06/07/14 6:57pm
06/07/2014 6:57 PM
One of Mattituck's seniors, catcher Brian Pelan, hugs assistant coach Rich Pisacano following Pelan's final game for the Tuckers. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)

One of Mattituck’s seniors, catcher Brian Pelan, hugs assistant coach Rich Pisacano following Pelan’s final game for the Tuckers. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)

SOUTHEAST REGION CLASS B FINAL | PANTHERS 3, TUCKERS 0

The first thing one notices about the Rye Neck High School baseball players is their size. They are big, as in tall and athletic.

“Our first baseman, Matt Franks, number 14, he’s had a full beard since freshman year,” pitcher Angelo Spedafino said. “Our catcher [Thomas Pipolo] has had a full beard since freshman year.”

Because of their stature, the Panthers could easily be mistaken for a college team, and they have the talent to match it. It was going to take a team of that caliber to knock Mattituck out of the playoffs, and that is just what Rye Neck did on Saturday. (more…)

05/23/14 6:44pm
05/23/2014 6:44 PM
The Mattituck Tuckers meet on the infield grass for a postgame celebration after the team sealed its fourth county championship in 12 years. (Credit: Garret Meade)

The Mattituck Tuckers meet on the infield grass for a postgame celebration after the team sealed its fourth county championship in 12 years. (Credit: Garret Meade)

SUFFOLK COUNTY CLASS B TOURNAMENT | TUCKERS 1, RED DEVILS 0

The pressure was on. That is just the way Marcos Perivolaris likes it.

Perivolaris has a reputation for being a baseball player who thrives under pressure. What is his secret?

“I just don’t think about it,” he said. (more…)

03/04/14 7:32pm
03/04/2014 7:32 PM
Mike Onufrak, a sophomore, looks likely to be Mattituck's catcher on Opening Day. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Mike Onufrak, a sophomore, looks likely to be Mattituck’s catcher on Opening Day. (Credit: Garret Meade)

An event that occurred hundreds of miles away, all the way in Albany, had an immediate impact on Mike Onufrak, an impact he could not have foreseen.

Onufrak, a sophomore catcher, had figured he was looking at another season playing for the Mattituck junior varsity baseball team, with perhaps a call-up to catch a game or two for the varsity team. If that was the plan for the Tuckers, it changed dramatically Friday morning.

That was when word spread throughout Mattituck High School that the Tuckers’ first-string catcher, Brian Pelan, had suffered a serious shoulder injury while wrestling in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships in Albany. Onufrak received the news while he was in a physical education class. A fellow student approached him and asked, “Did you hear about Brian?”

Just like that, the spotlight was cast on Onufrak.

Onufrak’s role on the team has changed considerably. His playing opportunity has arrived sooner than later. At least until Pelan returns in good health, Onufrak is being to looked to as the man behind the plate. One door closes and another door opens.

Coach Steve DeCaro said Onufrak was given the “land of opportunity speech.”

Pelan, a senior who throws right-handed and bats left-handed, separated his left shoulder where the left clavicle meets the sternum. He said he can’t lift his left arm above his shoulder. Three to five weeks of physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medication and rest have been ordered.

“Not being able to lift my glove past 90 degrees is a huge problem,” said Pelan, who watched his team’s first preseason practice in the Mattituck High School gym on Monday evening. “The doctor said it’s going to hurt for the whole season no matter what. I just got to push through it.”

Pelan said he expects to be on the field later this season. “I see no problem doing that,” he said.

DeCaro said the Tuckers were “devastated” by the news. Pelan, an All-League player who was a starter the past two years, finished last season with a .371 batting average, 17 runs batted in, 5 stolen bases and 3 doubles. But he brought the Tuckers more than numbers.

“He’s the leader of this team,” said DeCaro.

For the 6-foot Onufrak, Pelan’s misfortune produced conflicting emotions.

“It’s a weird feeling because you feel bad for Brian because it’s his senior year and he’s starting off the year hurt,” Onufrak said. “You don’t know when he’s going to come back. But I was also a little happy, too. I felt like I had a shot to show what I can do for varsity catching-wise.”

Onufrak said he was a catcher in Little League for a couple of years before straying away from the position. He played mostly third base and pitched for the junior varsity team last year.

Last summer DeCaro saw Onufrak catch in a tournament and asked him about committing himself to the position, which he has. The early reviews have been encouraging.

