Times of Middle Country

Harborfields' Gavin Buda only athlete to be chosen to play in both Blue Chip prospects baseball (pitcher) and football (wide receiver) games

By Bill Landon

A two-run eighth inning helped Nassau County tie the game and earn the would-be go-ahead run over Suffolk in a 5-4 Blue Chip Prospect Grand Slam Challenge win June 8 at St. Joseph’s College.

With the game tied 3-3, Garden City’s Mike Handal’s RBI gave Nassau the lead, and a Suffolk error brought in the eventual game-winning run in the 14th annual game sponsored by Rawlings, proceeds from which benefit Cohen Children’s Northwell Health Physician Partners Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics center in New Hyde Park.

St. John the Baptist catcher Logan O’Hoppe hit the ball deep to right, which scored Rocky Point pitcher and outfielder Joe Grillo from second, but Locust Valley’s Thomas Eletto forced a groundout with two runners on  to earn the save.

“It was a lot of fun playing tonight with all these kids,” said Ward Melville second baseman Logan Doran, who committed to Division I George Washington University. “I’m excited about competitive baseball. I’m ready to go.”

Doran proved that when he cleanly fielded a ball rocketed in the dirt, and passed it to short stop Kyle Johnson who turned a double play with bases loaded to retire the side and keep Suffolk up 1-0 in the second.

Johnson, who will continue his baseball career with Stony Brook University, said he’s been in awe of all the effort and commitment that goes into putting together the event for senior elites.

“This game’s awesome — Blue Chip; Jim Clark, who put this together years ago — it shows how [talented] Long Island is,” the soon-to-be Newfield grad said. “You’ve seen the guys this year that got drafted and a lot of those guys played in this game, so it’s an honor to be out here.”

Suffolk made it a two-run lead in the top of the third when West Islip outfielder Jake Guercio crossed home plate for the second time. And Suffolk’s hitting didn’t stop there.

Johnson stole second just ahead of a tag with Brentwood’s Justin Aviles in the batter’s box, but Aviles’ grounder toward third was thrown home in time to get Doran for the second out. Grillo smacked the ball deep to right next to load the bases, but Suffolk couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity.

Plainview JFK’s Ryan Saltzman hit a sacrifice fly to put Nassau on the board in the bottom of the inning, and Plainedge’s Jason Bottari did the same to make it a new game.

With no outs in the fourth, Newfield pitcher Bobby Vath hit into a double play, but Sayville’s Jake Russo raced home from third in time to help Suffolk retake the lead. The team looked to build on its lead in the top of the fifth when Mount Sinai third baseman George Rainer took four consecutive pitches at the plate to draw a walk, but two straight strikeouts ended the inning.

“It’s a great feeling to be playing with the best players on Long Island — I really enjoyed it,” said Rainer, who signed a letter of intent to play at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “It was a great day to end my varsity baseball career. I had a lot of fun and I can’t wait to see what college has in store.”

Harborfields pitcher Gavin Buda, the only athlete chosen to play in both Blue Chip Prospects games — the Grand Slam Challenge and Empire Challenge football game — took over on the mound in the bottom of the fifth and retired the side in order.

“It’s a huge honor to be chosen [for both],” said the Hobart and William Smith Colleges-bound wide receiver. “When you look at a school like Harborfields we’re always underrated and under-the-radar, so to be nominated to play in these games and represent this school is amazing.”

Smithtown West’s Nick Cipolla leads the pack. Photo from Facebook

Gabby Griffin gave it her all in what could have been her final race across the hurdles, and clocked in with a top spot and a personal best.

The Comsewogue senior sprinted her way to a third-place finish in the 400-meter hurdles, clocking in at 1.03.94 seconds at the Suffolk County track and field individual championship/state qualifier June 2 and 3 at Comsewogue High School.

Travis Colon races down the track during the 55-meter hurdle during the last indoor season. File photo by Bill Landon

Griffin was also part of Comsewogue’s 4×400 relay and placed third in 3:57.53 that move on to the state finals with other top county winners at the state championship at Cicero-North Syracuse High School June 8-9.

Sabrina Donoghue, Brianna Quartararo and Annalise Russo rounded out the relay, which set a new school record, breaking its own record of 4:02.34 by almost five seconds.

Comsewogue junior Travis Colon came in third in the 110 hurdles (15.06) and fourth in the 400 hurdles (56.40).

Comsewogue Fernando Toledo third in the 400 dash, clocking in at 49.72.

Middle Country’s Maritza Blanchard blasted her way to the finish line, twice.

