A number of benefits come with still being alive in the high school baseball playoffs in the northeast in June. Among them is the anxiously awaited arrival of nice weather. No need for coats, wool hats or winter gloves. Sunscreen and shorts are more like it.
Call it one of the perks that come with advancing in the playoffs.
Southold has outlasted the cold weather. Now look at where the First Settlers are: just two wins away from where they ended up last year.
If Southold is to return to the New York State Class C semifinals for the second year in a row, it will need to clear a hurdle it didn’t have to deal with last year. In 2015, Nassau County didn’t have a Class C playoff team, opening the way for Southold’s entry straight into the Southeast Region final after winning the Suffolk County championship.
On Thursday, Southold (18-4) will face an obstacle posed by East Rockaway (8-8) in the Long Island final at Dowling Sports Complex in Shirley.
“It’s definitely exciting, you know, for one of the biggest games of the year, but we’re just going to take it as every other game,” catcher Shane Zimmer said before Southold scrimmaged Suffolk Class D champion Smithtown Christian on Tuesday. “That’s how we want to play it. We want to play every game the same way, just win.”
At this stage, teams normally do not know much about each other because they typically haven’t faced each other, being from different sections.
Asked if he knew anything about East Rockaway, Southold coach Mike Carver answered, “Nothing.”
Southold was ranked sixth among the state’s Class C teams by the New York State Sportswriters Association in its top-20 rankings released last Thursday. East Rockaway wasn’t ranked.
“We see their record and their rankings, but we’re not really focused on them as much as we are focused on us,” said Noah Mina, a senior who plays either shortstop or center field, depending on who is pitching.
Carver said he was unsure who will pitch, Pat McFarland (7-0), the League VIII pitcher of the year, or Dylan Clausen (5-2).
Strong pitching has been a constant for Southold. The defense and hitting hasn’t been bad, either.
“Our defense is solid,” Zimmer said. “In every position, we’re making the plays, and we’re hitting the ball when we need to hit the ball.”
Since completing a two-game sweep of Pierson/Bridgehampton in the county finals on May 21, Southold has been practicing and giving arms a rest.
Do the games feel different at this stage?
“They’re definitely a lot more exciting,” Zimmer said, “and there’s a lot more at stake, obviously.”
And the weather? The forecast for Thursday was mostly sunny with a high temperature of 69 degrees.
Photo caption: Southold center fielder Dylan Clausen makes a leaping catch of a fly ball hit by Pierson/Bridgehampton’s Cameron Burton in Game 2 of the Suffolk County Class C finals. (Credit: Garret Meade, file)