“Mike’s very good,” the ace of Mattituck’s pitching staff, Cameron Burt, said. “I trust him. I have faith in him. He’s a good hitter, too. He’s just going to have to rise to the occasion. I know he will.”

DeCaro said: “The pitchers love him because he does a great job receiving. The coaches love him because he works so hard.”

The other catchers on the team are sophomore Jon Dwyer and junior Ben Knowles.

Onufrak said he enjoys catching and being involved in every pitch. Speaking of the prospect of being the starting catcher on Opening Day, he said: “You’re happy, you’re excited, you’re nervous. It’s a bunch of different feelings, and in the back of your head you’re thinking, I always feel bad for Brian because he’s missing his spot, but I’m also excited that I’m out here. I’m happy and I just want to contribute to varsity as much as I can.”

Onufrak’s opportunity is not solely the result of Pelan’s misfortune.

“He’s also a guy who worked really hard, and now he’s going to get his chance,” DeCaro said. “It’s like ‘Rocky’.”

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02/27/14 8:00am
02/27/2014 8:00 AM
Bobby Becker is the only one of Mattituck/Greenport's seven county champions who has wrestled in the state tournament before. (Garret Meade file photo)

Bobby Becker is the only one of Mattituck/Greenport’s seven county champions who has wrestled in the state tournament before. (Garret Meade file photo)

The great majority of high school wrestlers are done for the season. It is those relatively elite few who are still toiling, pushing themselves through strenuous workouts in steamy wrestling rooms with the hope that their dream will be realized.  (more…)

02/15/14 9:25pm
02/15/2014 9:25 PM
Adam Goode, left, one of Mattituck/Greenport's seven county champions, jumps into the arms of teammate Sal Loverde after winning the 195-pound final on Saturday night at Center Moriches High School. (Daniel De Mato photo)

Bobby Becker, one of Mattituck/Greenport’s seven county champions, jumps into the arms of teammate Sal Loverde after winning the 195-pound title on Saturday night at Center Moriches High School. (Daniel De Mato photo)

SECTION XI DIVISION II TOURNAMENT

What could be called the greatest single day in the history of Mattituck/Greenport wrestling brought results that were staggering.

The Tuckers sent 11 wrestlers into the Section XI Division II Tournament finals at Center Moriches High School on Saturday night. Seven of them had their arms raised as champions. Bobby Becker was among them, and was presented with the tournament’s Champion of Champions trophy. Mattituck/Greenport blew out the competition, winning its second county team championship in a row after capturing its first county crown last year. (more…)

01/29/14 10:00am
01/29/2014 10:00 AM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck/Greenport senior Brian Pelan became the program's sixth 100-win wrestler earlier this month.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck/Greenport senior Brian Pelan became the program’s sixth 100-win wrestler earlier this month.

That three-digit number hanging over Brian Pelan’s head may have been more of a burden than even he had suspected. When the Mattituck/Greenport wrestler finally recorded career win No. 100, he said, the thing he felt more than anything else was relief. Relief that he had done it. Relief that it was over. (more…)

11/19/13 5:43pm
11/19/2013 5:43 PM
GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Mattituck pitcher Cameron Burt fired 70 strikeouts in over 59 innings last year for the Tuckers. He signed a letter of intent to play for Queens College.

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Mattituck pitcher Cameron Burt fired 70 strikeouts in over 59 innings last year for the Tuckers. He signed a letter of intent to play for Queens College.

Cameron Burt was reluctant to put on the Queens College baseball cap that had been placed in front of him. The problem, he said, was the cap was too big for his head.

The cap may not have been a good fit for Burt, but apparently the college is. Burt made Queens College his college of choice, signing a letter of intent to play for the Knights, an NCAA Division II team.

“I love the campus,” the Mattituck High School senior said after a signing ceremony at the school on Tuesday afternoon. “It’s beautiful.”

Burt had also considered St. Thomas Aquinas College (N.Y.).

As part of the deal, Queens College will get a hard-working, talented pitcher, who enjoyed a splendid junior season in which he led the Tuckers to a 15-9 record. The 59-plus innings Burt pitched are the third-most for a single season by a pitcher in Mattituck history, and the 70 strikeouts he recorded rank fifth in team history.

