For 10 straight years, the high school baseball teams that played in Southold had made it to the playoffs. It was as regular as flowers blossoming. Then, two years ago, the First Settlers missed qualifying for the postseason by one game. Last year they missed the playoffs by two games. It was all part of a rebuilding process.
This year, though, could be different. This year the First Settlers (9-11) are ready to be playoff players again, and they may very well have the means to make that possible.
“I expect us to be very competitive this year,” said coach Mike Carver, who has a 130-87 record over 11 years. “I’m expecting a good season.”
Carver has good reason to be optimistic. Southold is built around three all-league players — pitcher/third baseman/shortstop Kyle Clausen, second baseman Luke Hokanson and first baseman/outfielder/catcher/pitcher Will Fujita. They are all seniors.
Not only that, but Southold has four other starters returning as well in shortstop/pitcher Robert Mahony, catcher/pitcher Anthony Fedele, center fielder/pitcher/third baseman Matt Stepnoski and right fielder/first baseman/pitcher Alex Sinclair.
More varsity experience is provided by outfielders Matt Reilly, Anthony Esposito, Chris Bollettieri and Zach De Paulis.
Looking to make an impact in their first varsity season are outfielder Dillon Engels, first baseman/outfielder Robbie Patchell, outfielder Preston Jolliver and center fielder Shayne Johnson.
Clausen is the leader of the pitching staff.
“I believe that any time Kyle Clausen takes the mound this year we should win,” Carver said. “I expect him to have a standout year on the mound.”
The second and third starting pitching jobs are up for grabs, though, with Mahoney, Fedele, Stepnoski and Fujita being considered.
“We definitely have talent this year, there’s no doubt about it,” Carver said. “I have pitching, I have catching. … My infield is definitely, hands down, the best defensive infield that I ever had.”
The coach said it will be critical for the First Settlers to do “the simple things perfect.”
Southold may have already shown signs of its progress by winning four of its final five games last season.
“The last two years have been building years for this year,” Carver said. “It’s [been] a work in progress, so hopefully it’s all going to come together.”