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Lacrosse standout will take his talents to the next level

Middle Country's Zach Harned changes direction to move around an East Islip player in a game this past season. File photo by Bill Landon

By Clayton Collier

When Middle Country’s Zach Harned headed to the locker room following his final career high school game, a 17-1 first-round loss to the No. 1-seeded Northport, the senior attack could take solace in the fact that his lacrosse career would not end that afternoon.

Harned will continue playing when he attends the University of Tampa this fall, competing for the Spartans at the Division II level. The Middle Country captain said he has had his eye on Tampa for some time.

“Ever since I was in tenth grade I had my eye on Tampa because I knew they were an upcoming team who was going to competitively compete at the Division II level,” he said. “Once I talked to the coaches and got to know them it made everything so much easier. I feel I could grow even more as a player there and hopefully help them compete for a national championship.”

The 2015 All-County selectee’s achievements go beyond the playing field. Harned was named an Academic All-American and was awarded the Eric Sopracasa Memorial Scholarship, awarded to an athlete who “through determination and character serves as a role model and inspiration to fellow athletes.” The scholarship is given in memory of Sopracasa, who died after being struck in the chest by a lacrosse ball during practice in 1999.

“He’s the epitome of a Middle Country athlete,” athletic director Joseph Mercado said of Harned. “He’s a hard worker and truly dedicated in everything he does on and off the field.”

Middle Country boys’ lacrosse head coach Ken Budd echoed Mercado’s sentiments.

“He plays bigger than he is,” Budd said. “He’s not very big in stature, but definitely presents himself bigger on the field. He’s a two-year captain; he’s a leader on and off the field. He definitely draws the best defensemen, he’s our quarterback on offense and we’re definitely going to miss him.”

This is the second Harned in as many years to move on to collegiate lacrosse. Zach’s brother Dylan recently completed his freshman season as a member of the LIU Post lacrosse program.

“Dylan set a good example for his brother to follow,” Budd said. “Having back-to-back years of Harneds is a good thing. It’s a blessing.”

Zach Harned maintains possession for Middle Country. File photo by Bill Landon
Zach Harned maintains possession for Middle Country. File photo by Bill Landon

Harned will play for NCAA lacrosse Division II’s winningest coach, Rory Whipple. Having previous coaching stints at Clarkson University, Hartwick College, Bryant University and University of South Florida, dating back to 1980, Whipple became the Spartans’ first head coach in 2012. Through the program’s first four years of existence, Whipple has led Tampa to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last two seasons.

Whipple has high praise for Harned as both an athlete and a student.

“We’re really excited about him,” he said. “I like his character. We try to recruit kids of strong character that are strong in the classroom. He’s got great athletic ability and he’s got a great work ethic. I think he’ll be a strong Division II player for us.”

Middle Country lacrosse already has strong ties to the Tampa lacrosse program. Assistant coach Mike Massari, who played for Whipple at Hartwick in 1998, facilitated the recruiting efforts for Harned.

This will mark Tampa’s second recruit from Middle Country. Face-off specialist Trevor Calleja, who just completed his final season with the Spartans, said Harned is going to love it.

“Playing for coach Whipple was awesome,” he said. “Although he was very tough on the field, off the field he was very funny. I’ll never forget my time at Tampa and would go back and do it all again.”

It might not be long until Harned makes an impact on the Spartans squad, as Whipple said that there is a strong possibility that the Middle Country standout could start right away.

Harned’s mother, Marie, said she is thrilled for her son.

“He’s wanted this since tenth grade,” she said. “He can’t wait to go. We’re just so proud of him.”

Three Village’s Ron Matz and Hauppauge’s Nick Fanti Sr. are recognized for the impact they had on their sons’ careers

Lori, Steven and Ron Matz on the Ward Meville baseball field. Photo from Ron Matz

By Alex Petroski

Being drafted by a Major League Baseball team is a massive accomplishment.

The journey from tee-ball to the big leagues is one that weeds out just about everyone along the way, but the select few who actually make their way into a professional lineup all have a common denominator: a strong support system. Though they’ll never take the credit away from their hardworking sons, Nick Fanti Sr. and Ron Matz deserve some recognition ahead of Father’s Day.

Nick Fanti Sr. and Nick Fanti Jr. pose for a photo together. Photo from Nick Fanti Sr.
Nick Fanti Sr. and Nick Fanti Jr. pose for a photo together. Photo from Nick Fanti Sr.