“We couldn’t have ended up where we were without him,” Mattituck coach Steve DeCaro said. “If he’s pitching through five or six innings every time, if he can do that, then that cuts down on the number of relievers that we need, and that also helped us out last year, too.”

Burt went 6-3 with a 1.52 earned run average. The right-hander issued 33 walks and gave up 36 hits. Batters hit a measly .164 against him.

“I think for the number of innings that Cam pitched and the amount of time that he was on the mound, to have that type of ERA is incredible,” Mattituck’s athletic director, Gregg Wormuth, said. “It just shows that he also has longevity.”

Most memorable, perhaps, was a no-hitter that Burt pitched against Center Moriches. He lost the game, 1-0, with a walk and three wild pitches bringing across the game’s only run.

“His record doesn’t really show what he did,” DeCaro said, “even though he had a really good record, but he was the guy pitching against the number one guys in our league, and we had some really good number one guys in our league last year.”

Queens College’s new coach, Chris Reardon, a former pitcher for the Knights, said Burt, one of five recruits, is a “great match” for his team. “We’re very excited to have him coming to Queens College next year,” Reardon said. “For us it was really important as a coaching staff to get players who are able to grow. In Cameron, we see so much talent there that we think he’s just starting to scratch the surface as a pitcher. Three years down the road, with some work, he could be a professional prospect.”

Reardon said Burt has above-average control of three pitches. “I tell you, he could be a good one,” said the coach.

Wormuth, a former catcher for Cortland State, said he would have liked to have caught for Burt. “He’s a pitcher, as opposed to a lot of high school guys who are throwers,” said Wormurth. He added: “I think he’s got really good stuff. He’s got good command on the mound. He’s got good presence on the mound. He understands the game, and I think he’s just going to get better.”

Burt’s ability to mix pitches is an asset, particularly his slurve, which paralyzes right-handed batters. More than a few batters have walked away from the plate, frustrated after seeing Burt’s pitches dance in the air like Wiffle balls.

“No one’s pitch moves quite like Cameron’s,” Mattituck catcher Brian Pelan said. “All his breaking balls, they always just lock up on the knees. They can’t catch on to it.”

Burt, who was an All-League choice last year, has more than a strong arm, though. DeCaro said Burt has a good head on his shoulders, is coachable, open-minded and listens to his pitching coach, Gene Roechler, and Pelan, who calls the pitches. “His progress is just a straight line going right through the roof,” said DeCaro.

A former catcher and reliever before making his way into the starting rotation, Burt is a workhorse with a passion for pitching. “I love it,” he said. The pitching mound, he said, is “the only place on the baseball field where I feel 100 percent comfortable.”

The Tuckers are looking at a good situation. This coming spring they will welcome about 10 pitchers, including three starters — James Nish, Marcos Perivolaris and their ace, Burt.

Burt pitched over the summer and in the fall with the Mattituck Ospreys. He said he is healthy. “I’m getting stronger every day,” he said.

As well as Burt’s junior season went, he said he had an even better summer. “I improved tremendously,” he said.

Burt was joined in the signing ceremony by his parents, Clay and Elizabeth, as well as many of his teammates and friends, some of whom recorded the event with cameras.

Pelan said Burt signing with Queens College is “remarkable. He’s worked as hard as anyone I’ve ever known to get there, so he definitely deserves it.”

Asked how he felt during the ceremony, Burt replied: “It felt good. It felt like I’m ready to do some big things with baseball.”

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01/19/13 9:31pm
01/19/2013 9:31 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Tomasz Filipkowski of Mattituck/Greenport, who sustained a cut on his right eyebrow 10 seconds into the 170-pound final, went on to defeat Half Hollow Hills East's Maleik Henry, 4-3. Filipkowski was selected the tournament's most outstanding wrestler.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Tomasz Filipkowski of Mattituck/Greenport, who sustained a cut on his right eyebrow 10 seconds into the 170-pound final, went on to defeat Half Hollow Hills East’s Maleik Henry, 4-3. Filipkowski was selected the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler.

NORTH FORK INVITATIONAL

With blood streaming down the right side of his face, Tomasz Filipkowski looked like a cast member from a B-grade horror film, but it was the storybook ending that made this tale so captivating.

