Sports Desk: The trials, tribulations of covering regional finals

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06/11/2015 3:00 PM |
The trip to Mamaroneck High School was well worth it for Southold, which won the Southeast Region Class C championship. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)

The trip to Mamaroneck High School was well worth it for Southold, which won the Southeast Region Class C championship. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)

One of the joys — and sometimes aggravations — of sports, on and off the field, is that they are full of surprises. Such was the case Saturday.

A road trip to Mamaroneck, N.Y., can be a headache, thanks to that bottleneck known as the Throgs Neck Bridge. I had a plan, though. 

The mission was to cover the Mattituck and Southold high school baseball teams in regional finals that day. Planning for that was made more complicated by asinine scheduling, particularly as it affected Southold.

Depending on who their opponent would be, the First Settlers were to play their Southeast Region Class C final at one of three places on Saturday: Cantine Field in Saugerties, Gruner Field in Lake Katrine or Mamaroneck High School. On top of that, the starting times varied, depending on where the game would be played.

All of that wouldn’t have been too bad if it weren’t for the fact that Southold’s opponent would not be known until Friday, the day before. (Mattituck’s scenario was a little less complicated; the Tuckers would play in either Saugerties or Mamaroneck).

Someone at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association should look at a map and take note that Mattituck and Southold are on the eastern edge of Long Island. Driving a bus to Saugerties or Lake Katrine or Mamaroneck takes time and, depending on unpredictable New York City traffic, who knows how long? A little more advance notice would be nice.

The First Settlers did the smart thing, really the only thing they could have done under the circumstances. Faced with the possibility of a bus trip of several hours before a game on Saturday morning, they drove upstate on Friday afternoon and spent the night in Fishkill, a more convenient distance from Saugerties and Mamaroneck.

It was during Mattituck’s Class B regional semifinal game against Oyster Bay at the Dowling Sports Complex on Friday when the word came down that should the Tuckers win (which they did), they would play in Mamaroneck, along with Southold.

That was a relief. The site made coverage plans easier for myself and our photographer, Daniel De Mato. Southold was scheduled to play Tuckahoe at 11 a.m., followed by a Mattituck-Albertus Magnus game at 2 p.m.

Great. All set.

My next concern was avoiding traffic mayhem on the drive up. So, my strategy was to leave early. I arose at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday, was on the road by 7 a.m. and sitting in the Mamaroneck High School parking lot by 8:20 a.m. or so. Sure, I was real early, but I like being early. I had a newspaper to read to help pass the time.

It wasn’t long after when the Southold team bus pulled up and coach Mike Carver emerged. I joined him on the walk to the field where we were in for a shock. The field had been soaked by rain from the night before or the early morning. Although the school has a tarp, it had not been placed on the field because rain had not been forecast. The infield looked in rough shape.

Uh-oh.

A short time later, Carver told me the game might be pushed back two hours while workers tended to the field. Then a text message from Southold’s athletic director, Mike Brostowski, confirmed it. The new starting times for the games were 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. A long day had just gotten longer.

As it turns out, what we saw was worth the wait. Both games were entertaining, to say the least. Southold twice found itself trailing by three runs early on before rallying for an 8-5 victory. Carver said it was, to the best of his knowledge, the team’s first regional championship. Mattituck prevailed in a 10-inning thriller, 9-5, for its second regional title.

I had a writing plan, too. Between those two games I would write my web story about the Southold game and then after the Mattituck game, I would write that web story. One problem, though. There is no press box at the Mamaroneck High School baseball field, and I had no power source for my laptop computer, which I was taking my notes on.

Uh-oh, Part II.

After the eighth inning of the second game, I had only 17 minutes worth of power left. It was time to go old school. Out came the fountain pen and the notebook. Now, I thought, the only way I can get into trouble is if I run out of ink.

Thankfully, that wasn’t an issue.

The second game wrapped up at 7:18 p.m. On the same field on the same day, two North Fork teams won regional titles. Both teams, which had never won a state title before, will continue their adventure on Saturday in Binghamton, where the semifinals and finals will be played.

Now came the part I dreaded the most: the drive home.

It was the day of the Belmont Stakes, and a Triple Crown was at stake. I remembered the drive home from Mamaroneck after Mattituck lost in last year’s regional final, which was also on the same day as the Belmont Stakes. I hit a traffic backup on the Clearview Expressway that was hellish.

So, it was with some trepidation that, almost 12 hours after I had arrived in Mamaroneck, I headed back south toward Long Island.

And the drive home? It was surprisingly smooth sailing. Like I said, sometimes you get surprises.

Bob_CBob Liepa is the sports editor of the Suffolk Times. He can be reached at [email protected].

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