Nick Fanti Jr. played baseball for Hauppauge High School. He was selected in the 31st round by the Philadelphia Phillies in the  2015 MLB Draft last week.

“I don’t know the words,” Fanti Sr. said in a phone interview about his son being selected by Philadelphia.

Pride was the word Fanti Sr. settled on after some deliberation.

“It brings tears to your eyes, even now thinking about it,” he said.

Fanti Sr. gained experience in being a supportive dad of his athletic children over the course of his four daughters playing careers, all of which are older than Fanti Jr.

“You realize there’s nothing you can do. … I enjoy just watching and possibly talking to him afterwards,” Fanti Sr. said about how hands-on he is as he juggles his role as a dad, coach and fan of a talented son. “You hope you’ve given them all the tools.”

With Father’s Day quickly approaching, Fanti Jr., who went 7-1 with a 0.67 ERA, a 0.63 WHIP and 87 strikeouts in 52 innings, knows how much having a supportive dad over the years means when you’re trying to follow your dream of making it in the big leagues.

“He was never hard on me about the results of the game like most parents,” Fanti Jr. said about his dad. “He is most concerned with if I respect the game — running on and off the field, and having a good attitude. When he does critique how I played, I listen because he’s been through it.”

Fanti Sr. said he knew his son was special at an early age.

“When he was 10 or 12 he said to me, ‘Dad, Mickey Mantle’s soul went into my glove,’” Fanti Sr. said. “That was his idol.”

Their talented son now wearing a Phillies uniform does not faze the Fantis, who are lifelong Yankee fans.

“I’m just so happy for him,” Fanti Sr. said. “He’s going to make it anywhere he goes.”

His son has to decide if he wants to report to the Phillies or play college ball at Marist College. Fanti Sr. said that he’ll offer his son guidance, but it’s ultimately his decision.

Fanti Sr. was hesitant to take any credit for his son’s success, though he did mention some people that helped along the way, but he does credit his wife Laura with preparing her son a five-course breakfast everyday.

“It’s not only myself, but all the people that I surrounded him with growing up,” Fanti Sr. said, listing Long Island baseball stalwarts Neil Heaton, Matt Guiliano and Sal Agostinelli among others.

Lori, Steven and Ron Matz on the Ward Meville baseball field. Photo from Ron Matz
Lori, Steven and Ron Matz on the Ward Meville baseball field. Photo from Ron Matz

Steven Matz was one of the others that Fanti Sr. listed as having a huge impact on his son’s high school career. He called Steven Matz one of the best kids you could ever meet and said that Ron Matz, his father, reached out to congratulate him when Fanti Jr. was given the Carl Yastrzemski Award, which is awarded to the player of the year in Suffolk County. Both Steven Matz and Fanti Jr. were recipients in their senior seasons.

Steven Matz was selected by the New York Mets in the second round of the 2009 MLB Draft after graduating from Ward Melville. He is presumably just weeks away from making his debut in Flushing with the big league club with 2.3081 ERA, 1.149 WHIP and 81 strikeouts over 78.1 innings with Triple-A Las Vegas this season.

“He always had a chance to be good,” Ron Matz said of his son and his chances of going pro one day. “We probably didn’t even think about it until really his junior year [of high school].”

Just like Fanti Sr., Ron Matz was quick to dismiss the thought that his son’s success is in any way a credit to him and his wife Lori, rather than his son’s hard work and dedication — although he did admit it wasn’t always easy satisfying his son’s desire to play the game.

“Any time he wanted to have a catch or go to the field, take batting practice or pitch, I couldn’t say no,” Ron Matz said. “Before my foot hit the ground it was ‘Dad can we go?’ I was tired from working 11-hour days, but I couldn’t say no.”

Steven Matz has been a household name for Mets fans for a few years now, and living in Stony Brook, Ron Matz said it’s hard to avoid hearing or reading about his son.

“It’s very, very exciting,” he said. “It’s a little nerve wracking. It’s out there, so being a New York guy, and Steven’s a New York Met, it’s hard to avoid it.”

Ron Matz said that he’s very calm when he gets to watch his son in person but added that it’s much harder trying to follow his son’s games when he’s not there. Steven Matz has been playing for the Mets’ various minor league affiliates in Port St. Lucie, Binghamton and Las Vegas since he signed with the Mets organization in 2009.

