06/03/15 12:00pm
06/03/2015 12:00 PM

Opening day is a special day in baseball. The pageantry, the anticipation and the high hopes teams take into the new season all contribute to a setting that is about as American as it gets. A clean slate is ready to be written on. The story it will tell is anyone’s guess.

The Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League celebrated its third opening day with three games on Sunday, including a matchup between the North Fork Ospreys and the Riverhead Tomcats at Veterans Memorial Park in Calverton. They were the first games in an expanded 42-game regular season for the seven-team league. (more…)

03/24/15 9:55pm
03/24/2015 9:55 PM

Former Mattituck High School star Cameron Burt has been assigned to play for the North Fork Ospreys in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League this coming summer. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound right-handed pitcher is a freshman at Queens College.

Two former Shoreham-Wading River High School players have also been placed on HCBL teams. Tyler Osik, a freshman infielder for Coker College (S.C.), will play for the Riverhead Tomcats. Jack Massa of Shoreham, a freshman catcher at Canisius College, will join the Westhampton Aviators. (more…)

06/06/14 8:25pm
06/06/2014 8:25 PM
Mattituck players celebrating the team's second Long Island championship in four years following their 9-2 win over Wheatley. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)

Mattituck players celebrating the team’s second Long Island championship in four years following their 9-2 win over Wheatley. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)

SOUTHEAST REGION CLASS B SEMIFINAL | TUCKERS 9, WHEATLEY 2

Because of inconvenient scheduling, the Mattituck Tuckers had a long bus ride home from Farmingdale State College on Friday evening. After a night’s rest, they will be back on the road the following morning for an even longer bus ride back west to Mamaroneck High School.

Judging by the roar of cheers heard emanating from the baseball team’s bus before it headed out for the ride home, the Tuckers didn’t mind. After all, they had a lot to cheer about. They are Long Island champions again. (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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12/25/13 7:00am
12/25/2013 7:00 AM
GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Mattituck’s starting pitcher Cameron Burt.

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Mattituck’s starting pitcher Cameron Burt.

Throwing a no-hitter is an accomplishment every pitcher dreams about. Rarely does it ever result in a loss. Such was the case for Mattituck pitcher Cameron Burt, who came up on the short end of a 1-0 game in a memorable pitchers’ duel against Center Moriches in a Class B playoff game.

The only run of the game came in the fifth inning after three walks and three wild pitches. Patrick Bryant picked up the win for Center Moriches, as he improved his record to 7-1.

Editor’s note: We’re counting down the top 10 sports stories of 2013. Check back every day until Jan. 1 to follow along.

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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08/09/13 11:10pm
08/09/2013 11:10 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Anthony Fedele of the Mattituck Ospreys taking a cut during his team's semifinal win over the Massapequa Cyclones.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Anthony Fedele of the Mattituck Ospreys taking a cut during his team’s semifinal win over the Massapequa Cyclones.

Joe Tardif’s glove, Matt Stepnoski’s bat and Cameron Burt’s right arm.

All three factored prominently Friday as the Mattituck Ospreys advanced to the Boys of Summer Baseball League 18-and-under National Division championship game with a thrilling 1-0 semifinal victory over the Massapequa Cyclones.

It was a defensive play more than anything else that this game will be remembered for. The Ospreys’ swift center fielder, Joe Tardif, may have saved the game — and the season — for his team with his tremendous running catch for the game’s penultimate out.

With the Cyclones trailing with one out in the top of the seventh inning at Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic, Matt Diesel drove a hard-struck fly toward the outfield. To some it may have looked like extra bases, but not to Tardif, who said he read the ball well off the bat before making the catch at full speed about a step away from the center-field fence.

“I’ve never seen anyone make a better catch in my entire life,” said Burt, the Ospreys’ pitcher, who went the full seven innings for a six-hit shutout and 10 strikeouts. He did not issue a walk, and hit one batter.

“We say that when the ball is smoked to center field, you can start coming in if there’s two outs because that’s what Joe does,” said Ospreys manager John Tardif, who is Joe’s father. “That’s why he’s out there.”

Joe Tardif, who rated the catch as “probably” the best he has ever made, said he felt sure he would get to the ball; his only concern was he wasn’t quite sure where the fence was. “I didn’t know where the fence was until I turned around and I hit it,” he said.