It was 10 seconds into the 170-pound final of the North Fork Invitational on Saturday night at Mattituck High School when the bout was stopped temporarily so Filipkowski could be attended to. The Mattituck/Greenport senior said he was struck on his right eyelid by either the head or a tooth of his opponent, No. 1 seed Maleik Henry of Half Hollow Hills East.

A trainer, Colleen McGowan, managed to slow the bleeding and wrapped a bandage around Filipkowski’s head so he could resume the match. Two minutes 28 seconds of blood time were consumed, but that was the only stoppage of the match because of bleeding. The second-seeded Filipkowski went on to bounce back from a 2-1 deficit and defeat Henry, 4-3, in perhaps the most enthralling match of the finals.

After the final buzzer sounded, a joyous Filipkowski clapped for himself and received applause from spectators. He was later recognized for his efforts under adversity by being selected the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler.

“It’s pretty sweet,” Filipkowski acknowledged later in the locker room. “It’s one of my top [wins]. It’s at home. It’s against a kid that I lost to before in the season.”

Filipkowski, who was a champion in last year’s tournament as well, defeated Henry twice last season, but then lost to him in the Half Hollow Hills East Tournament final earlier this season. That was motivation enough. When Filipkowski sustained the cut, which was expected to require several stitches, it appeared as if it would endanger his plans.

Asked how much the cut hindered him, Filipkowski replied: “I didn’t think about it at all. I don’t think it affected me too much, to be completely honest. I just went out there and stuck with doing what I had to do during the match.”

Mattituck/Greenport coach Cory Dolson said Filipkowski endured “a little adversity, but nothing major.” The coach said that what Filipkowski did was “nothing eye-opening. That’s what he does. He grinds guys down, he scores takedowns, he doesn’t let guys ride him. That’s a typical match for him.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Brian Pelan of Mattituck/Greenport, left, putting a hold on Harborfields' Ed Henriquez during the 126-pound final. Pelan won, 6-3.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Brian Pelan of Mattituck/Greenport, left, putting a hold on Harborfields’ Ed Henriquez during the 126-pound final. Pelan won, 6-3.

Two other Mattituck/Greenport wrestlers reached the top of the podium in their weight classes, junior Brian Pelan and senior Chris Baglivi.

Pelan, a junior seeded No. 1, scored a 6-3 decision against No. 3 Ed Henriques of Harborfields in the 126-pound final.

“I expected myself to win it,” Pelan said. “I wanted to win it, so I put my mind to it and got what I wanted.”

The Tuckers also received a fine performance from Baglivi at 195 pounds. Baglivi, the tournament favorite, was leading his opponent, No. 2 Nick Marcinek of Connetquot, by 5-0 before pinning him at 2 minutes 46 seconds. It was Baglivi’s second tournament title of the season.

“I’ve been going for it for three years, trying to win this tournament,” Baglivi said. “I’m really pumped. It’s always a tough tournament.”

Riverhead sent two wrestlers into the finals, sophomore Raheem Brown (160 pounds) and junior Ryan Gevinski (120).

The sixth-seeded Brown upset the tournament’s top three seeds in his path to winning a champions’ medal and his first career tournament crown. He defeated the No. 1 seed, Nick Mastro of Connetquot, in the final, 6-4.

“You’re tired, you’re fighting,” Brown said. “You just want to win. You want to be the one with your hand raised at the end.”

Brown said he was motivated by his coaches, who got on him following his loss in a dual meet against Hauppauge the night before.

“I’m trying to move up better and better because there are other people out there 10 times better than me,” he said, “and I want to be just like them.”

A week earlier, Brown received the Riverhead team’s weekly most outstanding wrestler award.

“He’s a kid that’s still on his way up,” Riverhead coach Wade “Rocky” Davey said. “He doesn’t realize how good he can be.”

Gevinski, the third seed, dropped a 5-1 decision to No. 1 Steven Bolzomi of Connetquot in their final.

Connetquot and Rocky Point, recognized as being among the top teams in the state, lived up to their billing. Connetquot won the team title for the third year in a row, posting 376 points in the 12-team tournament. Rocky Point was the runner-up with 279, and Mattituck/Greenport third with 210.

“Our guys wrestled great today,” Dolson said. “Third place is a tremendous performance for our team.”

Following his tremendous performance, Filipkowski removed his headgear, revealing a stream of blood trickling down his face while photographers snapped away.

Said Pelan, “That’s going to look sweet in the paper, that’s for sure.”

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