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Mount Sinai

Jack Soldano wanted to help the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society repair the roof of the William Miller House, so he’s selling some of his collection of comic books at Mount Sinai’s Heritage Park yard sale this month and next. Photo by Kevin Redding

With a little help from some super friends, a local boy wonder is on a mission to save the oldest standing house in Miller Place.

For most 12-year-olds, summer vacation means sleeping in, goofing off and avoiding responsibility at all costs.

Some of Jack Soldano’s collection of comic books. Photo by Kevin Redding

But for Jack Soldano, a North Country Road Middle School student and self-professed “lover of geeky things,” it’s been spent organizing and pricing hundreds upon hundreds of old comic books and making pins, magnets and bottle openers out of the collection’s vibrant panels, sometimes from 8 in the morning until 11 p.m.

Although Jack has a passion for the medium — he dresses up every year as his favorite superheroes at New York Comic Con and even wrote a letter to Marvel Comics when he was 6 years old detailing why the company should hire him — he isn’t doing this for himself.

“With a great supply of comic books comes great
responsibility,” Jack said, laughing.

He will be selling up to 1,000 comic books — Marvel, DC and everything in between — and homemade superhero accessories throughout July and August at Heritage Park’s community yard sale in Mount Sinai to help the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society repair the roof on its main headquarters.

The nearly 300-year-old William Miller House at 75 North Country Road, built in 1720, is the ancestral residence of the family after which Miller Place was named. The oldest existing house in the town, which is open to public tours and serves as the meeting place for the nonprofit organization, needs between $18,000 and $28,000 to renovate its collapsing roof and a total $100,000 for a full-house repair, including window replacements.

Jack Soldano is selling some of his comic books for a cause at Mount Sinai’s Heritage Park yard sale this month and next. Photo by Kevin Redding

The society has offered family-friendly programs for years at the Miller House, like Postman Pete, where kids eat cookies and mail out letters to Santa, and the Spooky Lantern Tour of the historic Miller Place district in the fall.

So when Jack, whose family has been involved in the programs since he was very young, saw on the news more than a month ago that members of the historical society were pleading for public donations, he got an idea.

He went to his grandfather, who has an expansive library of comic books that includes everything from “Batman” to “Superman” to “Dr. Strange” as the former owner of a Port Washington hobby shop in the early 1990s, and told him he wanted to sell the collection to raise as much money as possible for the restoration project.

His grandfather simply said, “Okay,” and started donating bins of issues.

“I remember when I was younger in Miller Place, going to the Spooky Lantern Tour and Postman Pete, and having much fun, and I want the younger kids to be able to experience that too,” Jack said, adding with a smile that he won’t be giving away every comic. “I’ve kept some comics for myself, of course, because why not, but I wanted to sell the leftovers to a worthy cause and what’s more worthy than one in your own backyard?”

Jack Soldano is also handmade pins to help restore the William Miller House. Photo by Kevin Redding

Jack’s mother, Cristin Mansfield, said she and her husband are proud of their son for coming up with the idea himself.

“He’s not using the proceeds for himself,” Mansfield said. “He’s sitting there and immersing himself in this thing that he loves, reading the comics, finding funny speech bubbles. We’re super proud.”

Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society Vice President Antoinette Donato said the society is extremely grateful.

“We are so inspired that someone so young has such an interest, and that nobody planted the seed — it all came from him,” Donato said. “I think it’s everybody’s responsibility to keep history alive, so when somebody like Jack comes along who obviously has an interest and is genuine, it’s very reassuring for us and gives us hope.”

Residents can buy comic books every Thursday between 5 and 8 p.m., through Aug. 24, at the Mount Sinai Heritage Park. Visit https://www.facebook.com/comics4acause/ and https://www.etsy.com/shop/ComicsForACause for more information.

By Desirée Keegan

Local school districts took pride in their highly accomplished students at the top of the class this year. Last weekend, valedictorians and salutatorians from Miller Place, Mount Sinai,
Rocky Point and Shoreham-Wading River took to the stage to address their peers during the Class of 2017 commencement ceremonies.

Miller Place

William Sussman and David Argento were the school’s valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

William SussmanSussman, who graduated with a 101.4 GPA, was a National Merit Scholar and Advanced Placement Scholar with Honor.  He was president of the Future Business Leaders of America and received U.S. State Sen. Kenneth LaValle’s (R-Port Jefferson Station) Youth Leadership Recognition Award. Enrolled in nine AP courses throughout his years at Miller Place, including AP Chemistry and college computer application, he served as the Mathletes team captain, and was a member of the National Honor Society and the Foreign Language National Honor Society.

He will attend Yale University in the fall to major in electrical engineering.

“I think the best way to put it is gratification,” Sussman said about being named valedictorian. “After years of putting in hours of work — staying up late to do all the homework and projects in addition to extracurriculars — it felt good to be recognized.

Sussman followed in the footsteps of his father, Dr. Howard Sussman, an associate professor of clinical family medicine at Stony Brook University School of Medicine and valedictorian of his own high school in 1988.

“It’s kind of exciting and poetic,” Dr. Sussman said. “He values education incredibly highly and he’s really gone above and beyond to learn all he can.”