The next batter flied out, and the top-seeded Ospreys bought themselves a ticket to Monday’s championship game against either the North Shore Cougars or the Long Island Titans Gold in Peconic.

The Ospreys, who are in their first year in the league, finished the regular season in first place, and may have taken teams from larger towns by surprise. John Tardif called the league “the top high school prospect league on Long Island.”

With 10 players from Mattituck, Cutchogue and Southold, two from Shoreham-Wading River (Jack Massa and Chris Moran) and two from Westhampton, the Ospreys are what their manager referred to as a “true community team.”

And they sure can play.

Their semifinal opponent was hardly a slouch. The Cyclones, with players from Massapequa High School’s recent Nassau County Class AA champion team, were tough. A half-dozen or so of them are headed to college baseball in a couple of weeks.

Among the more impressive Cyclones was their pitcher, Rob Fitzpatrick. Over six innings, the left-handed sidearmer limited the Ospreys to three hits. He had seven strikeouts with one walk.

“Definitely a tough pitcher to hit,” Stepnoski said. “He’s coming in sidearmed with a low, tailing fastball. It was hard to see and hard to catch up to.”

But Stepnoski eventually did catch up to a two-out, two-strike fastball from Fitzpatrick in the sixth, socking a double to the center-field fence and scoring Tardif from second base. Tardif had reached base on the game’s only error.

“He had me on my heels and just put a fastball up there, tried to blow it past me, and I got it,” said Stepnoski, who has batted anywhere from ninth to fourth in the batting order this summer, but was in the cleanup spot on Friday.

The Cyclones had put runners on second and third in three innings, only to come away empty-handed each time as Burt got out of trouble. He escaped the first inning with a groundout that stranded two runners, was directly involved in a rare 1-1-5 double play to end the fourth, and produced a huge strikeout to finish the fifth with two runners in scoring position.

“You can’t forget Cameron Burt,” Stepnoski said. “He threw an amazing game.”

Defense has been the Ospreys’ strength, and that Tardif catch was a genuine web gem. But as his manager and father will tell you, more than speed was involved in that play.

“He’s fast, but he’s field fast,” John Tardif said. “Some guys are fast from point A to B, but he reads the ball instantly, and that’s the key. If you hesitate at all on that ball, I don’t care how fast  you are, you’re not catching it. He’s been doing that all season long for us, as have all the rest of our players. This is a defensive team, the likes of which I haven’t seen. … For people who love defense, this is a fun team to watch.”

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GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck Ospreys manager John Tardif confers with players, including Cameron Burt and James Nish.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck Ospreys manager John Tardif confers with players, including Cameron Burt and James Nish.

05/17/13 6:48pm
05/17/2013 6:48 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Sean Finnegan of Center Moriches upended Mattituck catcher Brian Pelan, but was thrown out at home plate by first baseman Ian Nish on a fielder's choice in the fifth inning.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Sean Finnegan of Center Moriches upended Mattituck catcher Brian Pelan, but was thrown out at home plate by first baseman Ian Nish on a fielder’s choice in the fifth inning.

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

A question over whether or not Mattituck pitcher Cameron Burt threw a no-hitter hung over the Tuckers’ first playoff game on Friday. When the dust finally settled, though, it was determined later that evening that the junior right-hander had thrown a no-hitter. Here’s the kicker: He was the losing pitcher.

Burt pitched a no-hitter and lost, and Center Moriches junior Patrick Bryant tossed a three-hitter and won, 1-0, in the first game for both baseball teams in the Suffolk County Class B double-elimination tournament.

Crazy stuff, huh?

“I’ve never been involved in a game where a pitcher threw so well and lost a game like that,” said Mattituck first baseman Ian Nish.

It was such a strange mix that Burt undoubtedly felt mixed emotions following his first career no-hitter.

“I don’t know how to feel,” he said. “I’m glad how I pitched except for a few walks, but it’s like you said before, baseball is a crazy game and anything can happen.”

The Mattituck side believed that Burt had thrown his first career no-hitter, but the official scorebook belongs to the home team, which was Center Moriches (13-7). After the game, Center Moriches coach Mike Garofola said he thought a play that the Tuckers (13-8) considered to be an error should have been ruled a hit for his team. But he said he didn’t have the best angle, so he consulted with one of his assistant coaches after the game before coming back with the verdict: a hit.