Steven Matz suffered a torn ligament in his elbow in 2010 that required Tommy John surgery, which involves a lengthy and strenuous rehab process, but after recovering he’s come back stronger than ever to prove he has what it takes to move into the Mets’ rotation.

Both fathers had a hard time hiding how proud they both are of their sons. Although Ron Matz and Fanti Sr. both deflected questions about their impact on their sons’ careers, they were always strong support systems for their sons.

“It’s going to be pretty exciting,” Ron Matz said about the day his son finally dons a Mets uniform. “With all the setbacks and bumps and valleys, it was a trying time seeing what he went through, to continue to work hard — it will be nice to see him finally achieve his dream.”

The Soldiers on the Sound fishing tournament yields hefty results on Sunday. Photo by Joseph Bellantoni

By Rachel Siford

St. James was swimming with activity on Sunday as the Soldiers on the Sound fishing tournament hit the waters.

From 15 boats and 25 soldiers participating in 2009, to 57 boats and 135 soldiers this year, Soldiers on the Sound Ltd. has been thanking active military members every year with consistent growth and success.

Soldiers on the Sound is a military charity and fishing tournament for active service men and women, organized to honor and give back to those who are in the military.

At the event’s beginning, Mark Garry, president and founder of Soldiers on the Sound Ltd, got off his boat after a day of fishing and relaxing at the Smithtown Bay Yacht Club and saw news coverage of the war, seeing soldiers overseas laying in the sand using their helmets as pillows, and thought that he should do something to thank them for protecting his freedom.

He said he decided a fishing tournament was the way to go, because that is how he relaxes. Garry was then a Nassau County Homicide Detective.

“This is a very satisfying event to put on,” Garry said. “You can’t find anyone without a smile on their face.”

The event includes a fishing tournament, food, entertainment and raffles at Smithtown Bay Yacht Club, all paid for completely from donations. This year they raised about $13,000. Soldiers do not have to do anything. Local boat owners donate the boats.

Individuals and companies make the donations. Simrad Marine Electronics and C.E. Smith Company Inc. were major contributors.

“Soldiers bring nothing and walk out of there with new TVs and trips to Florida,” Garry said. “Soldiers leave in disbelief, because it’s hard for them to grasp the fact that there’s no catch.”

Soldiers are mainly local to Long Island and work out of the airbase in the Hamptons, but many come from all over.

Ed Reiter, retired command chief master sgt. of the 106 Rescue Wing, Air National Guard, serves as the liaison.

“What the soldiers do is unbelievably generous,” Reiter said. “A lot of the soldiers are overwhelmed by the generosity and support.”

Jake DeLeo, a 16-year-old first mate, caught the winning fish, weighing more than six pounds, with help from Staff Sgt. Chris Arrigo from the 106th Rescue Wing, and his captain Tony Voelker.

“This event is really cool; it’s great what they do for the soldiers,” Deleo said. “The fish was big and flat, so it wouldn’t go in the net. I had to turn it sideways to finally get it in. Then we saw the rigging was stretched out and they could have lost the fish! The fish was so big they had to put it another cooler.”

It was both Voelker and DeLeo’s first year participating in Soldiers on the Sound.

Skip Hein is the only founding member of Soldiers on the Sound with a military background. He is a retired senior master sergeant who served in the U.S. Air Force and New York Air National Guard.

“Back in Vietnam, the public wasn’t really supportive of the military, so it’s just natural that I’d want to show my thanks to the military now,” Hein said.

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No. 3 overall pick Brendan Rogers, who was selected by the Colorodo Rockies, talks with members of the media. Photo by Clayton Collier

By Desirée Keegan & Clayton Collier

One Port Jefferson local was awarded another trip to the MLB Draft, held in Secaucus, N.J., from June 8 through June 10, where he experienced the sights and sounds that surround the excitement that comes about when young new talent is recognized and called upon to compete at the majors level.

Long second fiddle to the NFL and NBA drafts, mostly due to the length of time before baseball draftees make a major league impact, MLB has catapulted its draft into a unique experience in which prospects as young as 17 years old are welcomed live on television by some of the greatest to ever wear the uniform.

This was Clayton Collier’s third time covering the draft. He said every year the event continues to live up to the hype.

Baseball legends converge on MLB Network’s northern New Jersey location to ceremoniously answer the phones from their respective front office’s to hand in their draft picks for the first and second round. The remainder of the selections are made over the following two days and are announced online.

