The signs were there. The sun was shining, temperatures were in the mid-50s (not bad for mid-March in the northeast) and the Mattituck baseball team was outside, throwing, catching and hitting baseballs. All signs that spring is just around the corner.
Perhaps more significantly for the Tuckers were the many familiar faces and extensive experience they have to draw from — signs that Mattituck can be expected to take a strong team into the new season.
Among the 38 players on the field for the first day of practice Monday were 13 returning varsity players and 11 seniors. Mattituck lost only two starters — Nate Demchak (Baruch College) and Connor Fox (Stevenson University) — from last year’s team. That team, by the way, didn’t do badly in the COVID-19-compressed 2021 season, reaching the Suffolk County Conference V semifinals before losing to Mount Sinai and finishing with a 12-8 record.
It all points to encouragement for a successful 2022 season, when things will be more normalized, with preseason practices starting when they normally do and a full 21-game schedule on tap for Mattituck.
“We definitely have high expectations, definitely go back to where we were, hopefully even farther,” said senior Garrett Grathwohl, who can play the left side of the infield when he’s not pitching. “I know everyone coming back,” he added, “so I feel confident with what we got to work with. I think we’ll just pick up where we left off.”
The talent is there. Mattituck has three all-league seniors in Bryce Hansen, Brady Mahon and Grathwohl. All of them put up nice numbers last season. Hansen, a corner infielder, had a .370 batting average and 15 RBIs. As a pitcher, Mahon went 2-2 with a 2.80 ERA and one save. Grathwohl posted a 3-2 pitching record with a 1.61 ERA in addition to hitting .298 with two home runs and 12 RBIs.
Mike Mowdy, a speedy junior centerfielder, batted .327 and scored 21 runs. Ryan Janis is back at catcher. Burke Evers was a designated hitter last year who will play in the infield. His twin brother, Ethan Evers, made starts in the field. Andrew Berman is a pitcher/utility player.
The top two pitchers in Mattituck’s starting rotation will be Grathwohl and Mahon, in either order. Berman and James Reidy are competing for the third spot. “They both have been working hard all winter and whichever one is not [a starter] will be one of our top relievers,” said coach Dan O’Sullivan.
“Every year we put out a good team, but I think this year is just, this is our year,” said Mahon, the longest-serving team member who will enter his fifth year as a varsity starter.
The 6-foot-3 Grathwohl said, “It’s good to hear that the Mattituck program is still producing ballplayers.”
That’s a good thing for the Tuckers because they will face stiff competition in League VI, where they will find themselves playing Shoreham-Wading River, Bayport-Blue Point, Elwood/John Glenn, Center Moriches, Babylon and Southampton. “It’s very competitive,” said O’Sullivan.
The Tuckers were happy to be in the great outdoors again Monday, practicing on their brand new sod.
“The most critical thing is just trying to get live at-bats, being on the field,” O’Sullivan said. “We’ve been in the gym since the end of December, beginning of January, two or three times a week. So now it’s just nice to be outside.”
One day after a scrimmage against Hampton Bays, Mattituck will open its season at home with a non-league game against Islip on March 26.
Mahon said Mattituck’s offense will need to come through. “We got to see the bats,” he said. “Last year we struggled to hit and if we want to win something this year, we got to hit.”
Grathwohl said: “We just got to stay locked in because maybe the last season we lost focus because we had a few losses in the middle towards the end. So, if we just stay locked in, I think we could beat every team in our league.”