The experience was so magical that Mike Onufrak sometimes needs to reassure himself that it actually happened.
A little hard evidence helps. All Onufrak has to do to reaffirm the fact that the Mattituck High School baseball team he plays for won a state championship this past spring is look at the state medal he keeps in his room.
Then it hits him again, almost as if it was for the first time. That is when he tells himself: “Wow! We actually won that.”
The Tuckers sure did, claiming the first state championship in their 95-year history of playing baseball. A 4-1 defeat of Livonia capped a remarkable 27-1 season, leaving the Tuckers as the 2015 New York State Class B champions. An achievement like that tends to stick with people.
“It’s life changing,” Onufrak, a catcher heading into his senior year, said. “It’s something that I’ll never forget.”
Asked if his feet have touched the ground since the Tuckers lifted the state championship plaque in Binghamton, in-coming senior Victor Proferes said: “No. I think about it all the time. It’s the best experience I’ve ever experienced, the best moment of my life.”
So, how do state baseball champions spend their summer?
By playing baseball, what else?
“There’s nothing else I’d rather do than play baseball,” said Onufrak.
Hard work and togetherness were among the ingredients in Mattituck’s championship recipe. So, perhaps it shouldn’t come as a great surprise that many of the Tuckers have remained teammates this summer while playing for the Mattituck Ospreys, an 18-and-under team in the Long Island Boys of Summer Baseball League’s National Division. Playing for the Ospreys prepares younger players for next year’s high school season and helps older players get ready for college baseball.
The Ospreys include the current New York Class B player of the year, Joe Tardif. Tardif was a driving force for the Tuckers as their ace pitcher and standout center fielder.
Marcos Perivolaris, a shortstop/pitcher who was named to the New York State Sportswriters Association’s all-state Class B fifth team, also plays for the Ospreys. It was his parents, Kathy and Mike, who founded the Ospreys several years ago and with the help of John Tardif gave the Mattituck players an area team to play for during the summer. John Tardif, Joe’s father, coached the Ospreys before another one of his sons, Brian, took over for him this summer.
The Ospreys include other Mattituck state champions: Chris Dwyer, Christian Figurniak, Joe Graeb and Brendan Kent. Sam Dickerson, Jason Scalia and Tyler Williams — who all played for Mattituck’s junior varsity team last spring — play for the Ospreys as do Marco Pascale and Palmer Egan, who played for Bishop McGann-Mercy and Southampton, respectively.
“It’s almost like playing for school ball,” Perivolaris said. “It’s the same amount of guys, the same guys, playing the same sport just for the love of the game.”
The Ospreys have done well for themselves. They finished the regular season with a 9-8 record, ranked fifth among 12 teams and headed for the playoffs. They had won eight of their first nine games before cooling off in the summer heat.
On Saturday, the Ospreys split a doubleheader with the Long Island Mariners. After dropping the first game, 4-0, the Ospreys took the second, 10-3, with Perivolaris and Proferes both slugging in-the-park home runs and triples on the field turf at the Dowling Sports Complex.
Records and statistics aside, the competition in the Boys of Summer League is good for the Ospreys, said Brian Tardif.
“The competition is definitely up there, and that’s what I wanted for them,” he said. He continued: “Baseball’s one of those sports that if you’re going to improve, you got to constantly be playing. You can’t just kind of show up in the spring and think that you’re going to be good. You got to play.”
As Proferes sees it, it’s really a simple equation. “The more you play baseball, the better you’ll be, especially with good competition,” he said.
Brian Tardif, who was a star pitcher for Mattituck himself (Class of 2008), said the Tuckers deserved everything they won this past season. Has he noticed any affect the state title has had on his players?
“They carry themselves with confidence,” he said. “They’re certainly not a cocky group, but they show up and regardless of who they’re playing, they respect their opponent, but they know that they have confidence in themselves, that they can get the job done.”
Perivolaris is using summer baseball to keep him sharp for when he reports to Cortland State, where he will play next. “I’m just trying to play as much as I can, get as many at-bats as I can because it’s going to be great competition up there,” he said.
Like Onufrak, Perivolaris said he still has trouble absorbing what the Tuckers did last spring. Calling it the best experience of his life to this point, he said, “It’s still unbelievable.”
[Photo Caption: Marcos Perivolaris is one of the players from Mattituck High School’s state champion baseball team who are spending their summer with the Mattituck Ospreys. (Credit: Bob Liepa)]