Clayton Collier was in attendance at the 2013 MLB draft, his first experience with the event. Photo from Collier
Clayton Collier was in attendance at the 2013 MLB draft, his first experience with the event. Photo from Collier

Collier was covering the event for WSOU, Seton Hall University’s radio station, which is a school that has a strong baseball program that typically has a handful of players go in the higher rounds, operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is a local station that broadcasts into New York City.

At the 2015 draft, Collier witnessed crowds of families, former players and media members pack the glass double doors. Inside, was a large, rustic Dodger-blue door affixed with a plaque marked “42,” an ode to the civil rights trailblazer and Brooklyn-great Jackie Robinson.

Through the doorway and down a maze of hallways, is the iconic Studio 42, a set designed as a baseball stadium. In front of Collier was a mock turf field, including a pitcher’s mound, which was wedged between the Brewers’ and Tigers’ draft tables.

The overhead lights replicate the scene of a major league ballpark. The green stadium seating in the outfield, similar to those at Citi Field, is packed with families of draft hopefuls. All is arranged to face a podium, which is located at home plate in front of a large screen projecting various clips of current MLB All-Stars.

Commissioner Rob Manfred made his first appearance with his opening remarks and subsequently made 75 young men’s dream come true live on national television.

An array of 30 tables dressed to the nines in team apparel don the field.

With them, legends of each of those aforementioned clubs take their rightful seat at each of the corresponding club’s station. Philadelphia Phillies’ Mike Schmidt and Brooklyn Dodgers’ Tommy Lasorda shoot the breeze in front of the podium. Seattle Mariners’ Ken Griffey Jr. shares a laugh with Andre Dawson, originally a Montreal Expos outfielder, and company at the buffet in back. Art Stewart, a front-office executive and former director of scouting for the Kansas City Royals, asks former outfielder Johnny Damon, most notably from the Royals, Oakland Athletics, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, for the Wi-Fi password. Originally a pitcher for the Atlanta Braves and currently an active sportscaster, John Smoltz; Detroit Tigers’ shortstop Alan Trammel; Luis Gonzalez, most known for his time spent as an outfielder with the Arizona Diamondbacks; and David Cone, a former pitcher and now commentator for the New York Yankees on the YES Network, who pitched the 16th perfect game in baseball history, struck out 19 batters to tie for the second-most ever in a game, and 1994 Cy Young Award winner are some of the legends that continue to flood in. Manfred then comes out to mingle with them all.

Entrenched in the third-base dugout, a quartet of MLB Draft hopefuls were in attendance for the ceremony. Ashe Russell, Brendan Rodgers, Mike Nikorak and Garrett Whitley sit quietly with their parents, watching the scene and occasionally interacting with a former player or two who come over to introduce themselves.

Friends and family cheer for No. 3 overall pick Brandon Rogers during the 2015 MLB Draft. Photo by Clayton Collier
Friends and family cheer for No. 3 overall pick Brandon Rogers during the 2015 MLB Draft. Photo by Clayton Collier

As the names get called, polite applause ensues. When one of the four prospects in-studio gets picked, pandemonium ensues. The outfield stands erupt as if the home team hit a walk-off home run. Rodgers was the first, being picked third overall to the Colorado Rockies. He puts on his jersey, shakes Manfred’s hand and is soon after interviewed by Port Jefferson native Sam Ryan. He then takes a phone call from Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich, who playfully asks, “Are you still breathing?”

Russell, Whitley and Nikorak follow the same routine once their names are called, going to the Royals, Rays and Rockies, respectively. Nikorak, Rodgers and their parents celebrate the fact that they’ll be teammates again, having been on the field together for the Under Armour All-America Game.

As the final names were called and the cameras went dark, the draftees and their representatives clear out, and all that was left was a mess of papers and water bottles scattered throughout the stadium and stands.

It’s a unique phenomenon to observe the beginnings of the young athlete’s careers. In 2011, we witnessed a young man by the name of Mike Trout get called up on stage to receive his Los Angeles Angels jersey. Four years later, he’s the face of the game. How long until we see Rodgers, Russell, Nikorak or Whitley in the big leagues? Only time will tell.

Russell best explained the experience before the night began, when he was pacing along the third baseline of Studio 42 in nervousness. Around 10 minutes after being selected by the Royals, Clayton followed up to see how the no longer prospect, but draftee, now felt.

“I’m so excited,” he said. “I can’t believe this is happening right now. This is a dream come true.”