“It looked like it took a late, bad hop,” Garofola said. “Either way, whether it’s a one-hitter or a no-hitter, it’s unusual to win a ball game when you have less hits than they do, and it’s none or one, but you know, listen, that’s baseball. Weird things happen sometimes.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Ian Nish connected for one of Mattituck's three hits against Center Moriches.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Ian Nish connected for one of Mattituck’s three hits against Center Moriches.

Things got weirder still. Later that evening, after consulting with others who saw the game, Garofola changed course and ruled that it was a no-hitter after all.

The play in question came in the bottom of the third inning. With two outs, Stephen Bryant struck a hard-hit ball that took a late, high hop, glancing off Nish’s glove. That was the closest Center Moriches came to getting a hit.

As it turned out, though, the Red Devils, who were all playing in a playoff game for the first time in their varsity careers, didn’t need any hits.

“It would eventually come [down] to who played the best defense and who could get a run across first,” said Patrick Bryant.

The game’s sole run came in the fifth, the only inning in which Burt struggled, issuing three walks and throwing three wild pitches. James Schaefer, who had drawn one of those walks, scored on one of those wild pitches, beating catcher Brian Pelan’s throw to Burt, who covered home plate.

“We kind of shot ourselves in the foot,” said Mattituck coach Steve DeCaro.

A couple of batters after the run scored, Sean Finnegan was thrown out at home plate on a fielder’s choice in which Nish threw to Pelan, who was upended on the play.

It was a true pitching duel between the two aces. The 6-foot-4 Patrick Bryant (7-1) had four strikeouts and no walks. Burt (5-2) finished with five walks and five strikeouts; he also hit the first batter he faced, Vollkommer.

“It was what I was expecting because it was our best pitcher against their best pitcher,” said Nish.

After Joe Tardif led off the game by socking a single to center field, Mattituck managed only two more hits the rest of the way. Nish lined a hit off Patrick Bryant’s glove, beating second baseman Stephen Bryant’s throw to first baseman Kevin O’Brien in the fifth. Mattituck posed a threat in the sixth as Pelan led off with a single. Pelan later managed to make his way to third base, but Patrick Bryant retired the next three batters in order, the last two on strikeouts.

“He pitched a great game,” Garofola said. “He made three bad pitches all day.”

That includes the last one. Patrick Bryant hung a changeup on his 67th pitch, and Nish struck it near the tip of his bat, driving it deep to left field, only to see Tyler Erhardt make the catch for the game-ending out.

“Pat Bryant pitched a beautiful game, but we had our chances,” DeCaro said. “We’d get a guy on, and he’d bear down, and he’d make some beautiful pitches.”

Center Moriches picked up its third win in four games against Mattituck this year. Mattituck will play host to No. 4 Babylon (11-10) on Monday in an elimination game for both teams. Babylon lost to No. 1 Southampton on Friday, 4-0.

“I think our team had a great game,” Burt said. “It’s just that we didn’t have it in the cards to win, I guess. We hit the ball all over the place. They just caught everything.”

Burt was told afterward that if nothing else, he has an interesting story to tell for the rest of his life.

He said, “I’d still rather have a win than a story, though.”

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05/07/13 7:58pm
05/07/2013 7:58 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck shortstop Marcos Perivolaris can't reach Port Jefferson's first hit of the game, a single bounced up the middle by Joe Booker in the third inning.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck shortstop Marcos Perivolaris can’t reach Port Jefferson’s first hit of the game, a single bounced up the middle by Joe Booker in the third inning.

TUCKERS 9, ROYALS 0

Port Jefferson batters weren’t the only ones baffled by that pitch that Mattituck’s Cameron Burt was throwing, freezing right-handed hitters and giving them a world of trouble.

One knowledgeable baseball observer said it was a slurve.

Port Jefferson coach Jesse Rosen said Burt showed “a real nice 12-6 curveball for a high school kid, and we had a hard time dealing with it.”

What exactly was that breaking pitch? Go directly to the source, and it still will not do you much good.

“Actually I have no clue what it is,” Burt, a right-hander, said. “I just kind of throw it. I hold it and I throw it. It moves away from righties.”

It moved well enough on Tuesday when Burt and Chris Dwyer combined for a two-hitter as Mattituck clinched a playoff berth by beating Port Jefferson, 9-0, in a League IX game at Scofield-Desiderio Park in Port Jefferson. The Tuckers will return to the playoffs after a one-year absence for their eighth postseason in 11 years.

