One of the forgotten story lines of Wantagh‘s championship run in 2016 was that they were able to withstand the loss of their two-time All-State RHP Will O’Brien, who suffered an arm injury. Although Jimmy Joyce and Bobby Hegarty did just fine in his absence, the Warriors had a pitcher that had compiled other-worldly numbers over the course of a two-year stretch.
2015: 5-1 record, 0.71 ERA, 66 K (5th team All-State)
2016: 7-0 record, 1.21 ERA, 88 K (1st team All-State)
He is currently at St. Thomas Aquinas. He spoke with Vinny Messana and here’s what he had to say…
Describe the 2016 run by Wantagh. How difficult was it being sidelined with injury but also how proud of your teammates were you to pick up the slack?
I think what made the 2016 playoff run so special was that we knew it was going to happen. In middle school, we had the same group of guys and we played really well together and ever since then we would always say how good we were going to be once we get up to varsity. I was just so fun to play with those guys because even in the playoffs we went out there loose and in the game every pitch. Top-to-bottom our squad was close, our chemistry was through-the-roof and when it came time to play we already knew we won the game. There’s a reason why we only lost one playoff game. For me, it was tough not being able to pitch in the playoffs because ever since I was in middle school and JV baseball, I visualized myself pitching in the county championship. My junior year we were not great, but my senior year we were and it was terrible not being able to pitch. But was I worried that just because of my injury we would be in trouble for the playoffs? Absolutely not. We still had Jimmy and Bobby. Jimmy was a stud and everybody knew it, but Bobby was low-key one of the best pitchers in Nassau County for two years so no I was not worried. I was very proud of my guys for picking me up and sending me positive thoughts about my injury. That run was something really special and something that I will never forget.
What made you choose to attend St. Thomas Aquinas?
Winning. Plain and simple. Year out and year in they win. Also, our home field is beautiful–it is the stadium that the Rockland Boulders play in. Just like Wantagh was, STAC’s baseball team is very close. It is a brotherhood and I’m just very blessed to be apart of it.
What was it like being a part of that run last year?
Due to my surgery in December of 2016, I couldn’t play in last year’s season but I was there in the bullpen and dugout and it was electric. Winning a state championship was amazing, but being part of the last four teams competing for the National Championship was electric. Every pitch was important and the slightest mistake could ruin your chances on winning the National Championship. It was the farthest that STAC baseball has ever gotten and I’m humbled to be apart of it.
Who are some individuals that have had an impact on your baseball career?
My father was the one who showed me the game of baseball so he, of course, had a big impact on my career. The two other guys who had a huge impact are my varsity baseball coaches Sachs and Nino. Because of my brother, they knew who I was when I was in middle and high school and they were teaching me what it means to play for Wantagh baseball ever since I was a little kid. They kept the game fun and interesting, and made me a better baseball player. Coach Nino was my pitching coach since 8th grade. When I would go to open gyms he would always be critiquing my mechanics and just making me better.
Who are some athletes you look up to now or when you were growing up?
An athlete I always loved to watch was Tim Duncan. He always played the game the right way, never got in trouble or anything and was respected throughout the NBA. He was one of my role models when it comes to sports because he is an all-time great and was well-respected by everybody. Another guy I looked up to was Mike Piazza. Growing up a Met fan, My family and I loved watching Mike play. He was the nucleus of the Mets in the early 2000’s and he was a great person to lead a team. He showed me what it takes to be a leader and to come up big in big moments.
Do you come from an athletic family?
Yeah you could say I come from an athletic family. My father played college baseball at Stony Brook University. My brother played baseball and football in high school and my sister played volleyball in high school and at the University at Binghamton. All three of my siblings went to the state finals. My brother went in 2010 for baseball and lost in the championship, my sister went in 2012 for volleyball and lost in the championship, and I went in 2016 and was the only sibling to win a title for Wantagh.
What are your goals for 2018?
My goal for 2018 is to win the National Championship. We finished 4th in the country last year, and we are returning a lot of players. Also, myself and other freshman are back and ready to contribute to the team in any way we can. We are hungrier than ever and working towards one common goal, to bring that championship back to Sparkill, NY