Following his baseball team’s first scrimmage of the year on Monday, Southold coach Mike Carver trudged his way back on the long walk from the field to the warm confines of the high school gym. It was cold outside, really cold, the kind of cold that seeps through layers of clothing, chills to the bone and sticks with a person for a while.
“This weather,” Carver said, “… it wasn’t fun out there today.”
What may have warmed Carver’s heart, however, was what he saw from his players in the scrimmage against Bishop McGann-Mercy.
“Today showed a lot,” he said. “We hit the ball today, which was good. We hit the ball well. We did O.K.”
Rob Mahony’s velocity was up and he was in command of his pitches. “His breaking ball looked great today,” said Carver.
Perhaps even more impressive was the play of catcher Anthony Fedele. Carver said Fedele spent a lot of time in the off-season working on conditioning and getting stronger, and it showed. “He threw four kids out today,” Carver said. “I think every kid that [tried to steal] on him he threw out, throwing BBs, too, absolute BBs. It was impressive.”
The scrimmage aside, the First Settlers (14-9 last year) have a lot to feel good about as they head into the new season. Whether they can return to the Suffolk County Class C finals, where they lost to Pierson/Bridgehampton in three games, remains to be seen, but it is certainly not out of the question. Still, with only four seniors on the team, Southold is looking at an even better year possibly in 2014.
“We’re young, but the young players from last year, they have a year under their belt, so they need to take the torch,” said Carver, who carries a career record of 144-96 (.600) into his 12th year of coaching. “This is one of those years where I think we’re going to be very competitive. I’m pretty sure we have the capability of being a playoff team, but a lot of it is rebuilding for next year.”
Although two sophomores, second baseman/outfielder Shayne Johnson and pitcher/third baseman Alex Poliwoda, are young, they are not green. “They live and eat baseball,” said Carver. Johnson and Poliwoda were not only starters last year, but both earned all-league status, as did Mahony, who plays shortstop when he’s not pitching.
The team’s only other returning players from a 2012 squad that lost seven players are left fielder/third baseman/shortstop Anthony Esposito, center fielder/pitcher Matt Stepnoski, first baseman Robbie Patchell and Fedele. New to the mix are: first baseman Preston Jolliver, first baseman Chris Reilly, catcher/infielder Sean Moran, first baseman/right fielder Tom Messana, outfielder Mike Ryan, infielder Tim Stankewicz and outfielder Kevin McGough.
Carver doesn’t have to worry about pitching. “One thing we definitely got is pitching,” he said.
Fedele, Poliwoda and Mahony are the most likely candidates for places in the starting rotation. “Basically, they’re all even,” said Carver. Stepnoski and Esposito can also pitch.
Other aspects of the game could determine how well Southold does this year. “If we don’t make mistakes, we’ll win games,” Carver said. “No errors and hitting and no walks. That’s what we want. We want our defense to do their job and we want to hit the ball.”
Some warmer weather wouldn’t hurt, either.
Mattituck coach Steve DeCaro teaches physics, so he knows that baseball isn’t rocket science. At its core, baseball is a simple game.
“Throw strikes, don’t make errors, and everything else is going to work out,” said DeCaro.
Last year, though, things didn’t work out as well as the Tuckers would have liked. After a nice start to the season, Mattituck dropped its final six games, finished with a 9-11 record and sat out the playoffs for the second time in three years.
No need for Mattituck to worry about motivation for this year.
The Tuckers graduated only two players from last year’s squad. They have three accomplished veterans to work around. Marcos Perivolaris (10 runs batted in, 11 stolen bases), a sophomore, is an all-league shortstop/pitcher who enters his third year as a varsity starter, as do senior right fielder John Schultz and senior pitcher/third baseman Ryan Finger.
Two juniors, catcher/pitcher Cameron Burt and outfielder Brian Pelan, and a sophomore, second baseman Chris Dwyer (.290 batting average, 8 stolen bases), were starters last year as well. Speaking of Dwyer, DeCaro said, “He’s got about the nicest swing I’ve ever seen in all my years of coaching.”
The projected starting lineup includes first baseman Ian Nish and center fielder Joe Tardif. They are new additions to the team along with: second baseman Dylan Hahn, infielder Austin Pase, third baseman Tyler Montafusco, outfielder James Nish, third baseman/pitcher Will Gildersleeve and outfielder Dylan Williams.
The pitching staff remains largely unchanged. Burt (4-3, 2.92 earned run average) heads the starting rotation, with Finger (2-3, 4.72) or Tardif in the No. 2 slot and Perivolaris (2-3, 2.47) the No. 3 pitcher.
“After two weeks of practicing, I feel like we’re about ready to go,” said DeCaro, whose 11-year coaching record is 127-104 (.575). “If everybody stays healthy, I think we’ll be O.K.”
With a small squad, versatility is critical for Greenport (5-15 last year), so just about all of the Porters can be expected to play more than one position this season. Perhaps just as importantly, though, coach Chris Golden wants his players to be loose and not uptight. A loose player, he said, is bound to be a better player.
“It’s a fun group,” Golden said. “We don’t lose sight of the big picture. It’s not life or death, but we take it seriously. We want to compete to the utmost of our abilities.”
Greenport has six healthy returning starters leading the way: pitcher/infielder/outfielder Bryant Rivas, pitcher/first baseman/outfielder Austin Hooks, catcher/outfielder Christian Angelson, catcher/third baseman/pitcher Matt Drinkwater, first baseman/pitcher John Drinkwater and shortstop/catcher/pitcher/outfielder Timmy Stevens.
The Porters suffered a couple of blows with the loss of two players to injury. Brian Tuthill, a junior shortstop, is out for the season because of a shoulder injury. Matt Dibble, a pitcher/outfielder, will miss his senior season because he needs to undergo reconstructive knee surgery, said Golden.
To help fill the void, Greenport has new players such as center fielder Ivan Novick (a senior transfer from Bishop McGann-Mercy), third baseman/outfielder Wilson Morales, outfielder Eddie Rogers and outfielder Rich Wysocki.
Golden, in his second year as Greenport’s coach, is looking at a starting pitching rotation of Hooks, Matt Drinkwater and Rivas or John Drinkwater.
“I’m seeing a lot of versatility,” Golden said. “I’m seeing a willingness on the part of the players to do what’s asked of them. I think that they understand the situation, and they’re certainly willing to try new things and play positions they’re not necessarily comfortable with. They got to be versatile. They got to be ready to go.”