For Collier, the experience has had similar effects.

“As a young sports journalist, it is certainly rewarding to have the opportunity to cover these type of events,” he said. “WSOU at Seton Hall, as a professionally run radio station, offers a number of tremendous opportunities for students such as the MLB Draft. It’s events like these that help you gain the experience necessary to be successful in the media industry. I’ve worked hard at it for several years now, so to be able to cover an event like the MLB Draft for WSOU is very much satisfying.”

All five runners medal at state championship

Infinite Tucker, a Huntington runner, leads the 400-meter hurdles pack at states. Photo from Huntington athletics

Infinite Tucker won a pair of gold medals to lead the Huntington boys’ track and field team to an impressive showing at the state championships in Albany last weekend.

Huntington's Infinite Tucker poses with his medals. Photo from Huntington athletics
Huntington’s Infinite Tucker poses with his medals. Photo from Huntington athletics

Tucker won a pair of 400-meter intermediate hurdles races to capture the New York State Public High School Athletic Association and State Federation titles.

“I thought that I was going to win because I didn’t see anyone in front of me the whole race,” the junior said after the first of his performances Friday afternoon. “It wasn’t my best race ever, but I thought that I ran well.”

Tucker’s time of 52.29 seconds in the federation finals ranks him No. 2 in the state and No. 3 in the country this spring.

He plans to compete in the event one more time this season at the New Balance Nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina this week.

Huntington sophomore Kyree Johnson fared well in the 400 dash against a field filled with exceptional athletes. He ran against five seniors in the State Federation finals and finished third in 49.20 seconds. A day earlier, the runner earned a fourth place medal in the NYSPHSAA final. The State Federation races include the top public school, New York City/PSAL and private and parochial school athletes.

Huntington's Kyree Johnson, Scott Gulizio, Infinite Tucker and Shane McGuire won the silver medal in the federation’s 4x400 relay. Photo from Huntington athletics
Huntington’s Kyree Johnson, Scott Gulizio, Infinite Tucker and Shane McGuire won the silver medal in the federation’s 4×400 relay. Photo from Huntington athletics

Johnson’s best time of 48.5 seconds in the 400 dash this spring ranks him No. 1 among all New York sophomores. He too will be racing at nationals.

The long weekend ended on a high note when the Blue Devils’ 4×400 relay won a silver medal in the State Federation race, crossing the finish line in 3 minutes, 16.73 seconds, finishing behind Brooklyn’s Boys and Girls High School. Huntington outraced Newburgh, who had won the NYSPHSAA title only one day earlier.

“What an awesome race,” Huntington head coach Ron Wilson said of the relay. “You just had to be there to witness such excitement. The crowd of people gathered at their feet as the eight remaining young men grabbed the batons.”

Junior Exzayvian Crowell ran with the Blue Devils relay on Friday for the state title, where the team earned a fourth-place finish. Sophomore Shane McGuire took Crowell’s place for Saturday’s State Federation finals, joining Johnson, Tucker and senior Scott Gulizio on the track.

“Shane gave everything he had on the first leg and ran a personal best of 51.4,” Wilson said. “He almost collapsed trying to pass the baton to Scotty Gulizio, who split 49.2, which is good. Gulizio passed to Kyree Johnson who ran a 48.7 split and brought us to third. When our anchor, Infinite Tucker, got the baton, he took off like a jet. He passed the Newburgh anchor, who had won the state crown just the day before. He then set his eyes on the state leader, Boys and Girls, who was about 20 meters ahead of the rest of the field.”

Huntington's Kyree Johnson poses with his medals. Photo from Huntington athletics
Huntington’s Kyree Johnson poses with his medals. Photo from Huntington athletics

The Boys and Girls anchor, Richard Rose had just won the 400 dash in a sizzling 47.11 seconds, so it was a difficult assignment for Tucker to run him down, but the athlete gave it his all, splitting 47.435 seconds, falling just short of first place. Huntington’s time is a new school record and the second best in the state this spring. It’s also the second fastest in Suffolk, ever. Amityville set the record of 3:16.66 in 2002.

“We were just a bit shy of the Section XI record, but we will have one more crack at it at the nationals,” Wilson said.

All five Huntington athletes medaled at the state championships, with Crowell earning one in the NYSPHSAA 4×400 relay race and McGuire getting a silver medal in the State Federation finals. Gulizio won a pair of medals. Johnson and Tucker won four medals each.

