03/05/14 8:00pm
03/05/2014 8:00 PM
Alex Poliwoda's pitching arm and big bat are pluses for a Southold team that is virtually unchanged since last year. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Alex Poliwoda’s pitching arm and big bat are pluses for a Southold team that is virtually unchanged since last year. (Credit: Garret Meade)

All signs are pointing toward a good season for the Southold High School baseball team. Not only is the team virtually unchanged from last year’s 14-9 playoff squad, but its starting pitching rotation of Alex Poliwoda, Anthony Fedele and Rob Mahony remains intact.

The First Settlers will be even tougher yet if Poliwoda becomes as dominating a presence on the pitching mound as coach Mike Carver anticipates. (more…)

04/22/13 11:01pm
04/22/2013 11:01 PM
ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Southold junior Anthony Fedele pitched a no-hitter with 12 strikeouts against Shelter Island on Monday.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Southold junior Anthony Fedele pitched a no-hitter with 12 strikeouts against Shelter Island on Monday.

For the second time in 18 days, a Southold pitcher has thrown a no-hitter.

Anthony Fedele silenced Shelter Island’s bats on Monday in a 10-0 League IX baseball win at Southold High School. The junior right-hander registered 12 strikeouts and six walks, according to msgvarsity.com.

Alex Poliwoda, a sophomore, threw a no-hitter in a 4-0 win at Greenport on April 5. It was his first pitching start of the season and his first game back from a school trip to Europe.

Third-place Southold raised its record to 7-5, overall and in the league. Shelter Island dropped to 2-9, 2-9.

03/23/13 4:36pm
03/23/2013 4:36 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Southold's Anthony Fedele making contact during his team's season-opening win over The Stony Brook School on Saturday.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Southold’s Anthony Fedele making contact during his team’s season-opening win over The Stony Brook School on Saturday.

FIRST SETTLERS 10, BEARS 3

All one had to do was watch a single at-bat by Matt Stepnoski to appreciate what he brings to the Southold baseball team.

It was the bottom of the fourth inning of the season-opening game against The Stony Brook School on Saturday. The bases were loaded for Stepnoski when he stepped into the batter’s box. That’s when the cleanup hitter, well, cleaned up.

With one mighty swing, Stepnoski ripped a scalding line drive that skipped by the center fielder on the short hop. The first base coach, Joe Andrejack, waved on Stepnoski to head for second base. As Stepnoski rounded first, he glanced up and saw the center fielder chasing after the ball.

“I thought maybe double or triple at the most,” said Stepnoski.

So he kept running. By the time Stepnoski approached third base, Southold coach Mike Carver was sending him home for the fourth run on the play, which gave the First Settlers a 9-3 lead.

After the hustling Stepnoski crossed home plate, he laid down on the grass behind the team bench, catching his breath.

“I was out of breath,” he said. “I got to get the stamina up.”

Stepnoski hastened to add, “It felt good.”

The play — the highlight in Southold’s 10-3 win in the Suffolk County League IX game on its home field — was scored a single and a three-base error. Stepnoski might have deserved a grand slam for his effort, but he wasn’t complaining.

That single play said a lot about Stepnoski as a player. The senior center fielder is tremendously talented, and his work ethic on the field may be second to none.

“Matty really came up big for us today,” said Anthony Fedele, who was Southold’s starting pitcher in the game before later moving to catcher. “He hit a wonderful base hit. He’s a solid player. It’s great to have him here, it really is. And he hustles. He always tries 100 percent.”

Stepnoski’s play wasn’t the only thing for the First Settlers to feel good about. They produced six runs that memorable inning, the other runs scoring on bases-loaded walks by Sean Moran and Dylan Clausen.

Offering his postgame assessment, Carver said: “We were good enough to win, but not good. We hit O.K., but the defense has to be more crisp. I hate sloppy baseball. We always say, ‘Simple things perfect,’ and we were far from that today.”

Certainly, there was sloppiness. Signs of early-season rust could be seen, with the teams combining for 10 errors, seven by Stony Brook.

Still, heading into the new season with only one scrimmage behind them, the First Settlers were missing three players who were in Europe on a school trip: Shayne Johnson, Tom Messena and Alex Poliwoda. Five First Settlers made their first varsity starts: the catcher, Moran; left fielder Noah Mina; first baseman Chris Reilly, right fielder Kevin McGough and second baseman Timmy Stankewicz. Clausen, an eighth grader, also made his varsity debut, coming off the bench to pick up his first varsity hit, run, run batted in, walk and stolen base.

“To start the season with a win is wonderful,” Fedele said. “If we’re playing this well already, once we get the rest of our team back … we’ll be doing really good.”

Stony Brook, which looked improved from last year’s 0-20 team, opened the game with two runs from a two-out rally in the first inning. Pat Ruffer bounced a run-scoring single up the middle, and Tyler Hoegsberg rapped a run-scoring single to left field.

Stony Brook scored its final run in the fourth on a walk by Ben Walter with the bases loaded.

