The experience was so magical that Mike Onufrak sometimes needs to reassure himself that it actually happened.
The experience was so magical that Mike Onufrak sometimes needs to reassure himself that it actually happened.
Those were baseballs, not snowballs, that were being thrown out there. Many of the players wore boots, which were preferable to cleats, but perhaps not as helpful as snowshoes might have been.
The boys of — summer? — are back. (more…)
SOUTHEAST REGION CLASS B SEMIFINAL | TUCKERS 9, WHEATLEY 2
Because of inconvenient scheduling, the Mattituck Tuckers had a long bus ride home from Farmingdale State College on Friday evening. After a night’s rest, they will be back on the road the following morning for an even longer bus ride back west to Mamaroneck High School.
Judging by the roar of cheers heard emanating from the baseball team’s bus before it headed out for the ride home, the Tuckers didn’t mind. After all, they had a lot to cheer about. They are Long Island champions again. (more…)
SUFFOLK COUNTY CLASS B TOURNAMENT | TUCKERS 1, RED DEVILS 0
The pressure was on. That is just the way Marcos Perivolaris likes it.
Perivolaris has a reputation for being a baseball player who thrives under pressure. What is his secret?
“I just don’t think about it,” he said. (more…)
SUFFOLK COUNTY CLASS B TOURNAMENT | TUCKERS 5, RED DEVILS 4
Through six innings, hardly anything went Mattituck’s way.
Through six innings, Mattituck’s offense was curiously, and uncharacteristically, quiet.
Through six innings, Center Moriches pitcher Patrick Bryant was the story.
Then things changed dramatically. Mattituck stole the story line, and the playoff opener. (more…)
Joe Tardif is tough on opposing pitchers, catchers and baseball pants.
As for Tardif’s problem with baseball pants, he really has his speed — and his base-stealing ability — to blame. The Mattituck High School sophomore said he always seems to rip the pants on the back left leg as a result of sliding. He has even ripped sliding shorts. A few weeks ago, he sustained a bothersome cut on the back of his left leg as a result of all the sliding.
It couldn’t be as bothersome, however, as Tardif’s activity on the base paths has been to opposing teams.
The Tuckers have had some good base stealers over the years, players like Kevin Litchhult, Rich Pisacano, Tommy Smith and Brian Tardif, Joe Tardif’s older brother. But none of them have matched what Joe Tardif has done this season, stealing a school-record 33 bases in 20 games. He has been thrown out only once this season.
“He’s one of the best base stealers I’ve ever seen,” said Pisacano, who is now one of Mattituck’s assistant coaches.
Tardif is seen as a virtual automatic run when he gets on base, an ideal leadoff batter who kick-starts the offense.
“He’s the fastest kid I know,” said Tuckers pitcher/shortstop Marcos Perivolaris.
Tardif said he has run 60 yards in 6.85 seconds. That speed is one of the reasons why he has free reign to take off for a base when the mood strikes him.
“He can do anything he wants,” Tuckers coach Steve DeCaro said. “It’s easier than me to keep giving the steal sign over and over and over.”
Tardif’s answers to interview questions are concise and without much, if any, elaboration.
Asked for his secret to stealing, he replied, “Just getting a good read off the pitcher.”
Tardif has had as many as six steals in one game. It looked like he was headed in that direction during a 7-2 win over Port Jefferson/Knox on Friday at Mattituck High School. Through the first three innings, he already had three thefts, twice stealing second base, and taking third once.
On his second steal of the game, Tardif appeared to be in pain and he walked somewhat gingerly around the second-base bag. Some wondered if he had pulled a hamstring, but that wasn’t the case. It was another instance of that troublesome cut bothering him. Asked later about the cut, Tardif said, “It’s not that bad.”
Once on base, Tardif can be quite a distraction. Pitchers know he will try to steal and do everything they can to try to prevent it, but more often than not it seems, he still gets the steal anyway. During one sequence on Friday, Port Jefferson/Knox pitcher Matt Keresztes made seven straight throws to first base in an attempt to keep Tardif close to the bag.
It didn’t deter Tardif. He stole second anyway.