David Argento

Argento, who is heading to Providence College in the fall to study finance on the school’s St. Thomas Aquinas scholarship, was named salutatorian with a 99.1 GPA. With a loaded schedule, he was a National Honor Society parliamentarian, co-captain of the varsity tennis team, an Eagle Scout, and was also a member of Mathletes, orchestra and a jazz combo musical group. Like the valedictorian, he has taken nine AP courses at Miller Place. Argento said he hopes to have the opportunity to run his own business someday.

Argento’s older brother Chris was valedictorian at the school in 2012. He said he never expected to be in the position he is now.

“It feels great, but I didn’t really have it as a goal to be salutatorian,” Argento said. “I just tried my best and it seemed to work out.”

He said he chose his college because of its similarity to Miller Place, which he called a very positive environment.

“Both schools are rather small, and I just felt very comfortable there right from the start,” he said.

Mount Sinai

At the top of Mount Sinai’s class are Ben May and Helene Marinello.

May, the school’s valedictorian, graduated with a 103.97 GPA, and is known for his environmental work. He was the founder of Mount Sinai’s Model United Nations and environmental outreach club, was on the Matheltes team, and was captain of the Ocean Bowl team, which won a national title this year. He took three AP classes as a sophomore, four as a junior and six his senior year.

Benjamin May

“The school was very receptive to me wanting to challenge myself academically,” he said. “Over the past three years we’ve made the school very sustainable [through the environmental outreach club]. We started a recycling program, we do annual cleanups with about 70 students cleaning up Cedar Beach.”

Outside of school, the valedictorian was also on the planning committee for the first Long Island Youth Conservation Summit and is the group’s current national communications coordinator, writing the emailed newsletter. Through the Sea Youth Rise Up campaign, he won a video contest last spring, was selected to travel to NYC and Washington D.C., where he participated in a live internet broadcast, met with the president of the United Nation’s general assembly and met with former President Barack Obama’s (D) environmental quality council.

“It was probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever done, because with that meeting, we were pressing them to found a new national monument at the marine protection area called Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument,” May said of the new marine protected area Obama established last fall.

His passion is meeting with politicians and pressing for environmental changes. He plans to double major in international relations and economics at Pennsylvania State University this fall and plans to become proficient in six different languages.

“I could use that for international diplomacy through political advocacy when it comes to the environment, which is what I hope to do in the long run,” he said.

When he thinks about his time spent in Mount Sinai, and when asked how and why he’s striven for success for so long, May recalls the instant he knew he was chasing the No. 1 spot he’s in now.

Helene Marinello

In his AP World History class, for every chapter read, students needed to create an outline. Grades would be given from 1 to 5, depending on how much work seemed to be put in. May’s friend would spend half an hour on his assignment and get a 4, and May put in two hours with each assignment, and received at 5.

“Almost every single time we’d get the grades back, he’d ask me why I put in so much work — What matters getting that extra point?’” May recalled. “I just wanted it. I felt I knew I could get that extra point if I put in a little extra effort, and I kept that mindset throughout high school and put in that extra bit of time to get the better grade. It’s super fulfilling. It shows it pays to put in the extra work.”

Marinello graduated with a 102.04 GPA. She said high school has left her with many
memorable moments, but enjoyed a trip to Disney World this past March the most.

“I felt as though our whole school bonded as one large group, instead of the usual cliques,” she said. “I got to become closer with people I normally would not have talked to.”

She said she felt honored to be at the top of her class.

“The competition between class rank was very vigorous, so it is truly a privilege to be recognized for what I was able to accomplish,” she said. “Seeing all my hard work finally pay off, in a way other than just good grades, brought me great pride. These past 13 years at Mount Sinai have been an all-around learning experience that I don’t think any other school district could have given me. Between the amazing faculty at this district and the community that surrounds the school, I will never be able to forget the memories I have made.”

Rocky Point

At the top of Rocky Point’s Class of 2017 were Pooja Deshpande and Nicholas LoCastro.

Pooja Deshpande

Deshpande graduated with a 105.38 GPA and was a member of the National Honor Society,
vice president of the Math Honor Society, president of the Human Rights Club, the Interact Club and Thespian Society, was a mentor of the North Shore Youth Council’s Big Buddy Little Buddy program, which pairs high school students with younger ones, and tutored students in subjects ranging from mathematics to French.

Taking 10 AP courses, the valedictorian won the Principal’s Leadership Award, became an Advanced Placement Scholar with Honor, received the National Council of Teachers of English Achievement Award in writing and won numerous awards at the Long Island Science Congress. She’s also been involved in the school musical every year.

“I have grown so much over these past years, and I am so thankful to have been raised by such a community,” Deshpande said. “The Rocky Point School district has taught me that not only is being unique accepted, it is celebrated, and the differences that everyone has should be used to bring us closer together, as a strong community.”

Through the Interact Club, she  assisted in a Camp Pa Qau Tuck cleanup in Center Moriches, the school blood drive, fundraised for various organizations and was a mentor to students with various disabilities.

Nicholas LoCastro

“I have learned through these experiences that although I may not be able to change the world, I have the power to change a life, and to someone, that can mean a world of difference,” she said.

