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Bobby Vath

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.”

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Wolverines face top-seeded Smithtown East in the out bracket on the road May 15 at 4 p.m.

By Bill Landon

Although the double-elimination game didn’t go as planned, Bobby Vath got by with a little help from his friends.

The first-inning showing was all visiting Connetquot needed to get past Newfield, 3-0, in the first round of baseball playoffs May 14. With a runner in scoring position a Vath pitch was drilled deep to left field for a ground-rule double and a 1-0 lead. Three pitches later, a passed ball at the plate put Connetquot ahead 2-0.

“I went back into the dugout after the top of the first, and they were right there ready to pick me up,” the senior said of his teammates. “So I was ready to go back out there in the second and fight for my team.”

Newfield was unable to answer in bottom of the inning, and unfortunately for Vath, an RBI-single gave the Thunderbirds an insurance run in the top of the second.

Newfield was able to get the bat on the ball after that, but when the Wolverines did get on base, Connetquot’s defense answered the call to keep them there.

Vath found his rhythm in the third, and despite Connetquot putting two runners on base in the top of the sixth, the senior didn’t give up a run the rest of the way. He struck out the next two batters in that inning to get out of the jam.

“He settled down after that first inning and started throwing outs, working off his fastball and had good command of the game,” Newfield head coach Eric Joyner said. “That’s just vintage Vath — he’s a great competitor.”

Newfield faces an unexpected opponent Tuesday, May 15, after top-seeded Smithtown East was upset by No. 17 Bay Shore, 7-4.

“Our approach has to be the same — come out of the gate hot, protect the baseball and throw strikes,” Joyner said. “We’ll have to execute a little better offensively tomorrow than we did today.”

Despite Newfield being the No. 8 seed, Vath said to him and his Wolverines, it doesn’t matter what seed they are, or what number they’re facing.

“We’ll definitely get the scouting reports from the other coaches who’ve played [Smithtown East], because that helped us in this game too, but their number doesn’t scare us,” Vath said. “We’ll go in there with the mentality that if the 17thseed beat the No. 1 seed, anybody can beat anyone on any given day.”

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Centereach’s Nick Kostulas makes contact with the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Newfield’s Brandon Alberto hurls a pitch from the mound. Photo by Bill Landon
Newfield’s Brandon Alberto hurls a pitch from the mound. Photo by Bill Landon

The Newfield Wolverines hosted their crosstown rivals Centereach for district bragging rights Tuesday afternoon. The Cougars jumped out to a three-run lead, but the Wolverines battled back in a game that was decided on the final pitch of the seventh inning, where Newfield found its way out of a bases loaded scare, to hold on to a 10-7 win.

Centereach struck first when junior Victor Corsaro hit a solo home run over the left center fence. With runners on first and second, senior Joe Calabrese hit a line drive to left field to load the bases. Senior Nick Kostulas scored from third on a passed ball at the plate to help his team go up, 2-0. Centereach squandered a scoring opportunity with bases loaded when Newfield senior pitching ace Brandon Alberto worked his way out of the jam — fanning the batter at the plate to retire the side.

Newfield’s bats did the talking in the bottom of the second, when senior Joe North ripped a two-run homer to center field to close the gap, 3-2.

Newfield senior Joe Pepe followed with a base-clearing rip to deep right to break out to a 4-3 lead, and senior J.J. Lindgren smacked a deep shot to the fence for a two-RBI double and the 6-3 advantage.

“We played defense, we hit the ball well and that’s what you’re supposed to do,” North said. “But J.J.’s home run was the difference. It cleared our minds, and they got down over it.”

Centereach’s Austin Turner fires from the mound. Photo by Bill Landon
Centereach’s Austin Turner fires from the mound. Photo by Bill Landon

Centereach senior Austin Turner took over on the mound in an attempt to quell the scoring fest and closed out the inning.

Centereach pulled within one run in the top of the fourth when Corsaro blasted one through the infield gap to drive in senior John Boss. Kostulas struck again with a line drive down the right side to bring Corsaro home and make it a one-run game, 6-5.

“We tried to get back in it there late,” Boss said. “We never give up. We’re resilient. We never get down on ourselves, but we came up short today.”

With runners at the corners, Centereach tried a suicide squeeze as the runner on first took off to draw a throw so the runner on third could head home. Newfield didn’t fall for it though, and ran down the third base runner for the out.

Lindgren’s bat was the difference-maker again, when he smacked a deep shot over the left field fence to tally two more RBIs and a run, for a commanding 9-5 lead.

“It was our defense today that won it for us — we didn’t make many errors; we played the cleanest baseball that we’ve played all year,” Lindgren said. “And the key is we followed that with hitting.”

Again Centereach would make a pitching change when A.J. Glass took to the mound to go the rest of the way.

Newfield’s Joe Pepe makes a throw from third to get the runner at first. Photo by Bill Landon
Newfield’s Joe Pepe makes a throw from third to get the runner at first. Photo by Bill Landon

“We struggled with command with our starting pitcher and that was an issue,” Centereach coach Mike Herrschaft said. “So you come in with three other relievers and you’re hoping that they can hold the fort down, but it just didn’t happen.”

With a runner on base, the Wolverines proved they weren’t done when senior Jared Prevete drove one deep into the gap, to score sophomore Jacob Vanessendelft, to edge ahead 10-5.

Centereach threatened in the top of the sixth inning when Corsaro’s shot to left center loaded the bases, and again it was Kostulas’ bat that answered the call as he drove one deep into no man’s land for two RBIs that trimmed the deficit, 10-7.

“We played a great game,” Corsaro said. “We made a few mistakes in the field, but other than that it was solid all around. We did hit the ball, and we pitched pretty well today.”

With a base runner on first, the Cougars defense turned a double play to end the inning.

“We definitely hit the ball better,” Newfield coach Paul Pedersen said. “We played defense, but any time you get into a blue-red matchup in a district game, it’s scary. These kids know each other. They’ve played together their whole lives and it’s a rival. It doesn’t matter what the records are, it’s a game that nobody wants to lose.”

Newfield’s Bobby Vath throws relief. Photo by Bill Landon
Newfield’s Bobby Vath throws relief. Photo by Bill Landon

Newfield freshman Bobby Vath took over for Alberto on the mound the rest of the way, and with the Cougars’ last at- bat, Kostulas took to the batter’s box with the bases loaded and his team trailing by three.

With two outs, Vath battled the hitter, who protected the plate as the count grew full. Kostulas smacked a deep fly ball to center field, but Newfield tracked it down for the final out.

“We hit the ball hard, and we play them again tomorrow, Pedersen said. “We’ll try to minimize the strikeouts, put the ball in play and stay mistake-free on defense.”

Results of Wednesday’s matchup were not available by press time, but with Tuesday’s result, Newfield improves to 4-9 in League IV, while Centereach dropped to 3-10.

The Cougars begins a new series with Half Hollow Hills West at home on Monday, May 11, with the first pitch scheduled for 4 p.m. Newfield will travel to West Islip on Monday at 4 p.m. for the first game of the Wolverines’ final series of the regular season.

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