“It was an exhausting weekend,” Wilson said, “but well worth it.”

Suzie Petryk leads the pack for Huntington during a previous meet. File photo by Mike Connell

Suzie Petryk runs with a steely determination that few can match. The senior captured All-State honors in two events to pace Huntington girls at the New York State Track & Field Championships at the University at Albany last weekend.

Petryk finished fourth in the 2,000-meter steeplechase and 13th in the 800 run. She also ran on the Blue Devils’ 4×800 relay that took 10th place.

“It was absolutely amazing to be able to run at states with my teammates,” Petryk said. “We have all worked so hard and I really could not have asked for a better way to end my last high school track season.”

The two-day meet saw a string of sensational performances by the top athletes from across the state. In the midst of a magical season, Huntington went toe-to-toe with New York’s best and impressed its opponents.

On the first day of the championships, Petryk went out very aggressive in the 800, hitting the first 400 meters faster than she has in any 800 race. Her fifth place finish came against an extremely talented field.

Saturday saw Petryk back on the track early in the morning. The runner turned in a great effort in the race, which featured the four best athletes in the event in the country going head-to-head. The Blue Devils star finished fourth in 6 minutes, 59 seconds to earn All-State and All-Federation honors. The Federation includes New York City/PSAL, private and parochial schools.

Huntington’s 4×800 relay team consisted of Petryk, Nicole Abbondandelo, Alexandra Koumas and Katie Nugent.

“They ran aggressive with some of the best teams in the state,” Huntington head coach Shawn Anderson said. “They only ran a few seconds off their best, going 9:19. It really was a nice way to end the weekend. Nicole had a huge personal best of 2:19.8 to lead it off.”

“It was a great experience and I was privileged to have had the opportunity to race with my teammates,” said Abbondandelo, a freshman who has quickly risen to be one of Suffolk’s top runners.

Koumas, a junior who is one of the county’s top hurdlers, never fails to give the relay team her best effort.

“I couldn’t have asked for anything better than to have shared this experience with my teammates, especially Katie and Suzie in their senior year,” she said. “It’s something I will never forget.”

Nugent, who only joined the track program two years ago after earlier playing lacrosse, became one of Huntington’s key athletes, excelling in numerous events.

“This was a really fun experience,” Nugent said. “Even though I only ran for about two minutes, every part of the trip was memorable … and spending time with my teammates is something I will never forget.”

Huntington won league and Suffolk Division II titles this spring and Anderson sees last weekend’s state championships as another important step for the program.

“Overall, it was a great experience; a first for them all,” Anderson said of the weekend in Albany. “Sometimes gearing up mentally and trying to perform under the big stage can take its toll, but the girls handled it well. The team had a blast and with one week of training this week, nationals should be an amazing experience as well.”

Petryk will compete in the steeplechase at the nationals.

“This time she will be fresh because it’s her first race,” Anderson said. The Blue Devils’ distance medley and 4×400 relay teams will also be competing.

This version corrects Suzie Petryk’s placement in the 800-meter at states.

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Daniel Zamora hurls a pitch from the mound. Photo from SBU

Stony Brook baseball sophomore pitchers Ryley MacEachern and Daniel Zamora were each selected on the final day of the 2015 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

Ryley MacEachern pitches in a game earlier this season. Photo from SBU
Ryley MacEachern pitches in a game earlier this season. Photo from SBU

MacEachern, a right-hander, was taken by the Miami Marlins in the 33rd round as the 986th player selected. Zamora, a lefty, was picked by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 40th round with the 1,207th overall selection.

MacEachern pitched in 13 games with nine starts for the Seawolves in 2015. He posted a 2-2 record with a 5.83 ERA in 41.2 innings of work.

Zamora, a first team America East Conference selection, appeared in 15 games with 13 starts. He was 7-3 with a 3.00 ERA in 81 innings. The sophomore also struck out 80 batters.

Both MacEachern and Zamora would have two years of eligibility left with Stony Brook if they do not sign with their respective MLB organizations.

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Middle Country's Jamie Ortega gets a shot past the goalkeeper. File photo by Bill Landon

The Middle Country girls’ lacrosse team is ranked No. 6 in the nation, according to LaxPower.

The Mad Dogs finished the season with an undefeated 14-0 mark in Division I, and only lost one game the entire year, ending with an 18-1 record.

The girls made it past the semifinal roadblock it hit last season, but fell to the same team that eliminated them, West Islip, in the Suffolk County Class A finals.