She will be attending Stony Brook University’s Honors College in the fall, majoring in neuroscience with a minor in mathematics, on the pre-medicine track.

Close behind was LoCastro, with a 105.13 GPA. Taking seven AP courses, he was also a National Merit Scholar, AP Scholar, was president of the Science Club, member of the honor society, math honor society and thespian society. He played Captain Von Trapp in “The Sound Of Music”, was in the tech crew for spring pocket theater, was a member of guitar club, participated in New York State Council of Administrators of Music Education festival mixed choir and Suffolk County Music Educators Association festival choir.

“Rocky Point has an excellent music and theater program,” he said. “It also let me broaden my horizons and perform in school musicals, something I had never done before high school but am glad I did.”

Natalie Bazata

Rocky Point also had an exhortation speaker in Natalie Bazata, who graduated with a 104.64 GPA.

For all four years, she participated in chamber orchestra and pit orchestra, ran the variety show, a demonstration of the immense musical and artistic talents of Rocky Point students, during her junior and senior year, and also dabbled in school organizations like human rights club, Be A Nicer Neighbor club and Big Buddy Little Buddy.

“The teachers and other staff of the Rocky Point district are caring, passionate and knowledgeable in their fields, and I am incredibly thankful to have crossed paths with them,” she said. “I usually have a huge fear of public speaking, but for some reason, I felt more proud and excited than scared in that moment. Words mean very much to me, so it was an honor to craft a speech that said things exactly how I wanted to say them in a
moment of celebration.”

Shoreham-Wading River

Anthony Peraza and Kyle Higgins finished at the top of the Class of 2017.

Anthony Peraza

Peraza, who continues a string of family success in the district, graduated with a 102.45 GPA.

He took 10 AP courses to be named an AP Scholar with Distinction, ran cross-country all four years, and was named captain, competed in winter  and spring track and played alto sax in jazz band.

“When I first got named, it felt surreal and didn’t really hit me for a while,” Peraza said. “I’ve kept expectations low — I knew I was high in my class, it wasn’t a focus during school.”

He will be majoring in biological engineering at Cornell University in the fall.

“I know academics are great and it will challenge me, which is what I want,” he said.

Higgins graduated with a 102.17 GPA. He took eight AP courses, to be named an AP Scholar with Honor, was vice president of the National Honor Society, a member of Natural Helpers Club,  a varsity lacrosse player,  a community program’s lacrosse coach, and was named academic All-County for varsity basketball and named second team All-Division in football.

Kyle Higgins

“I worked hard in school,” he said. “It was never really my aim to get to salutatorian, I just wanted to do the best that I could, so it was an added bonus just to be named that.”

He will attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall, majoring in aerospace engineering and will play lacrosse for the school. He was also the recipient of the  Thomas Cutinella Memorial Scholarship.

“There were definitely a lot of nights I stayed up way past when I should have because I had to get work done, but it’s just about being able to stay focused on what I was doing at the time and get done what I need to get done,” he said.

Kevin Redding contributed reporting

Vice President of the North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce Donna Boeckel, on left, and Councilwoman Valerie Cartwright, on right, with the scholarship recipients. Photo by Kevin Redding

The North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce last week awarded $1,000 scholarships to local high school graduates heading to college to pursue their dreams this fall.

Each of the seven students, Benjamin May, Kira Gresser and Mathew Yonks from Mount Sinai; Alexa Tammone from Comsewogue; Angela Bonafede from Rocky Point; Emma Dell’Aquilla from Miller Place; and John McCarrick from Shoreham-Wading River were winners of the chamber’s highly competitive, districts-wide essay contest. Each was recognized for his or her academic achievements and community service.

“I think sometimes we as a community — the parents and the chambers — need to sit down and stop for a moment to let each and every one of you know that you’re doing a great job,” Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said during an awards ceremony at Don Quijote restaurant in Miller Place June 19. “While you’re in college, know that you have the entire community supporting you as you move forward. You guys soared — you’re shining stars and we look forward to having you as a continued part of the Town of Brookhaven.”

May, who will be attending the University of Pennsylvania to study economics and international relations, wrote in his essay about his experience as an environmental advocate at Mount Sinai High School — where he founded the Environmental Outreach Club. He said he was thrilled to accept the scholarship.

“I knew the competition was really strong for this one, so when I heard back about it, I was very humbled and honored,” May said. “I know the money is going to help me get a college education, so I’m very happy.”

Tammone, who has led several variety shows and programs at Comsewogue to benefit charities, will pursue a degree in music education at Montclair State University in New Jersey.

“[Music] is something I’m very passionate about and I want to share my passion with others — I’m very honored to be recognized,” she said.

Rocky Point’s Bonafede, who will be studying baking and pastry arts at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island after years in the BOCES culinary arts program, said it was a big relief to hear she’d been chosen.

“Everything I’ve been working toward is finally paying off,” she said. “I’ve done a lot of community service events, like giving food to people in need, car washes, fundraising — I’m excited to be making my big dream come true.”