“He’s a pain in the butt on the bases,” said Pisacano. Pisacano said that as soon as Tardif sees the pitcher move toward home plate “he’s gone.”
DeCaro said: “Joe has grown up quite a bit in the two years he’s [been] on the varsity. Last year he was just fast but this year he’s done a good job of reading pitchers and actually thinking about what’s about to happen and anticipating.”
Although he is quiet, with a serious demeanor, Tardif also has an unmistakable funny side to him that his coaches and teammates see.
“He’s quiet, but when he speaks he’s hilarious,” Pisacano said. “He’s a great personality. He’s one of the people that will just sneak in and say something funny and walk away. You have to laugh.”
Tardif benefits from Mattituck’s aggressive playing style. Taking liberties on the base paths is part of the team’s nature.
That was evident Friday. Tardif wasn’t the only Mattituck player to pilfer. The Tuckers were successful on all five bases they attempted to steal, including two by John Dwyer and one by Perivolaris.
“We love to steal in Mattituck,” said Pisacano. He added, “I used to say, singles are more fun than doubles because I get to steal second on a single.”
When the Boys of Summer League 18-and-under National Division championship game ended, the losing manager was smiling. And it wasn’t a feigned or a forced smile on John Tardif’s face. In light of all the positives associated with his Mattituck Ospreys, Tardif couldn’t help but smile.
“It was a genuine smile because of the way these kids battled all the way through,” he said.
Even if the Ospreys didn’t feel good about the result of the league final — a 5-3 defeat to the North Shore Cougars on Monday night at Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic — they had to appreciate all they accomplished this summer. Playing in the competitive 16-team league for the first time with one of the younger squads, the Ospreys finished the regular season in first place, won three of four playoff games, and reached the league final with a group of players who are all expected to return next summer.
Now that’s quite a lot to feel good about.
“The best summer I’ve had by far, with the best kids,” said Marcos Perivolaris, who played shortstop and provided some vital relief pitching for the Ospreys on Monday night. “We had a great time and we won, so that was definitely a positive. We’ve seen the competition and we played the best pretty much, and we’re just going to come back next year and do the same thing.”
In sharp contrast to the Ospreys, Monday night’s game marked the end of the road in more ways than one for the Cougars. Eleven of North Shore’s 13 players are moving on to play college baseball.
“This is kind of bittersweet,” said the team’s manager, Matt Piccolo.
Before heading off to college, though, the Cougars took care of some final business. Cougars pitcher Cody McPartland gave his side a 2-0 lead before he threw his first pitch; he lined a two-run single in the top of the first inning.
That lead expanded to 5-0 in the fifth. With two outs and the bases loaded, Tyler Piccolo, the manager’s son, cleared the bases by poking a double to right field. He was thrown out at third base, trying to stretch the hit into a triple.
“They came through,” Matt Piccolo said. “Top to bottom, anybody that comes to bat, I know somebody’s going to come up with a big hit. It’s that comfortable. And it goes for my defense, too. Anybody I throw on the mound, I know he’s going to get the job done.”
That includes McPartland, a right-hander who will play for Dowling College. He gave the Ospreys a tough time through the first five innings. The Ospreys did make more contact off McPartland’s pitches over the final two innings when they produced five of their eight hits.
After Mattituck’s Jon Dwyer lined a run-scoring single to make it a two-run game in the seventh, McPartland made way for Anthony Telesca, who recorded a strikeout for the game’s final out with two runners on base.
“It’s a great team,” said a happy McPartland, who struck out seven, walked one and allowed one earned run. “I love this team. I’d pick them over anyone.”
Perivolaris started the game at shortstop, but found himself on the pitching mound sooner than anyone could have expected. Five pitches into the game, after Ryan Finger hit the first batter, Travis Bell, and issued a four-pitch walk to Mike Donadio, Tardif made the pitching change, handing the ball over to Perivolaris.
“We have the arms,” Tardif said. “All of our pitchers understand and they don’t take it personal that somebody else can fill in. Not every night is going to be your night.”
Perivolaris did a commendable job, allowing three hits over four and a third innings. He was charged with two runs.
