Southold baseball team pays tribute to fallen classmate with sweep of local rivals

Whether he’s playing shortstop, pitching or hitting, Luke Newman usually finds a way to honor his late cousin Dylan Newman.

“I dedicate every game to him,” he said of the former Southold High School baseball player who died in September at age 18 from a rare bone cancer.

Newman, who was very close to Dylan, paid homage to his cousin in the best way possible, not once, but twice, in what turned into a storybook week.

Last Thursday, Newman struck out 13 batters, scored three runs and drove in another in a 13-1 home win over Greenport, the same day the Settlers’ new baseball scoreboard was dedicated in memory of Dylan.

“I would have to say it wasn’t really emotional,” Newman said. “It was more that I felt like I was playing for him. So, it was good.”

It was pretty darn good on Friday as well, as Newman sparked the Settlers to a 9-3 victory over the host Porters in a Suffolk County League X game. The junior did damage on the base paths and with his bat. He was on base four times, stole as many bases, scored three runs and capped it off with his first home run.

Dylan would have been proud.

“He was the best teammate I could ever ask for,” Newman said. “So I think he deserves me to play for him.”

In his first three at-bats Friday, Newman walked twice and was hit by a pitch.

“I was very selective on my pitches,” he said.

Newman was particularly selective on a pitch in the top of the seventh inning with Danny Cartselos on board following a double, smacking a Declan Crowley pitch over the fence in dead center to give the Settlers an 8-2 lead.

“I had a feeling it was going out,” Newman said. “I was very excited. It was my first home run.”

His teammates were excited as well, as the entire bench greeted Newman as though he hit a walk-off homer.

“It’s a big deal,” he said.

Southold head coach Greg Tulley liked what he has seen from Newman.

“He’s a good player,” Tulley said. “A lot of potential and it’s really shown in the last couple of days. He’s shown it at different points throughout the season.”

Newman’s performance helped the Settlers (4-12, 3-9) sweep the three-game series against the Porters (0-16, 0-13).

Southold gained a 3-0 advantage in the second inning when designated hitter Bryce Keels’ single drove in winning pitcher Noah Riddell before he scored on an error. Third baseman Travis Sepenoski added an RBI sacrifice fly.

First baseman Jay Tramontana knocked in the first of his two RBIs with a ground out in the third. Alex Lopez drove in another run with a ground out in the fifth before the visitors put the game away with a four-run seventh.

“It’s always nice to walk away with a win,” Tulley said. “The boys have progressively gotten better all year and that doesn’t always necessarily reflect in the scores because we’ll have a bad inning, and it just piles up.”

But not on Friday.

“What has kept the team going is positivity,” Newman said. “Since we’re so close, a small school, it’s easy to have fun while playing baseball.”

Tramontana agreed, saying, “I feel we always have each other’s backs. These three wins have definitely felt really good.”

It also has been a difficult year for Greenport, which has only three seniors — Justus Horton, Collin McDaniel and Crowley. The 16-player roster includes three juniors, three sophomores and seven freshmen.

There is a lot of learning to be done but head coach Vinny Punzone, who coaches 200 games a year with USA Baseball, is optimistic.

“Some of our players are very young, and those players should be playing JV,” he said. “But unfortunately, we didn’t have enough players to play JV. We bought them up just to keep the program going. They’re starting to learn the game. I’m trying to keep their heads up. We’re hoping to get one win across the board this season.”