Dell’Aquilla, a volunteer at Mather Hospital, said, in her essay, taking care of her epileptic brother growing up helped her realize she wanted to study nursing at the College of Mount Saint Vincent.

McCarrick, an honors student, athlete, Eagle Scout member, and junior firefighter in the Shoreham-Wading River district, said he will be using his scholarship money to pay for school supplies at SUNY New Paltz, where he will major in mechanical engineering.

While a senior at Mount Sinai, Gresser, who will study human-based law at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, held several fundraisers to help build a water well in Africa for the organization Strides for Africa.

“It’s really nice that there’s something like this because a lot of people do a lot of good and hard work and don’t really get much for it,” Gresser said of the scholarship.

Yonks, who plans to pursue nursing at the University of Buffalo, has been a member of the Future Business Leaders of America and the Eagle Scouts. As a senior, he built garden boxes and planted vegetables that were donated to needy families in local areas.

“I’m just proud to be a member of the community, and I always like to help whenever and wherever needed,” he said.

Donna Boeckel, vice president of the chamber, along with chamber corresponding secretary Carol Genua, sifted through the dozens of essays that poured in from each district. Boeckel said the chamber has spearheaded this contest every year for the last 20 years and raises the money through town fundraisers.

“These recipients had submissions that outshined all the others,” Boeckel said. “We’re very proud of them — they really took it to the next level.”

Mount Sinai seniors hit the field June 24 to celebrate the end of their high school careers.

Valedictorian Ben Bay and salutatorian Helene Marinello shared parting words with the Class of 2017, many of whom were donned with decorative caps signifying places gone and what’s to come.

May spoke about the class being the last to have been born in the 20th century, and technically the final group of 90’s kids to graduate.

“We have the best chance of anyone alive today to live in three different centuries. We have more opportunities today to learn, develop and achieve great things than ever have veer been seen in the history of the human race,” he said. “Let’s go out into the world ready not to be the best person in the room, but also ready to strive to become better. If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”

He finished with a fond memory from freshman year.

“Midway through our class trip to Six Flags, it started raining, and all of the rides began to close and most people sought shelter inside,” May said. “However, we were different. In the middle of the storm, we started dancing and playing. In the future, let’s remember to dance when it’s raining.”

Nazi material, along with weapons were seized from a home in Mount Sinai last June. File photo from the SCPD

Centereach resident Edward Perkowski Jr. was found not guilty last month of all charges against him after he was indicted on illegal weapons possession following a raid at his former Mount Sinai home. During the raid, Nazi paraphernalia, drugs and cash were also seized.

Perkowski Jr., 34, was the focus of a major Suffolk police news conference last June, but in court, the case unraveled because the jury did not believe detective’s confidential informant. The informant, according to defense attorney Matt Tuohy, of Huntington, was Perkowski Jr.’s former girlfriend.

Edward Perkowski was acquitted last month of all charges. File photo from SCPD

“They made my guy look really, really bad, and he was innocent,” Tuohy said in a statement. “He really suffered.”

A Riverhead jury found Perkowski Jr. not guilty on all eight counts of criminal possession of a weapon, and one charge of criminal possession of a weapon. Other charges in the 14-count indictment were dropped three weeks before the trial began.

At the time, Police Commissioner Tim Sini said: “Today’s search warrant might have prevented a deadly, violent incident, like the one we recently saw in Orlando,” referring to the Pulse nightclub massacre.

Sini also said the house was “infected with a disease called hate.”

“They all called my family Nazis,” said Edward Perkowski Sr., a Vietnam veteran. “All of the lies started because my son dumped their ‘confidential informant.’ And the police only took the German stuff we collected from World War II, nothing Russian or Chinese or any other country. It bolstered their story. We’re collectors.”

Perkowski Jr. owns a registered online military surplus company, registered in Riverhead. The money, which was Perkowski Sr.’s workmen’s compensation funds, was returned to him.

“The jury said the police lied,” Perkowski Sr. said. “Everyone thought my son was a Nazi, and he wasn’t.”

Those affected or who know someone affected by preeclampsia headed to Heritage Park in Mount Sinai June 16 to raise awareness and funds for the rare but life-threatening pregnancy disorder. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

Families and friends walked to raise awareness and funds to help put an end to a life-threatening pregnancy disorder.

Coram mom Jen DiSanza was 33 weeks pregnant with her second child in early 2016 when she started experiencing what felt like really bad heartburn, which she was told was a common symptom experienced at the end of pregnancy.

Coram resident Jen DiSanza, who was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome, a complication of preeclampsia, during her second pregnancy, hosted a Promise Walk for Preeclampsia to raise awareness to and fund for the disease. Photo by Kevin Redding

Even though a recent visit to the doctor had ensured her everything was going well, in a matter of days, she was vomiting, her blood pressure was up to 188/110 and her liver was shutting down while in labor seven weeks ahead of schedule at Stony Brook University Hospital.

“My liver enzymes were very high, my blood stopped clotting and my platelet count dropped — normal is around 200,000 and I was at 27,000,” DiSanza said. “I couldn’t even walk down the hallway in the hospital because if I stubbed my toe, I could internally bleed to death.”

