08/13/13 1:06am
08/13/2013 1:06 AM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | North Shore's Anthony Telesca was tagged out by Mattituck second baseman Henry Egan in the second inning when he tried to turn a lined single into a double.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | North Shore’s Anthony Telesca was tagged out by Mattituck second baseman Henry Egan in the second inning when he tried to turn a lined single into a double.

When the Boys of Summer League 18-and-under National Division championship game ended, the losing manager was smiling. And it wasn’t a feigned or a forced smile on John Tardif’s face. In light of all the positives associated with his Mattituck Ospreys, Tardif couldn’t help but smile.

“It was a genuine smile because of the way these kids battled all the way through,” he said.

Even if the Ospreys didn’t feel good about the result of the league final — a 5-3 defeat to the North Shore Cougars on Monday night at Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic — they had to appreciate all they accomplished this summer. Playing in the competitive 16-team league for the first time with one of the younger squads, the Ospreys finished the regular season in first place, won three of four playoff games, and reached the league final with a group of players who are all expected to return next summer.

Now that’s quite a lot to feel good about.

“The best summer I’ve had by far, with the best kids,” said Marcos Perivolaris, who played shortstop and provided some vital relief pitching for the Ospreys on Monday night. “We had a great time and we won, so that was definitely a positive. We’ve seen the competition and we played the best pretty much, and we’re just going to come back next year and do the same thing.”

In sharp contrast to the Ospreys, Monday night’s game marked the end of the road in more ways than one for the Cougars. Eleven of North Shore’s 13 players are moving on to play college baseball.

“This is kind of bittersweet,” said the team’s manager, Matt Piccolo.

Before heading off to college, though, the Cougars took care of some final business. Cougars pitcher Cody McPartland gave his side a 2-0 lead before he threw his first pitch; he lined a two-run single in the top of the first inning.

That lead expanded to 5-0 in the fifth. With two outs and the bases loaded, Tyler Piccolo, the manager’s son, cleared the bases by poking a double to right field. He was thrown out at third base, trying to stretch the hit into a triple.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Five pitches into the game, Marcos Perivolaris was moved from shortstop to pitcher. He allowed three hits over four and a third innings.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Five pitches into the game, Marcos Perivolaris was moved from shortstop to pitcher. He allowed three hits over four and a third innings.

“They came through,” Matt Piccolo said. “Top to bottom, anybody that comes to bat, I know somebody’s going to come up with a big hit. It’s that comfortable. And it goes for my defense, too. Anybody I throw on the mound, I know he’s going to get the job done.”

That includes McPartland, a right-hander who will play for Dowling College. He gave the Ospreys a tough time through the first five innings. The Ospreys did make more contact off McPartland’s pitches over the final two innings when they produced five of their eight hits.

After Mattituck’s Jon Dwyer lined a run-scoring single to make it a two-run game in the seventh, McPartland made way for Anthony Telesca, who recorded a strikeout for the game’s final out with two runners on base.

“It’s a great team,” said a happy McPartland, who struck out seven, walked one and allowed one earned run. “I love this team. I’d pick them over anyone.”

Perivolaris started the game at shortstop, but found himself on the pitching mound sooner than anyone could have expected. Five pitches into the game, after Ryan Finger hit the first batter, Travis Bell, and issued a four-pitch walk to Mike Donadio, Tardif made the pitching change, handing the ball over to Perivolaris.

“We have the arms,” Tardif said. “All of our pitchers understand and they don’t take it personal that somebody else can fill in. Not every night is going to be your night.”

Perivolaris did a commendable job, allowing three hits over four and a third innings. He was charged with two runs.

Like his pitching counterpart, Perivolaris also delivered a two-run hit, a two-out double to the left-center-field gap in the sixth.

Two Shoreham-Wading River High School players played for the Ospreys, Jack Massa and Chris Moran. Massa contributed an infield single and Moran socked a double.

“We’re going to keep going forward,” Perivolaris said. “They’re a very solid team. They have great hitters in that lineup, and great pitching, too, so it was nice to see that we definitely hung in there and had a chance to win.”

After the game, the happy Cougars, many of whom played together since they were in Little League, posed for team photos with the championship trophy on the pitcher’s mound. One last snapshot of a baseball summer to remember.

“As a coach, I consider these kids extended family,” Matt Piccolo said. “They’re my kids. I couldn’t be any prouder.”

On a night when a surreal, low-lying fog formed artful shapes over the outfield, the Ospreys’ dream summer reached an end. But it was a good summer for them. They posted an overall record of 18-5-2, outscoring their opponents by 90-44. Tardif, who was assisted by his son Brian, a former Mattituck High School and C. W. Post College pitcher, said the team achieved “much more” than he could have expected.

“The kids took a huge step forward,” he said. “These kids are now playing at a high level that they believe they can consistently play at.”

All the more reason to smile.

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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.