Stony Brook coach Kyle Cavanaugh said his team is better this year. “The team culture has been changing over the past couple of years, guys who are really coming out, working hard, playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played, and we still have a ways to go,” he said. “We got a lot of work to do. We have to clean some things up. We’re encouraged by what we’ve seen so far.”

Southold didn’t wait long to respond with four runs in the bottom half of the inning. Rob Mahony led off, looping a single to center field. He later scored on a balk. Moran scored from third base on an errant pickoff attempt, Fedele raced home on a fielding error, and Stepnoski scored on a groundout by Mina for a 4-2 lead.

“That’s big,” Carver said. “That’s a positive to take away from today.”

The first four Stony Brook outs came on strikeouts fired by Fedele. The right-hander allowed three hits and two earned runs over four-plus innings, walking four and striking out seven.

Southold also caused damage on the basepaths, going 9 for 9 in stolen-base attempts. Fedele, Stepnoski, Anthony Esposito and Mina had two steals each.

Esposito, playing third base, turned in the defensive gem of the game, making a great leaping grab of a humpback liner hit by Erik Holvik for the third out in the sixth.

Southold players said they were eagerly awaiting the start to the season.

“I just want to keep playing,” Stepnoski said after Saturday’s win. “I could play another game right now.”

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03/04/13 10:28pm
03/04/2013 10:28 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Alex Poliwoda, properly bundled up for the cold weather, during a fielding drill at Southold's first preseason practice.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Alex Poliwoda, properly bundled up for the cold weather, during a fielding drill at Southold’s first preseason practice.

Spring training conjures up visions of palm trees, sunshine and spectators wearing shorts and T-shirts. Of course, the start of high school baseball practice in the Northeast, is typically nothing like that at all.

Early March weather on Long Island can be bone-chilling. While the temperature was in the 40s and it was cold enough, an optimist would have noted that it could have been even colder and windier on Monday. Still, as if to serve as a chilly reminder that this isn’t Florida or Arizona, some large piles of snow and ice still remained from last month’s major snowstorm.

That’s the way it was for Southold and other teams throughout New York State that started preseason practice on Monday.

“We always have to deal with it,” Southold junior Anthony Fedele, a catcher/pitcher, said of the less-than-ideal weather conditions for baseball. “It’s tough, but we’ll get through it.”

Southold coach Mike Carver has learned over the years not to be too picky when it comes to early-spring weather. “I always say, any day you can get outside in March is a good day,” he said.

The real point of the matter is that baseball is back.

By all accounts, Day 1 was a good day for the First Settlers, who took to the field together for the first time since their loss to Pierson/Bridgehampton in Game 3 of the 2012 Suffolk County Class C finals. For the first time this year they shagged fly balls, fielded ground balls, executed cutoff and over-the-shoulder outfield drills before topping the afternoon off with some conditioning work.

“I liked the energy of the kids,” Carver said. “The kids are hustling, listening. It was a positive first day.”

Southold lost the core of last year’s team with the graduation of seven players. Among them are Kyle Clausen, Luke Hokanson and Will Fujita, who all finished the regular season with batting averages over .400. Now, with only four seniors — Dillon Engels, Preston Jolliver, Robbie Patchell and Matt Stepnoski — the bulk of the current team consists of juniors, sophomores and freshmen. It’s a team built for next year, not that Southold is looking past the coming season.

Fedele said he believes Southold has what it takes to return to the county finals.

Carver has his heart set on 11 league wins, which would assure Southold of a playoff berth.

“Anything above that is gravy,” he said. “We should be a playoff team, let’s leave it at that.”

While acknowledging that Southold had ups and downs during its 14-9 season last year, Carver said it was a “very good season. We’re back to the kind of [team] that Southold is known to be, a perennial playoff team.”

A major plus has been the development of all-league outfielder Shayne Johnson and pitcher/infielder Alex Poliwoda, who both started last year as freshmen and performed well. Another all-league player, shortstop/pitcher Rob Mahony, and Anthony Esposito, who can play in the outfield or at third base, were also starters.

Perhaps the team’s biggest question mark is who will play at first base, a position that was manned alternately by Fujita and Alex Sinclair last year.

“Right now we’re looking for a first baseman,” Fedele said. “It’s open competition. The best will prevail, I guess.”

Mahony, however, sounded more concerned with team unity.

“I think our biggest thing to focus on is playing as a team,” he said. “It’s not necessarily who plays where; it’s if we play together. I think if we play as one and stay as one, we can play our best baseball. I want to be a team, I don’t want it to be bits and pieces.”

Southold has some time to work with. The team will play three scrimmages before opening its season with a League IX game against The Stony Brook School on March 21.

Hitting may be the skill that takes the most time to fine-tune. For one thing, it’s difficult to replicate hitting against live pitching in a real game.

“Hitting is a different ballgame,” Mahony said. “Hitting in the cage is nothing like hitting on the field with runners on base.”

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