Like his pitching counterpart, Perivolaris also delivered a two-run hit, a two-out double to the left-center-field gap in the sixth.
Two Shoreham-Wading River High School players played for the Ospreys, Jack Massa and Chris Moran. Massa contributed an infield single and Moran socked a double.
“We’re going to keep going forward,” Perivolaris said. “They’re a very solid team. They have great hitters in that lineup, and great pitching, too, so it was nice to see that we definitely hung in there and had a chance to win.”
After the game, the happy Cougars, many of whom played together since they were in Little League, posed for team photos with the championship trophy on the pitcher’s mound. One last snapshot of a baseball summer to remember.
“As a coach, I consider these kids extended family,” Matt Piccolo said. “They’re my kids. I couldn’t be any prouder.”
On a night when a surreal, low-lying fog formed artful shapes over the outfield, the Ospreys’ dream summer reached an end. But it was a good summer for them. They posted an overall record of 18-5-2, outscoring their opponents by 90-44. Tardif, who was assisted by his son Brian, a former Mattituck High School and C. W. Post College pitcher, said the team achieved “much more” than he could have expected.
“The kids took a huge step forward,” he said. “These kids are now playing at a high level that they believe they can consistently play at.”
All the more reason to smile.
SUFFOLK COUNTY CLASS B TOURNAMENT | TUCKERS 11, RED DEVILS 7
In the double-elimination world of the Suffolk County Class B baseball tournament, this amounted to a good, old-fashioned do-over. Five days after they played each other in their first playoff game, Mattituck and Center Moriches were foes once again, on even ground, each with a loss and no margin for error. Once again, they had their No. 1 pitchers facing each other.
However, the differences were striking in this rematch on Wednesday. The first playoff game was about the pitchers; this game was about the hitters. And, oh yeah, this time Mattituck won.
Joe Tardif went 4 for 5 and scored four runs, Marcos Perivolaris drove in four runs, and third-seeded Mattituck eliminated No. 2 Center Moriches from the playoffs, 11-7, at Center Moriches High School’s Coach Paul Gibson Varsity Baseball Field. James Nish added two runs batted in for the Tuckers.
“We had our backs against the wall. We had to win this game,” said Tardif, the freshman center fielder who equaled his career-high with four hits in the game.
In order to win the double-elimination county tournament, Mattituck would need to defeat No. 1 Southampton twice in Southampton. The teams will play on Saturday. If Mattituck wins, they will face each other again on Tuesday for the title. Southampton played Mattituck three times this year, beating the Tuckers each time.
Some good hitting would come in handy for Mattituck (15-8). In Friday’s game, Mattituck and Center Moriches combined for one run and three hits as Mattituck junior Cameron Burt pitched a no-hitter, and lost! On Wednesday, the teams combined for 18 runs and 22 hits. Fourteen of those hits came off Mattituck bats, giving the Tuckers 27 hits in two games.
“Our mindset was, ‘Don’t let any pitcher beat us, just keep hitting,’ ” Perivolaris, the sophomore shortstop, said. “We didn’t stop fighting.”
Neither starting pitcher was as sharp as he was in the first playoff meeting. Burt (five innings pitched, eight hits, seven earned runs, three walks, five strikeouts) brought his record to 6-2. Center Moriches junior Patrick Bryant (four innings pitched, nine hits, three earned runs, one walk, six strikeouts) did not figure in the decision.
Mattituck twice rallied for four runs, including the sixth inning when it broke a 7-7 tie. Perivolaris bounced a two-run single into center field, making the score 9-7.
“They are a contact-hitting team,” Center Moriches coach Mike Garofola said. “They’re going to put the ball in play, so you know, you just have make pitches on them because they like to swing the bat.”
The Tuckers had taken leads of 5-3 (thanks to their four-run burst in the third) and 7-4. But one wondered if all that good work would be undone and they would be deflated by the way Center Moriches (13-10) bounced back to tie the score in the fifth.
Not a chance.
A two-run double by Sean Finnegan (three RBI) and a bad-hop single by James Schaefer brought in three Center Moriches runs, making the score 7-7. All three runs came with two outs.