Senior midfielder and attack Nikki Ortega led the team with 64 goals and 64 assists for 128 points, and her younger sister Jamie followed close behind, with 113 points off 78 goals and 25 assists.

Nikki Ortega led Suffolk County in points, while her younger sister was fifth in the standings.

Other Long island teams also found spots in the Top 10 of the national rankings. Mount Sinai is in the No. 3 spot, while Manhasset is right behind Middle Country, in seventh.

Middle Country also ranks second behind No. 1 Mount Sinai in the East regional ratings, according to LaxPower.

While the Mad Dogs will graduate six seniors this month, many of the core offensive threats will be returning to the nationally-ranked team next season.

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The Smithtown East girls’ golf team poses for a team photo.

By Clayton Collier

The Smithtown East girl’s golf team’s undefeated season came to an end last Wednesday when the Bulls fell to Syosset in the Long Island Championship, 421-444, on the Bethpage green at Bethpage State Park.

Juniors Alexa Niven (84) and Cassie Hall (87) led Smithtown East in the loss, while fellow junior Peyton Greco and senior Natalia Schaefer both shot a 39 on the back nine for the Bulls.

Smithtown East was at a noteworthy disadvantage heading into the Long Island Championship, having never played at Bethpage, a location familiar to Syosset. Weather conditions in the days leading up to the contest limited Smithtown East to just a walk-through of the course, rather than having the opportunity to tee off prior to last Wednesday’s championship.

“They never even got to play the course at Bethpage, so that was just unfortunate,” Andrea Niven, Alexa’s mother, said. “That’s not to say that that’s why they lost, but when you’re unfamiliar with the course, I think it takes something out of it a little bit.”

Even with the disappointment of the loss, Hall said she enjoyed playing on a course as nice as Bethpage.

Junior Alexa Niven swings away for Smithtown East. Photo from Niven
Junior Alexa Niven swings away for Smithtown East. Photo from Niven

“The course was really beautiful,” she said. “I wish I could’ve played a bit better, but it was still a lot of fun playing and we played against great girls, too.”

Though Smithtown East did fall in the Long Island Championship, the girls’ golf team put up a head-turning performance the previous week en route to capturing the Suffolk County Championship, highlighted by a 78 finish from Niven, who finished second individually in the county. Additionally, Smithtown East broke the county record with an 855 two-day total, eclipsing the previous mark of 859. With the season now finished, the team said they were pleased with the year they put together.

“Overall I thought we had a really successful season,” Greco said. “We had a really strong team again this year and I think it showed in counties. Breaking the previous county total was a pretty amazing accomplishment for us.”

Niven, Hall and Greco will all be back for their senior year, keeping Smithtown East’s top three in their order for another season. Greco said she is looking forward to what lies ahead.

“I think we’re going to have another strong team,” she said. “Our goal is always to win the county championships and then see what happens from there.”

The three rising seniors have played together since middle school. Greco said head coach Bob Woods has been a big factor in helping her to grow as a golfer.

“He keeps me relaxed before counties, because they definitely get my nerves going,” Greco said. “He always tells me to take it one shot at a time and that the only important shot is the one I’m about to hit. He doesn’t just do that for me though, he tells everyone before we play. I use that not only for high school golf, but outside tournaments too, and it really makes a difference.”

In addition to the three, Hall said there are several other golfers to look out for in the 2016 season.

“I think you should be on the lookout for Jen Leddy, she’s a junior but I think she’ll be great next year,” Hall said. “There’s also freshman Sam Klee that played our No. 6 this year, as well as sophomore Jamie Werner and eighth-grader Alexa Lubomski — they would rotate playing No. 6 throughout the year.”

With the season now in the books, the team will have the summer to enjoy before gearing up for next year.
Smithtown East will lose Schaefer to graduation, who will continue her golf career at the collegiate level as she heads to Long Island University Post in the fall.

“I love how close it was to the city for internship opportunities and their business programs were impressive,” Schaefer said. “Being recruited for the golf team really sealed the deal and sold me.”

Overall, Schaefer was thrilled to have ended her high school career with a county championship after the team went 10-0 in League I heading into the postseason.

“It’s been an awesome feeling after being part of the team for so long,” she said. “Having my hard work pay off and sharing it with my coaches and everyone that’s been rooting for me has been an unforgettable experience.”