“We kind of expect it,” Mattituck coach Steve DeCaro said. “It would be the minimum that we would expect of our team, to get into the playoffs.”

After being swept in a three-game series by Southampton, Mattituck bounced back in a big way in the opener of its three-game series versus Port Jefferson. The Tuckers (11-7, 10-6) looked good in all facets of the game, starting with their No. 1 pitcher.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck batters like Will Gildersleeve made good contact against Port Jefferson.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck batters like Will Gildersleeve made good contact against Port Jefferson.

Burt (5-1) worked the first six innings, during which he recorded eight strikeouts and four walks (one intentional). He also hit a batter.

“He ran a lot of deep counts, he walked a couple of guys,” DeCaro said. “He pitched O.K. today. He’s much better than that. He’s been our ace all year. We weren’t even sure we were going to have an ace this year, and he’s been it.”

The only hits Port Jefferson (6-10, 6-10) managed were back-to-back singles by Joe Booker and James Murphy in the third inning.

“He looked fantastic,” Rosen said of Burt.

Mattituck took a 1-0 lead in the third. John Schultz led off by scrambling into second base for a double before later scoring on a groundout by Dwyer.

The Tuckers tacked on two more runs in the fourth through a sacrifice fly by Brian Pelan and a throwing error that allowed James Nish to score. Pelan, who played catcher, returned to action after sitting out a game with an ankle injury.

Pelan is the closest the Tuckers have to an indispensable player. His backup at catcher is, well, Burt. “It’s hard to pitch and catch at the same time,” said DeCaro.

The Mattituck coach liked what he saw from Pelan. “He looked pretty good behind the plate,” DeCaro said. “He threw out a guy stealing, so you can’t ask for much more than that and, as always, he called a good game.”

It was in the sixth when Mattituck really broke the game open with a five-run rally highlighted by Joe Tardif’s two-run single laced into center field and Will Gildersleeve’s run-scoring single to left. Nish and Tardif also scored on two of the four errors by Port Jefferson that inning. The Royals made six errors in the game; Mattituck had none.

Mattituck closed out the scoring in the seventh. Ian Nish led off with a double that landed near the center-field fence. One out later, Ryan Finger lined a single to left, bringing Nish home.

Dwyer retired three of the four batters he faced in the seventh to finish the game.

Certainly, it wasn’t the smoothest of outings for Burt. He had to pull an escape act in the fifth when he hit the first batter, Tyler D’Accordi with a pitch before walking the second, Michael Laffey. After a sacrifice bunt by James Tsunic, Burt intentionally walked Booker to load the bases. James Murphy then bounced into a 1-2 fielder’s choice, and Sam Eagan fouled out to the third baseman, Gildersleeve, ending the threat.

Port Jefferson was already mathematically eliminated from gaining the 10 league wins necessary for an automatic playoff berth, but there is another way for the Class C Royals to get into the postseason.

Asked if he will petition Section XI for a playoff place, Rosen replied, “Yes we are, and if we don’t get in, it’s criminal.”

Port Jefferson missed reaching the playoffs last year by one game, snapping a string of eight straight postseasons for the Royals.

Mattituck is certain that it will be in the playoffs, along with Burt and his mystery pitch.

Perhaps Tardif, the center fielder, could shed some light on why Burt is so effective.

“From center, you can see his fastball,” he said. “It starts on the inner half and goes to the out. It’s like a slider almost. It’s really tough, even in practice, [and] we know it’s coming.”

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03/25/13 3:19pm
03/25/2013 3:19 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck shortstop Marcos Perivolaris used his glove as well as his bat to help the Tuckers win their league opener.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck shortstop Marcos Perivolaris used his glove as well as his bat to help the Tuckers win their league opener.

TUCKERS 4, PANTHERS 3

It was a cold, windy day that might not have been fit for man or beast, but baseball players — a sturdy lot — had to deal with it.

The temperature was in the 30s, but Mattituck coach Steve DeCaro said that with 21-mile-per-hour winds, the wind-chill factor made it feel as if it was 27 degrees.

Actually, it was nothing new for the Tuckers. This has been a rough early spring in terms of the weather.

“It’s very tough,” Mattituck shortstop Marcos Perivolaris said. “You just need to keep your hands warm anyway you can.”