She was soon diagnosed with HELLP syndrome, which is a complication of preeclampsia, an all-too-prevalent but widely overlooked pregnancy disorder that threatens the lives of mothers and their unborn babies. HEELP gets the acronym for hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, low platelet count, which are all affected by the disorder.

There is currently no direct cause, which affects .2 to .6 percent of all pregnancies, which symptoms include headaches to swelling, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Women in the United States are at a higher risk for maternal death than women in 47 other countries, and about 4 to 12 percent of women diagnosed with preeclampsia develop HELLP syndrome.

Since giving birth to her perfectly healthy daughter, Elisandra, at midnight Feb. 4, 2016, DiSanza has bounced back from a post-birth health crisis and become an active volunteer with the nationwide Preeclampsia Foundation, an empowered community of patients and experts that aims to raise public awareness of the disorder and funds for research and a cure.

The foundation is a driving force behind two bipartisan bills currently trying to be passed in Congress that would support states in their efforts to identify a cause for the disorder and use their findings to improve healthcare quality and ultimately inform change.

Those affected or know someone affected by preeclampsia headed to Heritage Park in Mount Sinai June 16 to raise awareness and funds for the rare but life-threatening pregnancy disorder. Photo by Kevin Redding

DiSanza, with the support of several sponsors including Macaroni Kid and Eurofins NTD, organized the Promise Walk for Preeclampsia June 17, where dozens of local residents affected by the disorder in some way or another walked a mile and half around Heritage Park in Mount Sinai in support of disorder recognition and research.

A goal for donations to the foundation was set at $5,000, $3,000 of which was raised before the event even started. Gift certificates to local businesses were raffled off and a post-walk workout session was offered by Energy Fitness of Miller Place, where DiSanza works as an instructor. Face painting was available for kids.

“A lot of people aren’t aware of what preeclampsia actually is, and how serious it can be and how quickly it comes up,” DiSanza said to the small crowd before the walk began. “There’s a lot that women just don’t know to look for. Being here, and telling all your friends and family why we’re here, helps to share that message. [The foundation] sends out pamphlets to doctors’ offices and clinics around the country, they explain the warning signs and what to look for.”

Laura Moakley, a Seaford resident who helped DiSanza coordinate the event, and her 6-year-old daughter, Rowan, wore a pink shirt that read “Kick Preeclampsia to the Curb.” Moakley was diagnosed while 32 weeks pregnant with Rowan in 2011 after her midwife mistreated the signs.

Ray and Jen DiSanza with their two children. Elisandra, on left, was who Jen DiSanza was pregnant with when she was diagnosed with HELPP syndrome, a complication of preeclampsia. Photo by Kevin Redding

Feeling scared and uncertain of what awaited her, having been told she or her child could die in labor, Moakley had an emergency Cesarean section and woke up with a photo of Rowan next to her pillow. Her daughter spent 35 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

“I felt robbed of a normal pregnancy … why didn’t I have the picture perfect pregnancy that our society needs to see? My goal was for no other woman to ever have to go through this,” Moakley said as a happy and healthy Rowan hugged her. “Awareness is key — we must continue forward with all of our work, our walks, changes in the medical community and even Congress.”

She eventually discovered the foundation online and found a network of women and men to talk to and get support from.

“I feel more connected … I feel like we’re not alone,” she said. “I feel like there’s a movement happening and there could be change in the future. I already see there’s more awareness and support … not just for women, but men, who are just as deeply affected by it also. There’s the stress of coming home without a baby or of having to take care of a premature baby.”

Ray DiSanza, whose wife Jen was who was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome, said more mothers need to be aware of the deadly disease and its all-too-common symptoms. Photo by Kevin Redding

DiSanza’s husband, Ray, could vouch for that stress.

“It was the single most horrifying experience of my life,” he recalled. “I didn’t know all that much about preeclampsia before it happened … it was a good thing that Jen did, because if we had both been as ignorant of it as I was, we might not be here today.”

Dr. Terrence Hallahan, of Eurofins Clinical Diagnostics in Melville, spoke of a recently developed test screening for early onset preeclampsia at the lab, which is the only one offering the test at the moment.

“It’s something near and dear to our hearts,” Hallahan said. “We now have the ability to test pregnant women in the first trimester, and determine which are most likely to develop early onset preeclampsia. Not only can we detect this, we can now prevent it. People need to know.”

Shoreham-Wading River graduate Tyler Osik, Mount Sinai's Michael Donadio among other Suffolk players taken this week

Shoreham-Wading River's Brian Morrell was selected in the Major League Baseball draft by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 35th round. File photo by Bill Landon
Shoreham-Wading River’s Brian Morrell is a 6-foot, 1-inch right-handed pitcher who is committed to Notre Dame University. File photo by Bill Landon

It has been quite a month for Shoreham-Wading River senior Brian Morrell.

After the right-handed pitcher helped lead his team to a Suffolk County title to close out May, he performed in the Blue Chip Grand Slam Challenge, leading Suffolk County to that win, too. This week, he became the second player ever to receive the Yastrzemski Award twice in the distinction’s 50-year history. The honor is awarded to the top player in Suffolk County, which Morrell also became just the fourth junior to receive.

To top it off, now he’s also a Major League Baseball draftee.

