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Michael Ruggiero

After thinking he threw his last high school pitch, Shoreham-Wading River senior standout Brian Morrell continues to lead the way.

The University of Notre Dame-bound senior, who started at first base for Suffolk County, had an RBI-single that scored Commack’s Peter Theodorellis to get his team on the board first, and later scored on a wild pitch to put Suffolk ahead 2-0 at the end of the first inning en route to a 10-4 win over Nassau in the Blue Chip Prospects Grand Slam Challenge.

The best baseball players from across Long Island all squared off at St. Joseph’s College June 9, where seniors from Shoreham-Wading River, Commack, Smithtown, Northport and Ward Melville helped take home the all-star game title in front of a packed house.

Morrell said it was a great experience playing under the bright lights with and against the best players on Long Island, even despite it being an exhibition game.

“There’s definitely a competitive edge between the two counties going into the game,” he said. “We had a lot of fun and the energy was awesome throughout the game.”

Rocky Point baseball team’s head coach, Andrew Aschettino, served in the same role for the Suffolk County team. He said part of his message before the game was for the players to embrace the opportunity to represent their family, their school and the county.

“If you heard them throughout the game, it was pretty cool — there was definitely a pride thing going on,” he said. “I told them before the game — ‘you’re here for a reason and just go do what you guys do, enjoy it though. Don’t get caught up in the pressures of it, just enjoy it because you’re one of a select few kids that get to play in this thing every year.’ It was really cool to watch them do their thing.”

The Suffolk squad tacked on another run in the third on a sacrifice fly by Babylon’s Ken Gordon, and two more on a two-run single by Greg Tsouprakos of West Islip in the fifth. Morrell’s Shoreham-Wading River battery-mate Thomas Brady doubled and scored in a two-run sixth inning to extend the lead to 7-0.

“It’s an honor playing with all of these guys,” Brady said. “I played with all of them when we were young. Just to get back on the field with them — catch some of them — it’s an honor. It’s great. I love all of these guys.”

Smithtown East’s Michael Ruggiero and Rocky Point’s James Weisman each pitched a clean inning.

“It was a great experience being able to play for my high school coach one last time,” Weisman said of his unique position. “My whole life I’ve dreamed of being the player that I am today, and I still want to succeed and do better.”

Aschettino said he was also excited for the opportunity to take the field with a familiar face.

“It was a pleasure that I got to spend one more game with him, because he played for me for so long,” the coach said of his four-year varsity starter. “[Weisman] was just the greatest kid in the world to coach. He works his butt off everyday, so I was very, very excited that I got to coach him for one more day.”

Shoreham-Wading River outfielder Nick Manesis joined Morrell in the starting lineup in right field for Suffolk, though he struck out in his only two at-bats. Nick Trabacchi of Smithtown West reached on two walks, stole a base and scored a run. He also pitched the seventh inning and allowed the first two hits of the game for Nassau. Outfielders Joe Rosselli, of Ward Melville, and Frank Stola, of Northport, also saw some action. Tsouprakos took home the most valuable player award, and Hauppauge’s Matt Overton was named the offensive player of the game for Suffolk.

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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