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Eric Joyner

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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.”

Smithtown East's Michael Ruggiero hurls a pitch. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Smithtown East’s Matt Laurelli races back to the base while Newfield’s Tom DeSena waits for the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Smithtown East’s baseball bats were cracking May 2 during a 15-0 shutout of Newfield to maintain the No. 2 spot in League III. With the win, the Bulls are three games behind Half Hollow Hills East.

Smithtown East senior starting pitcher Michael Ruggiero was as big a threat at the plate as he was from the mound. He belted the ball through  the gap to drive home sophomore Nick Harvey for the early lead in the top of the third, and senior Andrew Canino followed with a shot to right field, plating Ruggiero and junior Matt Laurelli for a 3-0 lead.

Newfield head coach Eric Joyner met with starting pitcher Ryan Wappaus on the mound, but the talk didn’t help, as Newfield loaded the bases with two outs. Junior Marc Barbiglia was up to bat next and smashed a base-clearing double to double the advantage to 6-0.

Newfield’s Mike Manzolillo makes contact. Photo by Bill Landon

“They’re a great team — they came out here and they fought hard, but we put the bat on the ball,” Barbiglia said. “We threw strikes, let them hit the ball, put the ball in play [and] we had good fielding. But our bats were on fire today.”

In the top of the fourth inning, Newfield found itself in another tough spot with a runner on base and Ruggiero up to bat. He blasted the ball over the right fielder’s head and speedily made his way around the bases for an in-the-park home run.

“He put it on the outside half [of the plate], it was a 3-1 count, so I knew a fastball was coming,” Ruggiero said. “I jumped right on it and hit it the other way. They did get me earlier in the game, but I fell back and adjusted. [Newfield is] scrappy — a good baseball team — but we were able to shut them down today.”

Newfield made its second change at the mound, but the Bulls didn’t miss a beat. Ruggiero singled to shallow right to put runners on the corner in the top of the sixth, a walk loaded the bases, and Canino drew another walk to bring home Harvey for a nine-run lead.

Smithtown East’s Marc Barbiglia makes his way to home plate. Photo by Bill Landon

“We had base runners on in the first three innings, but we just didn’t get the big hit to get some runs on the board to keep us close,” Joyner said. “They took the advantage moving base runners over and had timely hitting, and we just didn’t do that today.”

Justin Harvey, Nick’s twin brother, found the gap scoring Laurelli, and the runs piled on from there. Sophomore Will Kennedy drove in two with a stand-up double, Barbiglia smacked another RBI-single and sophomore Matt Tempone drilled a two-run double for the final runs.

“They have very good pitching, very good players,” Smithtown East head coach Ken Klee said of Newfield. “Michael Ruggiero, he’s our leader — we’ve been waiting all year to start him and he did exactly what we expected of him. It was probably our best offensive game all year, but they were on the wrong side of it today. We know they’re good, so we’ve got to be ready to play [them again] tomorrow.”

Newfield traveled to Smithtown East May 3, but results were not available by press time. Newfield will host Smithtown East May 4 at 4:30 p.m. to complete the three-game series.

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