The small-town star was taken by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 35th round, with the 1,043rd pick, just after 5 p.m. June 14.

Morrell batted .500 with seven home runs and 39 RBIs this season, and had a 10-1 pitching record with 93 strikeouts in 67 1/3 innings. The senior set numerous school records, including hits in a season (44), career home runs (27) and career wins (29). Morrell threw six no-hitters in his varsity career, including three this season.

An hour after Morrell went, 2014 Shoreham-Wading River graduate Tyler Osik was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 40th and final round. Tyler’s father Keith played seven seasons for the Pirates from 1996 through 2002. Tyler Osik played infielder and catcher, most recently for Chipola College in Florida.

Shoreham-Wading River graduate Tyler Osik, who was recently playing for Chipola College in Florida, was selected by Pittsburgh Pirates in the 40th and final round of the Major League Baseball draft. File photo by Bill Landon

This is the second time that two Shoreham-Wading River graduates have been selected in the same draft. The first time, coincidentally, was in 1990 when Osik’s father was drafted to the Pirates and Julio Vega to the San Francisco Giants.

Along with the Phillies, other teams that scouted Morrell closest included the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets.

The 6-foot, 1-inch pitcher is committed to attend the University of Notre Dame, and was hoping to hear his name called in earlier rounds, according to Shoreham-Wading River’s head coach Kevin Willi, but with the way the draft is set up with signing bonuses, especially in regards to college commits with big scholarships, it can be unpredictable when a player will be picked.

Players drafted have until July 15 to sign a contact. If Morrell opts not to sign and attend school instead, he will be eligible to be drafted again in three years.

Ward Melville’s Ben Brown was taken by Philadelphia Phillies in the 33rd round of the Major League Baseball draft. File photo by Bill Landon

It’s also the second straight year a Shoreham player was drafted. Mike O’Reilly, a 2012 graduate and former Yastrzemski winner, was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals and is currently pitching for the Peoria Chiefs in Class A. The Phillies also drafted Hauppauge’s Nick Fanti, another Yastrzemski award winner, in 2015.

Ben Brown of Ward Melville was also selected by the Phillies Wednesday. The 6-foot, 6-inch right-handed pitcher was taken in the 33rd round.

Other Suffolk County players to be taken in this year’s draft include Mount Sinai’s Michael Donadio, a senior outfielder at St. John’s University, who was selected by the Miami Marlins in the 30th round, and Commack’s Jesse Berardi, a St. John’s junior, was picked by the Cleveland Indians in the 10th round with the 312th overall pick.

St. John’s appeared in the NCAA regional this year. Donadio posted a .374/.473/.547 with 24 extra-base hits, including four home runs, and 38 RBIs starting in all 55 games this season. Berardi posted a .356/.456/.462 slash line and earned first-team All Big East Conference honors. Three years ago, the 5-foot, 10-inch, 185-pound shortstop was taken out of high school in the 40the round by the Phillies.

Class C finals victory is Mustangs' fourth in last five years

Rayna Sabella and Leah Nonnenmann celebrate the Mount Sinai girls lacrosse team's third straight Class C state championship win. Photo by Lisa Nonnenmann

By Desirée Keegan

Head coach Al Bertolone is known for telling his team that all it needs is “five seconds of focus.”

These crucial moments of clarity are needed when his Mount Sinai girls’ lacrosse team is fighting for possession during the draw, but this weekend, his team had a lot more to offer than just five seconds. The Mustangs dominated their semifinal and state final opponents to end the weekend taking home the program’s third straight Class C state title.

During a 16-1 rout of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake in the semifinals, senior Rayna Sabella controlled the circle, winning 17 of 19 draws and scoring three goals off of her possession wins June 9 at SUNY Cortland.

Rayna Sabella maintains possession off the draw. Photo by Lisa Nonnenmann

“It’s all mental game — if you have the attitude from the very beginning that you are going to dominate every aspect of the field, and you try your absolute hardest, there’s no doubt you will be unstoppable,” Sabella said. “I just had to keep telling myself that this draw was mine, and that there was nothing stopping me. I knew it was a big part of the game and it was going to be one of the determining factors of the outcome.”

She was also quick to share credit for the title with her teammates.

“Winning the draws was something Emma [Tyrrell], Jenny [Markey] and I knew we had to focus on the entire game,” Sabella added of her teammates, who were relentless on the edge of the circle, waiting to grab a ground ball. “We could not let our guard down.”

Her teammates noted the 5-foot, 3-inch midfielder’s talents speak louder than her small stature.

“In my opinion, Rayna is the best girl to pick for the draw,” senior Leah Nonnenmann said. “At any given moment she’s ready for anything. No matter how much taller the girl is than her, she always comes up with the ball.”

Junior Meaghan Tyrrell, Emma’s older sister, had four goals and two assists, and senior Veronica Venezia and junior Camryn Harloff each chipped in two goals for Mount Sinai, which had a 23-10 shot advantage.

Meaghan Tyrrell evades defenders as she makes her way to the cage. Photo by Lisa Nonnenmann

The Mustangs opened on an 8-0 run before Sydney Plemenik scored the lone goal for Burnt Hills (12-8). Three goals from Tyrrell in the second half punctuated another 8-0 run for the final result.

