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Marc Barbiglia

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Marc Barbiglia rips the ball to right center field. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Marc Barbiglia is used to giving Smithtown East fans something to cheer about.

On Tuesday, the senior’s bat was the difference maker. Barbiglia belted a two-run single to right center with the bases loaded in the top of the seventh inning to help the Bulls to a 7-5 road win over Walt Whitman. 

Winning pitcher Tyler Loft walks off the field after striking out three. Photo by Bill Landon

Tyler Loft, who earned the win, took over on the mound in the bottom of the sixth, allowing no runs on no hits, striking out three and walking none.

“Whitman’s a very good team — they’ve got very good pitching, they played well, they battled, but we just came out on top,” said Barbiglia, who leads his team in RBIs (14) and is batting a .415 on 41 at bats. “We just wanted to play strong defense, stay behind the pitcher — we know he’s got great stuff — we stayed positive out there, kept the ball in front for easy plays.”

Loft said his team was in similar situations through two close wins over Half Hollow Hills East (7-6 and 8-7) back in April. He said he knew his game was all mental.

“I stayed confident, believed in my pitches,” Loft said. “I felt great out there today. I was hitting my spots [with] whatever the catcher was setting up — it was one of those days.”

Smithtown East let a three-run lead slip away when Walt Whitman scored in the bottom of the fourth, and the Bulls came out scoreless in the top of the fifth still leading 3-1.

Michael Ciminiello dives into third base safely. Photo by Bill Landon

The Bulls gave up four more runs before head coach Ken Klee summoned Nicholas Harvey to take over on the mound with one out. He walked his first batter, working with his twin brother Justin his battery mate, but the pair was just warming up. Nicholas Harvey struck out the next batter for the second out, and Justin Harvey fired the ball to second base in time for the Walt Whitman runner to be tagged out to end the inning down 5-3.

Walt Whitman gave the Bulls a gift in the top of the sixth when a passed ball at the plate helped sophomore Michael Ciminiello score from third to make it a one-run game, 5-4.

“[Whatever the record is you] go in and play hard — you can’t take any team lightly,” Ciminiello said. “You go out there, do [your] best and keep playing the game.”

Matthew Weirtheim takes a cut. Photo by Bill Landon

With the 7-5 win Smithtown East improves to 14-1, but Klee said the goal is much bigger than that.

“We need to get better — that sounds like it’s nitpicking, but we want to be the best team,” the coach said. “But obviously the last couple of innings we showed grit to come back again for the second day in a row. It’s certainly a credit to the kids.”

Especially Barbiglia, who hit big for the second day in a row. He went 2-for-3 and scored the game-tying run in the sixth inning in a 3-2 win over Bay Shore April 30.

“Mark got that big hit that’s two days in a row — he’s the guy we know is going to come through in a situation like that,” Klee said.

The senior’s bat just keeps on cracking, and the crowd continues to supply some 
additional noise.

Patriots shut out Smithtown in double-elimination game

By Bill Landon

Logan Doran delivered.

The Ward Melville player homered in the first inning, and drove in two runs in the second to give the No. 1 Patriots baseball team a 3-0 home win over No. 9 Smithtown East May 23, to advance to the Class AA semifinals.

Doran said he was looking for his pitch to set the tone early.

“It was a 2-0 fastball, and I was looking fastball dead red,” he said. “I saw it high and in, and just took a big swing on it. I didn’t think it was out. I was just running and then I heard my first base coach say it’s out.”

Ward Melville threatened two batters later, when Joseph Rosselli singled into shallow left, and Michael Sepe found the gap with two outs, but Smithtown East pitcher Nick Harvey fanned the last batter to strand the runners.

With two outs, Smithtown East’s Marc Barbiglia singled in the top of the second, Ward Melville catcher Tom Hudzik fired the ball to his twin brother Matt at second base to catch him on a steal attempt. The strike arrived in plenty of time for Matt Hudzik to apply the tag.

“They’re a hard-hitting team — they hit well last year and they came back and are hitting even better this year,” Tom Hudzik said. “It was Logan’s home run that got the momentum going.”

The Patriots went back to work in the bottom of the inning when Trevor Cronin singled to start things off. James Curcio followed with a fly ball to right field to put runners on the corners.

Again, Doran was the difference maker as he blasted the ball to right, plating Cronin and Curcio for a 3-0 lead.

“We played them [twice] and we knew what we were coming into,” Doran said. “We had to stay focused like we did the first two games. Just come out hot — that’s what we’ve been talking about. I think our team played great, and we just got to keep it rolling.”

The Patriots defense was just as potent as their bats, and the boys turned a double play in the top of the third for the first two outs. Later in the inning, with a runner on base, Hudzik sent another laser throw to his brother, who again waited for the runner to end the inning.

Ward Melville pitcher Max Nielson kept the Bulls at bay the rest of the way, spreading 76 pitches over the seven innings with four strikeouts and allowing just three hits in his shutout performance. It was the second playoff victory of his varsity career.

“The key to winning today was our defense,” Nielsen said. “But Logan’s base-hit knock sealed the deal.”

Ward Melville head coach Lou Petrucci also had high words of praise for Doran.

“He’s our captain ,and that’s what captains do,” he said. “That home run in the first gave us momentum.”

But he also gave other credit where due.

“Max pitched a heck of a game,” Petrucci said. “He kept their lead-off batter off base — he made quality pitches and you’ve got to give the guy credit.”

It was the third time these teams faced each other this postseason, each giving the other its first loss to send them into the double-elimination bracket.

“Bottom line is they played a little bit better than us, and they deserved to win,” Smithtown East head coach Ken Klee said of Ward Melville. “Our kids hung in there — we had a very nice season — and I’m proud of them.”

Ward Melville hosted the first of a three-game series on Wednesday against No. 4 West Islip, but results were not available by press time. The two teams will face off again on the Lions’ home turf May 25, at 4 p.m. The finals are set for May 31 at Stony Brook University, 3 p.m.

This version was updated to correctly identify the second baseman as Matt Hudzik.

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.