She took first in the 400-yard dash by clocking in at 56.39 and ran the anchor leg of the 4x400 relay team that placed first.

The relay team of Blanchard, Dana Cerbone, Jess Faustin and Lexie Roth, which now ranks second in the sate, crossed the finish line in 3:52.96. 

Her teammate, Cerbone, who ran the third leg of the relay, also capitalized on two opportunities, sprinting her way to second in the 200 dash with a time of 25.37.

Middle Country’s he 4×400 relay team of Maritza Blanchard, Jess Faustin, Lexie Roth and Dana Cerbone.

Nick Cipolla can also run.

The Smithtown West senior crossed the 3,200-meter run finish line in 9:27.31 for first place.

Other area runners excelled in the 3,200.

Northport senior Dan O’Connor came in third (9:40.92), Smithtown East junior Kevin Cawley fourth (9:41.44), Smithtown West junior John Cuff fifth (9:42.91) and Northport sophomore Thomas Fodor sixth (9:47.13).

Smithtown West junior Nick DeFelice finished second in the 3,000 steeplechase (9:44.70). Smithtown East’s Cawley came in fourth (20:02.76).

Smithtown West junior Emily Eng placed second in the pole vault with a 10-6 leap.

Kings Park junior Mike Perez jumped 6-2 in the high jump for a fourth-place finish.

Brookhaven Town will be accepting donations for its food drive to benefit veterans from June 11-29. File photo

Town of Brookhaven’s Division of Veterans Services will be holding a food drive for vets in need from June 11 to 29. Last year’s food drive provided more than 300 bags of food to veterans and their families and was so
successful that the town decided to make it an annual drive.

“Brookhaven Town is home to veterans who have selflessly and courageously served our country,” Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said. “Many of them need assistance, and when provided with an opportunity, Brookhaven residents always rise to the occasion to help our neighbors in need. I want to thank the Division of Veterans Services and our local VFW representatives for working together to organize this initiative.”

Drop off points for the food drive are:

•Brookhaven Town Hall at 1 Independence Hill in Farmingville

•Henrietta Acampora Recreation Center at 39 Montauk Highway in Blue Point

•Brookhaven Town Highway Department at 1140 Old Town Road in Coram

•Rose Caracappa Senior Center at 739 Route 25A in Mount Sinai

Suggested nonperishables items include, but are not limited to, canned soups, canned fruits and vegetables, pasta, cereal, oatmeal and rice. If you would like to find out more information about this food drive or other services provided by the Division of Veterans Services call 631-451-6574. 

“Brookhaven veterans and their families have sacrificed so much, and it is gratifying to know this drive will provide them with some much-needed relief,” said Councilman Michael Loguercio (R-Ridge). “I encourage residents to donate to this very worthy program and for our veterans to contact the town’s veteran services to find out what benefits you may be entitled to.” 

Kate Browning, Perry Gershon, Elaine DiMasi, David Pechefsky and Vivian Viloria-Fisher debate at TBR News Media's Setauket office. Photo by Kyle Barr

Fifty percent of the Nov. 6 ballot in the race to represent New York’s 1st Congressional District is already set, but there’s plenty to sort out before the other half is finalized.

Five candidates garnered enough signatures on their petitions for elected office, earning spots on the ballot for the June 26 Democratic primary. They’ll square off for the right to challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) in the general election.

Kate Browning. Photo by Kyle Barr

All five candidates were at TBR News Media’s Setauket office June 1 for a debate to point to the areas in which they differ, matters they think they’re better suited for the job and ways they can dethrone
their adversary.

In pitching herself as the candidate most capable to do the latter, former Suffolk County Legislator Kate Browning said she can take votes away from Zeldin in a variety of ways.

“We need to be able to appeal to the blue-collar voters, and I believe that’s something I can do,” she said. “Having a husband who’s in law enforcement, who’s an Army veteran — we hear Lee Zeldin talk about ‘vote for the vet, vote for the William Floyd graduate,’ and I live in his base, and I can tell you I know that I can take votes from his base. And having two kids in the military, I can take a lot of that away from him.”

Zeldin is a U.S. Army Reserve veteran.

Perry Gershon identified a different way that he can pull from Zeldin’s support. The candidate said he made a living in commercial mortgage lending for 25 years and owned a small business — a sports bar in New York City — touting the fact he is a political outsider hoping to shake things up.

“What that background means is that when I talk about the economy and jobs I have a little extra credibility, because I’ve been involved in creating jobs before,” Gershon said.