Meaghan Tyrrell followed up her showing with five goals and three assists during the Mustangs’ 15-4 win over Honeoye Falls-Lima in the state championship victory June 10. Each of the team’s eight seniors also made contributions while turning in a 10-1 run to blow open the game.

Generally a defense-first team, Mount Sinai (18-2), which outscored its foes 31-5 over the two days upstate, benefitted from an offense that was both relentless and efficient. The Mustangs scored 15 times on 18 shots on goal, showcasing their shooters’ accuracy.

“We play our best offense when we work together and settle into a set offense — moving the ball quick and looking for the perfect shot,” Tyrrell said. “I think this weekend we were able to do all those things successfully to help us score.”

She was also quick to put the focus back on her teammates despite her own performance.

Leah Nonnenmann moves the ball across the field. Photo by Lisa Nonnenmann

“It’s great to know that the team has faith in me to get them the ball so they can pass or shoot, but they move so well cutting and setting up screens, so they really make it easier for me,” she said. “Being on the field is great because you know you’re doing your part whether it be finishing, passing or winning draws. It feels so great to know I helped my team win another state championship.”

The title is not only the third straight for the Mustangs, but the fourth in the last five years.

“We let no one in our heads, we just played our own game and stay locked in the whole time,” said Nonnenmann, who finished the weekend with three goals and two assists, two goals coming in the finals. “We stay calm, we let everyone get settled, and when we feel we’re ready to attack, we go.”

The Mustangs can also strike quickly though, as Nonnenmann intercepted a goalkeeper’s pass and sent a shot sailing into the netting, and Sabella, who notched three goals and two assists over Honeoye Falls-Lima, scored a quick goal after coming down the alley on a draw win to put the Mustangs up 12-3.

For a Mount Sinai program that previously felt overlooked, it’s safe to say other teams can no longer look past a budding dynasty.

“There’s no better feeling than proving people wrong,” Nonnenmann said. “Since 2015 people thought Mount Sinai was going to fall off the map. Every year we’re the underdogs, but always coming up with the win. I’ve never seen a team more steely-eyed than us. We all play our hardest until the very last whistle, and we’re determined to do great things. I hope next year people don’t give Mount Sinai the short end of the stick, because we mean business when we step out onto the field.”

Sabella also looked to the future shortly after securing the state crown.

“The Mount Sinai legacy is not over yet,” she said. “And it won’t be any time soon.”

Mount Sinai’s girls lacrosse team’s 15-4 win over Honeoye Falls-Lima in a state championship-victory June 10 helped the Mustangs bring home the program’s fourth state title in the last five years. Photo by Lisa Nonnenmann

The current proposed site plan for millennial housing in Mount Sinai features 140 rental units, commercial stores and other amenities. Image from Basser Kaufman

A long-vacant property next to King Kullen in Mount Sinai could be a go-to living destination for young professionals and college graduates in the near future.

According to a real estate investors group’s preliminary proposal made during the recent Mount Sinai Civic Association meeting, they want to give millennials a suburban place to stay and a sense of community.

“A lot of our young people leave Long Island because they can’t afford to stay here,” said Michael Russo, an architect working with the Nassau-based group Basser-Kaufman, to residents at the Heritage Center June 5. “Mount Sinai is a desirable place to live [and] we’ve put a lot of thought into making it work for millennials.”

Architect Michael Russo talks to residents about building millennial housing in Mount Sinai. Photo by Kevin Redding

An expansive, 140-rental unit community is envisioned in the early stages of the concept, gearing toward those in their mid to late 20s, to occupy the rear portion on the nearly 35 acres of unused land along Nesconset Highway.

The proposed site would include potential retail developments such as Trader Joe’s, other commercial buildings, an open green space for public use, a community center with fitness and yoga rooms for residents and several amenities to attract a younger demographic, such as bicycle racks, dog-walk areas and electric car-charging stations. Valet trash services would also be available to eliminate large, noisy trucks.

Rental prices for one-bedroom and two-bedroom units would range between $1,900 and $2,200 a month, according to the group’s legal representative — priced lower than many competitive apartments in the area, such as the New Village apartments in Patchogue, to make it manageable for young people to live in the region.

“Having this for younger people in your district is an advantage,” said Steven Losquadro, a lawyer speaking on behalf of Basser-Kaufman. “It’s a bridge to home ownership, which is ideally what you would want. You don’t want them going out of state, you want to have them here where they grew up.”

The executive board of the civic association, including President Ann Becker and Vice President Brad Arrington, had met previously with the developers to discuss the draft proposal and ensure its concept fit the vision of the community.

“Without risking discrimination, how will you restrict it to millennials?” asked Mount Sinai resident and board of education member Edward Law.

Local residents gathered at the Heritage Center at Heritage Park to listen to a proposal for millenial housing in Mount Sinai. Photo by Kevin Redding

While the speakers said they couldn’t legally limit occupancy to just young people, their intention is to specifically market it to that age group through advertising locations and methods.

“What’s the projected time line?” was another question that was asked.