DeCaro believes his players are actually getting used to playing in the frigid conditions. “When I look down the bench I see guys that look like they’re frozen,” he said. “I’m seeing less of that now, more guys who want to get up and play. If it can stay like this the rest of the year, we’ll be fine. We might go undefeated.”

An undefeated season is already out of the question because of a season-opening loss to Westhampton Beach, but Mattituck could make a run at a perfect league season. The Tuckers took the first step in that direction on Monday. Mattituck scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning and then withstood three errors in the top of the seventh to overtake defending Long Island Class B champion Babylon, 4-3, in an exciting Suffolk County League VIII opener for both teams.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck's starting pitcher, Cameron Burt, did not allow a hit through the first four innings.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck’s starting pitcher, Cameron Burt, did not allow a hit through the first four innings.

The Tuckers (1-1, 1-0), who snapped a seven-game losing streak, produced four of their six hits in the sixth. Perivolaris led off by tagging a stand-up double that might have been a home run had the wind not been blowing in, and then Ian Nish belted a bad-hop hit under the third baseman’s glove. Shortly after that, Perivolaris scored on a wild pitch, tying the score at 2-2. Austin Pase then stroked a single to bring home the go-ahead run, and Brian Pelan knocked a chopper that took a high bounce over the first baseman for a hit, making it 4-2.

But Babylon (1-2, 0-1) made things interesting in the seventh, thanks in part to some fielding adventures by the Tuckers.

“Honestly, I don’t like exciting games,” DeCaro said. “I like 11-nothing or something like that. If we could have ended [at] 4-2, it would have been fine. Instead, we had to make it really interesting.”

Jack Curcio, who reached base on a leadoff walk for Babylon, later scored when teammate Joe Savastano stole second base and the throw ended up in the outfield. That enabled Savastano to scoot over to third base with two out. Matt Finelli then drove a fly ball to deep right field, and John Schultz showed why he is a three-year varsity starter. Schultz made a good play on the ball, backtracking and catching it for the game’s final out.

“It was one of the best catches he ever made here,” said DeCaro.

Mattituck pitchers Cameron Burt and Chris Dwyer allowed Babylon only two hits for the game. Burt worked the first five innings. “I’ve never thrown my fastball as well as I did today,” he said.

Burt had a no-hitter through four innings before Curcio led off the fifth, socking a ball straight ahead, under Burt. Perivolaris charged to his left but was unable to control the difficult ball. Kyle Dowling, a pinch runner for Curcio, later scored when Pete Donaldson hit into a fielder’s choice for a 2-1 Babylon lead.

Burt walked six against seven strikeouts. Dwyer got the win in two innings of one-hit relief, with one walk and three strikeouts. The only hit Dwyer allowed was a soft, bloop single to shallow center field by Jack Facciebene to lead off the sixth.

Babylon was first to get on Mattituck High School’s new scoreboard. The Panthers put up a run in the second without the aid of a hit. A walk, a steal, another walk and a sacrifice bunt preceded Ricky Negron’s run off a wild pitch.

Mattituck evened things in the third. With two outs, a throwing error allowed Joe Tardif to reach second base. Then Dwyer clocked a double to bring him home.

Perivolaris was a big reason why Babylon was hitless through four innings. In the fourth, Nick Crawford knocked what looked like a sure hit deep into the hole between third base and shortstop. Perivolaris reached to his right to backhand the ball near the edge of the outfield grass. Mattituck’s athletic director, Gregg Wormuth, obviously sensing that Perivolaris had no play on the ball, yelled, “Eat it!”

“He threw him out instead,” DeCaro said. “That was the Marcos that we expect. That was beautiful.”

Of course, the weather could have been worse. It could have been colder, windier and snowing. Snow was forecast for later in the day.

“I don’t know how they do it,” Babylon coach Anthony Sparacio said of the players performing under adverse conditions. “I’m frozen to the bone. It’s amazing how these kids can stay out there. It’s not even baseball weather. No fun.”

As cold as it was, DeCaro said he has experienced worse, not that long ago, either. He said Mattituck’s 9-3 season-opening loss to Westhampton Beach last Thursday was even worse. “That was the coldest game, the most miserable conditions I’ve ever been involved in,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything worse than that game.”

Spring isn’t over, Coach.

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