said. “We really bonded.”