GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Southold’s Alex Poliwoda sliding safely under Shelter Island shortstop Hunter Starzee and kicking up a dust cloud.
FIRST SETTLERS 3, INDIANS 1
The same instinct that tells Southold’s baseball coach, Mike Carver, when to call for a bunt or a hit-and-run, told him that something was up.
After Friday’s game, Carver was trailing his players as they marched from their Southold High School field to the gym. Then, one of his players, Anthony Esposito, lugging a large, apparently empty water bucket with him, tracked back to the field, past Carver, saying he forgot something on the bench. While Carver and the rest of the First Settlers stopped and waited for him, Esposito walked back to the bench, picked up a package of crackers and then returned Carver’s way. With the coach eyeing him suspiciously, Esposito suddenly hurled water that had been in the bucket at Carver, who quickly jumped aside so that only some of the water hit him.
As far as Gatorade baths go, it wasn’t the best, but it was the spirit behind the subterfuge that counted.
The First Settlers had their own way of celebrating Carver’s 150th career win, a 3-1 victory over Shelter Island that moved them a step closer to the playoffs in the process.
“It was just a last-minute thing,” Southold third baseman Alex Poliwoda said. “We kept a little bit of water in the water bucket and said, ‘We should get him with this.’ He’s got to expect it. It was a great win, 150.”
The Suffolk County Baseball Coaches Association will recognize the milestone with a plaque for Carver, whose 12-year record is 150-102 (.595). Prior to the start of this season, Carver ranked 14th among the county’s active coaches in wins.
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Southold second baseman Sean Moran backhanded this ground ball but was unable to make a play on it.
“It’s a nice accomplishment,” Carver, 40, said. “It’s a nice milestone. I’m real proud of what we, the team, the boys over the years have accomplished with Southold baseball. I’m proud of that. It’s definitely a sign that we had success. We have had success. Without the players, we wouldn’t have any wins.”
The win on Friday, Southold’s sixth straight, did the team’s playoff chances a world of good. The First Settlers (9-5, 9-5 League IX) need two wins from their final six regular-season games (three each against Smithtown Christian and Greenport) in order to clinch a postseason place.
“We’re in a great position right now,” Poliwoda said. He said the team’s playoff scenario is “doable, so I feel pretty confident.”
Rob Mahony (2-2) turned in the complete-game win with eight strikeouts. He allowed six hits and three walks.
The First Settlers scratched out the win with the aid of two runs in the third inning. Three successive doubles by Noah Mina, Anthony Fedele and Poliwoda brought in those runs for a 3-0 lead.
Southold had opened the scoring in the first. Poliwoda led off with a single, stole second base and, after two walks, came home on a fielder’s choice by Dillon Engels.
Shelter Island’s sole run came in the fourth. Hunter Starzee, who led off by shooting a single to right field, stole second base and advanced to third on a single by Matt BeltCappellino. Then Starzee scored when a fly ball by Spencer Gibbs was misplayed in the outfield for the game’s only error.
Shelter Island’s leadoff hitter, Riley Willumsen, produced three singles.
The Indians, who returned to varsity baseball after five straight years of junior varsity ball, dropped to 2-12, 2-12 with their sixth loss in a row.
Shelter Island coach Peter Miedema said the move back to the varsity level on Shelter Island brought some excitement as well as a little “nervousness” among his players. Although the core of the team is made up of juniors, he said, “We had to take some eighth-graders and some ninth-graders, and that’s a scary thought to go from a junior high to a varsity level.”
“Batting-wise, it’s tough for us to put together six, seven good at-bats in a row,” Miedema said. “The pitching has improved … and the defense has improved immensely. Hopefully the wins come eventually.”
The progress was evident on Friday. Absent were the handful of errors that the Indians have been known to make in a game (they had none Friday). BeltCappellino (1-5) gave up five hits before being relieved by Gibbs with two out in the fourth.
“We knew we weren’t going to be that good [this season], but it’s a little tougher than we expected,” Willumsen said. “We’re still working on a lot of things that we have to work out, but we’re getting better.”
Carver’s big day clearly meant something to his players.
“It just feels great to be part of the history of Southold baseball,” Poliwoda said. “You know, being part of his 150th win, we all did it together. It just feels great to be part of that.”