No matter. Mattituck went back to work producing runs.
“Everyone got pumped up after each hit and each run that scored,” Perivolaris said. “We answered back, and we did what we needed to do.”
It also didn’t hurt Mattituck’s cause that Center Moriches made six errors.
“Neither pitcher had great stuff today and could locate pitches like they did the first time around,” said Garofola.
Still, Garofola couldn’t complain about Bryant, who finished a superb season with a 7-1 record. “He had an off day, and he’s entitled,” Garofola said. “I would never be disappointed in him because I know he’s going to give me his maximum effort every outing.”
Meanwhile, Mattituck’s effort at the plate had to be applauded.
“We did what we needed to do,” Perivolaris said. “We got the job done.”
TUCKERS 4, PANTHERS 3
It was a cold, windy day that might not have been fit for man or beast, but baseball players — a sturdy lot — had to deal with it.
The temperature was in the 30s, but Mattituck coach Steve DeCaro said that with 21-mile-per-hour winds, the wind-chill factor made it feel as if it was 27 degrees.
Actually, it was nothing new for the Tuckers. This has been a rough early spring in terms of the weather.
“It’s very tough,” Mattituck shortstop Marcos Perivolaris said. “You just need to keep your hands warm anyway you can.”
DeCaro believes his players are actually getting used to playing in the frigid conditions. “When I look down the bench I see guys that look like they’re frozen,” he said. “I’m seeing less of that now, more guys who want to get up and play. If it can stay like this the rest of the year, we’ll be fine. We might go undefeated.”
An undefeated season is already out of the question because of a season-opening loss to Westhampton Beach, but Mattituck could make a run at a perfect league season. The Tuckers took the first step in that direction on Monday. Mattituck scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning and then withstood three errors in the top of the seventh to overtake defending Long Island Class B champion Babylon, 4-3, in an exciting Suffolk County League VIII opener for both teams.
The Tuckers (1-1, 1-0), who snapped a seven-game losing streak, produced four of their six hits in the sixth. Perivolaris led off by tagging a stand-up double that might have been a home run had the wind not been blowing in, and then Ian Nish belted a bad-hop hit under the third baseman’s glove. Shortly after that, Perivolaris scored on a wild pitch, tying the score at 2-2. Austin Pase then stroked a single to bring home the go-ahead run, and Brian Pelan knocked a chopper that took a high bounce over the first baseman for a hit, making it 4-2.
But Babylon (1-2, 0-1) made things interesting in the seventh, thanks in part to some fielding adventures by the Tuckers.
“Honestly, I don’t like exciting games,” DeCaro said. “I like 11-nothing or something like that. If we could have ended [at] 4-2, it would have been fine. Instead, we had to make it really interesting.”
Jack Curcio, who reached base on a leadoff walk for Babylon, later scored when teammate Joe Savastano stole second base and the throw ended up in the outfield. That enabled Savastano to scoot over to third base with two out. Matt Finelli then drove a fly ball to deep right field, and John Schultz showed why he is a three-year varsity starter. Schultz made a good play on the ball, backtracking and catching it for the game’s final out.
“It was one of the best catches he ever made here,” said DeCaro.
Mattituck pitchers Cameron Burt and Chris Dwyer allowed Babylon only two hits for the game. Burt worked the first five innings. “I’ve never thrown my fastball as well as I did today,” he said.
Burt had a no-hitter through four innings before Curcio led off the fifth, socking a ball straight ahead, under Burt. Perivolaris charged to his left but was unable to control the difficult ball. Kyle Dowling, a pinch runner for Curcio, later scored when Pete Donaldson hit into a fielder’s choice for a 2-1 Babylon lead.
Burt walked six against seven strikeouts. Dwyer got the win in two innings of one-hit relief, with one walk and three strikeouts. The only hit Dwyer allowed was a soft, bloop single to shallow center field by Jack Facciebene to lead off the sixth.
Babylon was first to get on Mattituck High School’s new scoreboard. The Panthers put up a run in the second without the aid of a hit. A walk, a steal, another walk and a sacrifice bunt preceded Ricky Negron’s run off a wild pitch.