Elaine DiMasi. Photo by Kyle Barr

Elaine DiMasi provides perhaps the most unique qualifications of the bunch.

“There aren’t too many districts that can add a professional scientist to that problem-solving team that is congress,” said DiMasi, a physicist at Brookhaven National Lab. “There’s 435 professionals there — many lawyers, many legislators, many more people with business degrees than with backgrounds like mine, and it’s badly needed right now.”

David Pechefsky said he offers a blend of foreign and domestic policy experience despite never holding elected office, which is uncommon for most first-time candidates. He has worked as an adviser to governments abroad, in addition to his time as a staffer for the New York City Council.

“We’re going to need that to go toe-to-toe with Zeldin,” he said. “He talks a lot about foreign policy. Our national lawmaking body [is] going to have to vote on a whole host of issues pertaining to foreign policy, and I also feel deeply that the Democratic Party needs to challenge the narrative on foreign policy. We cannot afford to continue to have military interventions.”

Vivian Viloria-Fisher said she previously served as a delegate at three Democratic National Conventions in the past. That, her experience as a Suffolk County legislator and living in the district for nearly five decades helps her to understand the needs of 1st District Democrats, she said.

Perry Gershon. Photo by Kyle Barr

“This is who I am, this is who I’ve always been,” she said. “I have a footprint that goes throughout the district and I’ve done good work throughout this district. I’m well-known.”

Viloria-Fisher and Pechefsky said they possess empathy and compassion, respectively, which they said they feel Zeldin lacks. DiMasi said she’s dexterous, or quick-witted, capable of thinking on her feet in the midst of say, a scrutinized debate. Gershon said during his years in business he thought he’d earned a reputation as a person with high integrity, capable of getting along with people from all walks of life. Browning said she’s approachable, often having to remind people to call her “Kate,” as opposed to Legislator or Mrs. Browning.

The winner of the primary will be campaigning for a seat Zeldin won by almost 20 points in 2016, within a county Trump won by seven points, marking the first time a Republican presidential candidate secured Suffolk County since 1992.

Viloria-Fisher said she partnered with Republicans to pass various pieces of bipartisan legislation while representing the county. Pechefsky said he thinks his message — his willingness to advocate for working people — cuts across political lines. DiMasi said she thought her approach to campaigning — sticking to just the facts — would earn her respect with Republicans.

David Pechefsky. Photo by Kyle Barr

Gershon said he believes many people who voted for Trump in the past could be convinced to vote Democratic because he thinks many regret doing so, with an opportunity to score points because of the Republican tax plan, which did particular damage to Long Island property owners. Zeldin was one of few Republicans in Congress who did not vote for the bill.

The candidates identified many of the same issues — gun control legislation, immigration reform, health care options, lack of high-paying jobs, high cost of living in the district — as the most important to the voters they’ve spoken to, while also citing what they said they viewed as Zeldin’s misguided positions on these issues.

Browning named taxes and water quality as among the biggest concerns facing the district in the near future.

“[Zeldin will] come to the Island and say, ‘I have a great environmental record, I’m opposed to the offshore drilling, I’m all about clean water,’ however, he’s voting for bills that are polluting the waters in Virginia,” she said.

Pechefsky identified availability of affordable housing, for people from all income brackets, as desperately needed.

Vivian Viloria-Fisher. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Brookhaven is losing population except for Patchogue, and seniors can’t afford to stay here either,” he said. “When you say we’re trying to figure out interventions that can make for healthier communities, healthier neighborhoods — housing is one you could tackle directly. I worked a lot on housing policy in the city.”

Viloria-Fisher also noted the importance of creating reasons — be it high-paying jobs or vibrant downtowns — for young graduates to remain local and plant roots.

She also referenced Zeldin’s position on guns, and campaign donations he has received from the National Rifle Association, as counter to the values of voters she said she’s spoken to.

“He calls it Second Amendment support, I just call it gun violence support,” she said. “Nobody needs to carry around an assault weapon.”

DiMasi said she’s been trying to get through to those with a distaste for politics, recalling a conversation with an African-American as she was campaigning door-to-door.

“The fact is, I believe that federal law is the place to decrease discrimination,” she said. “Laws create personal biases, much more so than the other way around, and that’s from research. We have to understand just how deeply disenfranchised people have become.”

