Mother Nature threw a curveball at high school baseball teams throughout Long Island last week with its fourth snowstorm in March. One can envision coaches and players looking to the sky and angrily shaking their fists.
Welcome to baseball in the Northeast.
After the fourth nor’easter of the month struck, Mattituck coach Steve DeCaro had had enough. “I think at this point it’s more of a frustration thing,” he said. “We’re trying to get in a rhythm, get outside and do things, and we can’t do that … At this point we want to move on.”
As does Greenport coach Mike Sage. “I feel as though all teams have been dealing with the crappy weather and you can’t blame it on anyone,” he said. “It’s something you have to deal with.”
Mattituck (19-7 last year), which lost to Livonia in the state Class B semifinals in 2017, will have to deal with the addition of Elwood/John Glenn to League VIII. The Tuckers, coming off their second regional championship in three years, shared the league title with Southampton. It was Mattituck’s fourth straight league crown.
Senior Sam Dickerson (.320 batting average, 17 RBIs) and junior Bryce Grathwohl (.385, one home run, 16 RBIs), who both play third base and pitch, lead the team along with junior rightfielder Jon Lisowy (.290, 10 RBIs). All three were All-League players last year. Junior catcher Ryan Mahon (.305, 12 RBIs) was named MVP of the Suffolk County Tournament.
Grathwohl (7-1, 1.06 ERA, 62 strikeouts) will head the pitching rotation.
Sophomore Chris Nicholson moves from leftfield to become Mattituck’s third shortstop in eight years. Second baseman David Conroy, centerfielder Jason Scalia and outfielder Dom Skrezec offer senior know-how.
Mattituck has two juniors with nearly identical names: pitcher/outfielder Tyler C. Olsen and first baseman Tyler F. Olsen. They were brought up to the varsity team for the playoffs last year along with catcher Nate Demchak, second baseman Sean McDonald, pitcher/outfielder Tyler Cirincione and pitcher/outfielder Charlie Hasel.
“Last year we had some incredible seniors and some great leadership, and this year we’re starting to get that great leadership, too,” said DeCaro.
Greenport (7-13) is dealing with a number of unknowns. Asked for his outlook on the new season, Sage answered: “It remains to be seen. We have a lot of guys who are playing for the first time in a while. Guys like Sean McElroy and Myles [Murray], they played when they were younger but they haven’t played in a long time.”
Greenport’s co-captains, seniors Jordan Fonseca and Matt Tuthill, are both four-year starters. “I lean on them a lot,” said Sage.
Fonseca, who pitches and plays shortstop, was All-League, with a .364 batting average and 22 RBIs.
“He’s physically very fit and he’s very strong,” Sage said, adding: “I’m looking for him to have a big year. He’s got it in him. I’m looking for him to go out and shine this year. He loves to play and he competes his best every day.”
Tuthill, an All-League academic selection who catches and pitches, hit .345 with 15 RBIs.
Greenport has another big bat in senior third baseman/outfielder Jonathan Rodriguez (.311, 12 RBIs).
Senior infielder Sean Sepenoski and junior pitcher/catcher/first baseman Tommy Tsaveras (3-2, 4.14 ERA) are also returning starters.
McElroy and Murray, both outfielders, join the squad along with sophomore middle infielder/pitcher Joshua Santacroce, junior outfielders Colin Rossetti and Jacob Mazzaferro, freshman second baseman Jhon Ramirez and junior infielder Christian Romero.
But the youngest player of them all, may provide a jolt of excitement. Alex Maysonet, a seventh-grader, plays centerfield and pitches. “The big story of the year,” Sage said. “He’s the real deal … He’s a prodigy.”
Tsaveras, Fonseca and Tuthill are in the starting pitching rotation and Maysonet will see time on the mound as well, said Sage.
“I’m looking forward to us hitting a little more this year,” Sage said. “We were a little light in the hitting department last year.”
“Last year’s team … had more speed,” he continued. “We’re not as quick this year, but we might have a bit more experience this year. The baseball acumen is a little higher this year.”
This year Southold (23-2) has returning veterans Luke Hansen, Billy Burns and Joe Hayes.
Now, who is new to the team?
“Everybody else,” said coach Greg Tulley, laughing.
Tulley, the former junior varsity coach who takes over the varsity team from Mike Carver, isn’t exaggerating, either. Those three players are the only returners from last year’s squad, which won a third straight county championship and fell one win short of reaching the state semifinals for the second time in three years.
That’s a tremendous turnover.
“We’re still trying to put the pieces together here,” said Tulley.
Tulley is thankful to have those three veterans. Hansen, a 6-3 senior lefthanded pitcher who has committed to Sacred Heart University (Conn.), went 7-2 last year. His regular-season ERA was a miniscule 0.33.
Hansen, who will play centerfield when he’s not on the mound, had a .315 batting average with 16 RBIs last year.
Burns, a senior, will also be in the starting pitching rotation. He can also play first base, shortstop and catcher.
“I think Billy and Luke are going to give us a chance to win a couple of games a week,” Tulley said. “Those two guys are definitely going to keep us in a lot of games.”
Hayes, a junior who had played second base since he was a freshman, has been moved to catcher. He also pitches.
The newcomers are shortstop/pitcher Jake Okula, outfielder/pitcher Michael Daddona, outfielder Eric Connolly, outfielder Austin Dixon, outfielder Max Cichanowicz, outfielder Justin Hanold, third baseman/pitcher Nick Eckhardt, infielder Dylan Newman, outfielder/first baseman Brendan Duffy and second baseman Conor Wilinski.
“All the kids are open to playing more than one position,” Tulley said. “They’re all open to learning and improving and I’ve been impressed with the way that Luke and Billy have taken the turnover in stride and they’re really working to help the younger players improve their games, too.”
Now, what about the weather? Does Tulley despise snow by now?
“I think that’s a good statement there,” he said. “I definitely don’t like snow.”
Photo caption: Mattituck junior Bryce Grathwohl had a .385 batting average with one home run and 16 RBIs last year. (Credit: Garret Meade, file)