Mattituck evened things in the third. With two outs, a throwing error allowed Joe Tardif to reach second base. Then Dwyer clocked a double to bring him home.
Perivolaris was a big reason why Babylon was hitless through four innings. In the fourth, Nick Crawford knocked what looked like a sure hit deep into the hole between third base and shortstop. Perivolaris reached to his right to backhand the ball near the edge of the outfield grass. Mattituck’s athletic director, Gregg Wormuth, obviously sensing that Perivolaris had no play on the ball, yelled, “Eat it!”
“He threw him out instead,” DeCaro said. “That was the Marcos that we expect. That was beautiful.”
Of course, the weather could have been worse. It could have been colder, windier and snowing. Snow was forecast for later in the day.
“I don’t know how they do it,” Babylon coach Anthony Sparacio said of the players performing under adverse conditions. “I’m frozen to the bone. It’s amazing how these kids can stay out there. It’s not even baseball weather. No fun.”
As cold as it was, DeCaro said he has experienced worse, not that long ago, either. He said Mattituck’s 9-3 season-opening loss to Westhampton Beach last Thursday was even worse. “That was the coldest game, the most miserable conditions I’ve ever been involved in,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything worse than that game.”
Spring isn’t over, Coach.
A sign of whether the Mattituck High School baseball team had a good season or not can be determined by Steve De Caro’s presence or absence from the Center Moriches Memorial Day parade. If De Caro is not at the parade, that’s a good thing for the Mattituck coach because it means his team has practice that day in preparation for a playoff game. If he is at the parade, it means Mattituck didn’t make it to the playoffs.
Guess who was at the parade last year?
After getting off to a 9-5 start last season, Mattituck needed only two wins from its final six games in order to secure a postseason place. It didn’t happen. The Tuckers crumbled, lost all six, packed up their equipment, and De Caro spent the second half of May hunting and fishing.
“It was rough,” Mattituck’s all-league shortstop, Marcos Perivolaris, said. “We should’ve made it. We kind of just fell off the wagon a little at the end. This year is going to be different, I know that.”
Why the optimism?
Six returning starters are a big reason.
Perivolaris, a sophomore who is already in his third varsity year, is one of them. And then there are two other three-year varsity starters, right fielder John Schultz and pitcher/third baseman Ryan Finger. They’re both seniors. The other veteran regulars are two juniors, catcher/pitcher Cameron Burt and center fielder Brian Pelan, and a sophomore, second baseman Chris Dwyer.
Sitting out the playoffs for the second time in three years did not sit well with Finger.
“It bothered me because no one wants to miss out on the postseason,” he said. “That’s what you play for. It gave most of us guys a whole new perspective on what we need to do.”
Finger has heard talk in the school hallways about how the Tuckers are much improved and how they are going to win more games than they did last year, but he knows that it takes more than words to win games. “People can talk the talk, but we got to see the younger guys step up and play like they can play,” he said.
The team needs to cut down on errors and be more judicious in the pitches it swings at in the batter’s box, said Finger.
De Caro said he hopes Mattituck’s strength will be its pitching. All but two of the team members can pitch. De Caro said he doesn’t know what the starting pitching rotation will look like just yet, but the names Burt, Finger and Perivolaris quickly come to mind.
“The problem is we got a bunch of [Nos.] 2 and 3 guys; it’s that 1 guy,” De Caro said. “Who’s going to step up and be our number one guy for this year? That’s our big question right now.”
Finger accepted his share of the blame for Mattituck failing to reach the playoffs last year and said he felt as if most of the players were “lost.” Now, he said, the team has refocused. “It’s not just three or four leaders. Everyone on the team talks. Everyone on the team does what they have to do, so it’s a whole different ballgame this year.”
If nothing else, last year’s disappointment serves as motivation for this year.
“Without a doubt,” Perivolaris said. “We know what it’s like to not make the playoffs now. We need to make the playoffs and we need to go far.”
That way De Caro will be coaching baseball instead of watching a parade.