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Justin Julich competes for Port Jefferson in the steeplechase in the St. Anthony’s Invitational. Photo from the athlete

The Royals have always risen to the occasion, and the boys’ track and field team hopes their efforts this year on the state stage will be no exception.

Despite missing the entire spring season with an Achilles tendon injury, Port Jefferson standout James Burke — and two of his fellow Royals — placed in the Section XI individual championships and state qualifier on their home track last Friday and Saturday, to advance to the state championship this weekend at the University at Albany.

“It was devastating to lose James this spring season,” Port Jefferson head coach Rod Cawley said. “He’s the captain of the team and one of the best athletes in the state. But it’s quite an accomplishment to have three athletes competing this weekend.”

Although this season’s squad did not win any of the championships the Royals usually nab, like the league, division and county titles, the boys still finished the dual-meet season with a 5-1 record — dropping only their final matchup against Wyandanch, 79-59 — despite missing Burke, as well as junior Billy Witrock for a portion of the schedule.

Although he did not compete during the regular season, Burke placed second in the 1,600-meter, his signature event, at the qualifying meet with a time of 4 minutes, 18.39 seconds — only five-hundredths of a second behind Ward Melville’s John Ripa.

The Royal has finished that event as fast as 4:08.48, during the New Balance Nationals Indoor at the Armory in Manhattan earlier this year. The time made him the second-fastest miler in the country and earned him a silver medal.

“I give him credit for coming back and coming in second,” Cawley said about the qualifier. “The plan was to go out and try to take it easy to rest his tendon, but being the competitor that he is, there’s no taking it easy. He went from the back of the race all the way to the front in second place there, and then he moved to first for a little while, but he also got stepped on during the race — since [his Achilles] was injured anyway, that didn’t help.”

Burke spent a lot of time trying to heal following his injury, and slowly worked himself up to being able to run again.

“He goes around the neighborhood to people who have pools, and asks if he could swim,” Cawley said, laughing. “He’s been to four or five different pools in Port Jeff. … He likes to run in the water in the deep end to simulate running — not touching the bottom — and then he’ll swim laps to get some cardiovascular aspects of it.”

Port Jefferson's Alden Mohacsi pole vaults in a previous meet. Photo from the athlete
Port Jefferson’s Alden Mohacsi pole vaults in a previous meet. Photo from the athlete

Also heading to states is senior pole-vaulter Alden Mohacsi, whose fourth-place finish at the qualifier was a new personal record, making the state bid that much sweeter.

“I’m definitely looking forward to states,” said Mohacsi, who has been on the team since he was a freshman. “I’m practicing every day and there’s been a lot of personal development. I’m going to do the best that I can this week to improve my form and I’m hoping to hit 13 feet this Friday.”

Junior Justin Julich had several successes of his own, competing in the 3,200 and 3,000 steeplechase.

On Friday, Julich hit a new personal record of his own in the two-mile run with a 9:48 — nine seconds better than his standard 9:57 — to finish eighth. Just hours after competing in the 3,200 the evening before, Julich ran a 10:16 in the steeplechase on Saturday to place seventh and qualify for states.

“It’s awesome to do really good at that high of a level,” Julich said. “Competing against the best guys in the county, it always helps to do your best in those kinds of situations.”

Julich is also looking to reach a new personal best in that event this Saturday, and his head coach said the runner has grown a lot over the years, aiding in his success.

“He’s come a long way,” Cawley said. “He was a little guy back in freshman year and now he’s going to be a team leader next year. He was exhausted Saturday morning. It’s a very difficult [double event] to do in 16 hours, but he didn’t complain; he went out there and did it. He knows he has to step up.”

Julich, Mohacsi, Parker Schoch and Alex Rebic also competed in the 4×800 relay in the state qualifier, finishing 12th in 8:50.

Looking ahead to this weekend, Cawley and his athletes are confident that they can be successful on the big stage.

“I think we have a pretty good chance to do very well,” the head coach said. “James is James; I know he will do well just because of his past. Alden is a tough competitor, and I think Justin has an opportunity to do well, too.”

Mohacsi said the program’s winning tradition has facilitated the athletes’ improvements.

“It’s been an absolute pleasure to be a part of this team and this program,” he said. “It’s built me up physically and mentally, and I’m really grateful for the super-talented and supportive teammates and coaches I’ve had. It’s inspired me to keep pushing myself beyond the best of my abilities; to work hard and give it 110 percent.”

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