Jovani Ligurgo, on left, who was reported missing by his mother, was last seen with his father John Ligurgo III, on right. Photos from SCPD

Jovani Ligurgo’s mother dropped off her 2-year-old boy at his father’s residence on Brettonwoods Drive in Coram at around 7 a.m. on June 5. When the child, who lives with his mother in Smithtown, was not returned to her at a predetermined time, 3:30 to 4 p.m., she called police. Meanwhile, officers responded to a call of a house fire at approximately 3:35 p.m. where the father, John Ligurgo III, 43, lived. The residence was unoccupied.

Sixth Squad detectives believed the child was with his father, who might have fled the state in a black Jeep Grand Cherokee, New York license plate GAV 4699, with Ligurgo III possibly in possession of a hunting rifle.

A similar vehicle bearing New York license plate GAV 4699 was found June 6 in Rockbridge County, Virginia, with two deceased occupants who are believed to be the pair. A positive identification is pending.

File photo

Suffolk County police arrested a Coram teen May 30 for allegedly stabbing his mother to death.

During an altercation Wednesday morning, Jacob Beechem stabbed his mother, Donette Beechem, inside their residence at approximately 7:15 a.m. Jacob Beechem was injured as he fell out of a window attempting to flee the home.

Donette Beechem, 47, was pronounced dead at the scene by a member of the office of the Suffolk County medical examiner. Jacob Beechem, 18, was admitted to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

Jacob Beechem was charged with second-degree murder and will be arraigned at a later date.

Attorney information for Beechem was not immediately available.

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County police arrested a Coram woman for Leandra’s Law after she was allegedly involved in a single-vehicle crash May 28 that injured her three children.

Tyleen Smith was driving a 2004 Saturn Vue northbound on West Yaphank Road when her vehicle left the roadway and struck a tree in front of 99 West Yaphank Road at 6:07 a.m. Smith had four passengers in the vehicle, including the three children.

Smith’s 11-year-old twins, a boy and girl, were transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of broken bones. Smith and her 8-year-old son were also treated at Stony Brook University Hospital for minor injuries. Front seat passenger Talisha Thomas, 43, of Bellport, was transported to Long Island Medical Center in East Patchogue for treatment of minor injuries.

Smith, 36, was charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated with a child passenger 15 years old or younger (Leandra’s Law) and three counts of endangering the welfare of a child. She will be held overnight at the 4th Precinct and will be arraigned at 1st District Court in Central Islip May 29.

Suffolk County Child Protective Services was notified.

Attorney information was not immediately available.

Brandon Lesser’s mugshot. Photo from SCPD

After receiving a call from a victim who became suspicious about the authenticity of his purchased tickets on the app Letgo, 1st Precinct crime section officers conducted an undercover operation.

The officers arranged to meet the seller, Brandon Lesser, in the parking lot of Ragazzi Italian Kitchen and Bar, located at 2950 Middle Country Road in Nesconset, to purchase two Billy Joel concert tickets for $350. Lesser allegedly sold the undercover officer the same tickets — floor section D, Row 2, seats 5 and 6 — for the July 28 show at Madison Square Garden that he sold to the victim who initially contacted the police. Police arrested Lesser and transported him to the 1st Precinct.

Lesser, 24, of Centereach, was charged with two counts of second-degree petit larceny and scheme to defraud.

He is scheduled to be arraigned at 1st District Court in Central Islip July 31.

Police are asking anyone who might have been a victim of this scam to contact 1st Precinct crime section officers at 631-854-8126.

David Michels mugshot. Photo from SCPD

By Desirée Keegan

Suffolk County police arrested a man for an alleged DWI after a traffic stop in Centereach in which there were three 14-year-old female passengers in the vehicle.

David Michels was driving a 2010 Toyota Corolla northbound on Stanley Drive when he was stopped for a traffic violation at approximately 6:30 p.m. May 24.

Michels, 46, of Centereach, was arrested and charged with allegedly driving while intoxicated, aggravated driving while intoxicated with a child passenger 15 years old or younger (Leandra’s Law) and three counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

The three 14-year-old passengers were released to family members at the scene.

Michels was held overnight at the 6th Precinct.

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County police arrested a Lake Grove man May 23 for driving with more than 40 license suspensions.

Highway patrol officer Matthew White pulled over a 2003 Nissan on westbound Sunrise Highway, near Connetquot Avenue, at approximately 8:25 a.m. after he observed the vehicle was missing a front license plate. Officer White determined the driver, James Tomassi, was driving with a license that had been suspended 41 times.

Tomassi, 36, was charged with first-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and operating while registration suspended/revoked. His vehicle was impounded and he was arraigned today at 1st District Court in Central Islip.

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