Clarke defeats Wantagh for baseball title


Two of Nassau County’s most successful baseball programs over the past 25 years squared off this week in an epic championship series, with Clarke defeating Wantagh in Tuesday’s decisive third game at Farmingdale State College, 5-0, to claim the Class A title.

Senior Nick Berasti went the distance, throwing 99 pitches and scattering four hits, as the Rams captured their eighth county crown in program history and seventh under longtime coach Tom Abruscato.

“This what we’ve all worked for all season,” Berasti said. “The guys gave me an early lead to work with and that took some of the pressure off.”

Junior Dylan Vikara drove in senior Giancarlo Rengifo in the bottom of the first for the eventual winning run. Vikara had two RBIs and Rengifo scored twice.

“I’m so proud of these guys and I’ve probably never been more proud of anyone than Nick Berasti,” Abruscato said.

The Rams (22-5), who advanced to meet Kings Park in Saturday’s Long Island Class title game at Middle Country Athletic Complex in Selden at 11 a.m., kept their season alive with a 7-3 victory in Sunday’s Game 2. They scored twice in the top of the first, once in the second and four times in the fourth to back the impressive pitching of sophomore Richard Luke, who entered the game in the bottom of the first and allowed just two hits through six innings.

Vikara starred at the plate, falling a triple shy of the cycle. He doubled in AJ Cumbo and Matthew Kurz in the first for a 2-0 lead, singled in the third and belted a two-run homer in the fourth, scoring Kurz in front of him.

“We didn’t play our game Saturday,” Vikara said of Clarke’s 4-3 defeat in the best-of-three series opener. 

Wantagh (21-5-1) plated two unearned runs in the bottom of the first to tie the game at 2 but didn’t score again until junior Cole Spinelli’s RBI single in the seventh. Luke, who struck out only one, induced 14 groundball outs.

Cumbo’s run-scoring double in the second put the Rams ahead for good. They managed seven hits against Warriors’ southpaw Christian Danzillo, a junior who earned the save in Game 1 when he retired the final two batters with bases loaded.

All Clarke runs in the fourth inning in Game 2 came with two outs. A throwing error allowed Alex Frank and Cumbo to score to make it 5-2 and Vikara followed with the long ball.

 Senior Paul Fontana, whose homer against Plainedge in the decisive third game of the semifinals proved the difference in a 10-8 Warriors’ win, had the key hit in Game 1 of the finals as well, smacking a two-run single in the top of the third to break a scoreless tie.

Senior ace pitcher Jake Tate held the lead from there and had a 4-1 cushion to work with entering the seventh. The insurance runs were crucial and coach Keith Sachs summoned Danzillo to put out the fire with the tying run just 90 feet away.

But the Rams, who pounded out double-digits in runs in each of their first four playoff games, responded to score a dozen in the next two games.