Matt Stepnoski didn’t have to think long when he was asked what he has learned the most about playing in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League this summer.
“I’m not as good as I think I am,” he said. “It’s humbling. You see a lot of kids from all over the country and you realize you’re a small fish in a big pond. It’s a good humbling experience.”
It has been a good experience for both Stepnoski of Southold and Marcos Perivolaris of Mattituck. Not only are the two North Forkers playing for the Long Island Road Warriors and their coach, former major leaguer Neal Heaton, but they may get a championship out of it. The two started in Game 2 of the championship series Tuesday — Perivolaris at second base and Stepnoski in rightfield — as the Road Warriors survived for an 11-10 victory over the Riverhead Tomcats at Southampton High School. That forced a decisive third game scheduled for Wednesday at Veterans Memorial Park in Calverton.
Both players are heading into their senior years in college — Perivolaris at SUNY/Cortland and Stepnoski at Wilmington University in Delaware. They have both relished the opportunity to sharpen their skills against stiff competition in the HCBL.
“I’ve been doing well,” Perivolaris said. “It’s fun. I mean, it’s a great atmosphere. To be playing with some great players, you raise your game a little bit, and you play against good competition in this league.”
The 5-8, 160-pound Perivolaris, who played for Mattituck High School’s state champion team in 2015, has been used at both shortstop and second base. Entering Wednesday’s game, he has played in 44 games this summer (including the playoffs), batting .299 with six home runs, 35 RBIs and eight stolen bases.
In 20 games, the 6-2, 210-pound Stepnoski has hit .258 with two homers and 15 RBIs.
“It’s been a very good learning experience,” he said. “I came in with just the attitude, I want to get better, let’s focus on that, not focus on my stats or anything.”
In Tuesday’s game, Perivolaris made a spectacular diving catch of a popup in shallow center field (one of his five putouts) and went 1-for-3 with two walks and a run. Stepnoski went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, two runs and a walk.
The two had been teammates before while playing for the Mattituck Ospreys travel team as youngsters.
“I’ve been very blessed to play with some great coaches,” Perivolaris said, referring in part to John Tardif of the Mattituck Ospreys, Mattituck High School’s Steve DeCaro and Heaton. “They know how to play the game right, so I’ve just been learning and it’s made me a great baseball player to be around these great baseball people.”
Both players would love the chance to play professionally one day.
“No doubt,” Perivolaris said. “I’m just going to try to play as long as I can. That’s the goal. I never want to give it up.”
Photo caption: Long Island second baseman Marcos Perivolaris of Mattituck swipes a tag on Luke Oliphant, but not before the Riverhead runner steals second base in the first inning of Tuesday’s game at Southampton High School. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)