Russo said the construction would take 18 months to two years, but added it could take years to get the project approved.

Mount Sinai resident Peter Pranzo voiced his concern about the already increasing number of students in the district, he said, as a result of young parents in the housing development. He said he’s afraid of the financial pressure it could put on schools to pay additional costs for more new students.

“I’m against it,” he said of the proposal. “There’s no way we can sustain 60, 70 or 100 more children in our area.”

Arrington argued the opposite.

“Class sizes are shrinking quite a bit,” he said. “A lot of our enrollment is actually down in younger grades. These aren’t going to be terribly large apartments, so by the time that child enrolls in school it’s pretty likely the parents are going to move out and buy a house.”

Losquadro agreed, insisting the development would be geared toward young professionals and there wouldn’t be a substantial influx of children.

When a resident suggested the possibility of those behind the proposal abandoning it in favor of solely retail space, Becker spoke up.

Millennial housing proposed in Mount Sinai would replace a current wooded lot. Photo by Kevin Redding

“These gentlemen were very open with us and we were open with them,” Becker told the crowd at the end of the meeting. “We don’t want a lot of things — big box stores or gas stations — and they’re trying, and working with the town. They’re completely transparent. This is the first presentation to the community, no plans have been submitted and nothing has gone through any process of change. This is just step one. We’re very interested in hearing your response.”

For more than a decade, the town has worked alongside many developers with plans to build within the empty lot — everything from commercial buildings to retirement communities to community-oriented gathering spaces and clock towers — all of which fizzled out due to inflated visions or conflicting desires of residents.

In the last few months, Steven Kaufman and Marc Kemp of the investors group took control of the project, determined to give the community what they felt it wanted, and ask for input before anything is approved or built.

“Right now, I think I’m for it,” Mount Sinai resident Monica Stone said after the meeting. “I think we need to be open to ideas like this … We don’t want it to become an industrial business area, and it sounds to me like what the developers are proposing is a good balance.”

Mustangs threepeat as Class C crown-holders win 10-4 win over Wantagh

With a defensive unit like Mount Sinai’s, the girls’ lacrosse team knows it only needs a small cushion to rest easy. The Mustangs’ Class C Long Island championship game was a textbook example, as Hannah Van Middelem’s five stops sparked a potent offensive rush — led by Meaghan Tyrrell’s four goals and two assists — on the way to the team’s third straight Long Island crown. The feat was achieved with a 10-4 win over Wantagh June 4 at Adelphi University.

“I felt good because I know I have one of the best defenses in the country in front of me,” Van Middelem said. “And our offense really stepped up to help.”

The Mustangs’ defenders and offensive players see it a little differently.

Hannah Van Middelem makes a save. Photo by Lisa Nonnenmann

“She’s a great goalie,” sophomore Morgan Mitchell said of Van Middelem. “She picks us up. When she makes those big saves and gives us another chance with the ball, we get pumped.”

The senior goalkeeper’s first save of the game following an opening draw win by Wantagh led to Tyrell’s first goal, and the junior attack put Mount Sinai ahead 2-1 minutes later. Senior Veronica Venezia tied the game, 3-3, off a feed from Mitchell. Van Middelem made another save before Mitchell and Venezia — who finished with three goals — scored on assists from Tyrrell in the final two minutes of the first half, for a 6-3 Mustangs lead.

At the 23:05 mark of the second half, Van Middelem intercepted a Wantagh pass across the front of the cage, and deflected a shot with 10:10 left to play during a six-minute span of Warriors possession, until they lost the ball after an attacker stepped in the crease.

“Hannah is always there to make a stop,” senior defender Emily Vengilio said. “She’s the best. When we have a breakdown on defense, I wouldn’t want anyone else in goal.”

Tyrrell, who led the team with 57 goals and 35 assists during the 2017 season, good for sixth on Suffolk County’s points leaderboard, added two more unassisted shots as she circled around the left side of the goal to put Mount Sinai up 8-3.

“You’re trying to shake off the defenders and get open for your teammates,” the junior said. “It’s kind of cool.”

Meaghan Tyrrell moves the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Draw wins and ground ball pickups by senior Rayna Sabella and Tyrrell’s younger sister Emma also helped the team jump out to its lead midway through the second half.

“Once we got the ground balls it led to great offensive opportunities,” Meaghan Tyrrell said. “Whenever a goalie makes a big save in a big moment it’s an intensity increaser. Our defense played confidently, and it showed on the field.”

Mount Sinai head coach Al Bertolone noted the difficulty in achieving the back-to-back-to-back championships.

“I’m really proud of the kids — they dug in there and the culture here is built to last,” he said. “This is the group that’s been in the mix since 2014, so we’ve had a lot of these kids around creating and sustaining the culture.”

Bertolone said the key to the win was limiting the touches of Wantagh’s dynamic offense — highlighted by a quartet of scorers.

“We needed to get in and out of a lot of defenses depending on which one had the ball,” he said. “Defensively, I don’t know if Wantagh matched up with the things we were doing down there. Once we get the lead, with the defense that we have, we’re pretty good.”

Leah Nonnenmann races between Wantagh defenders. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Mitchell was also impressed with the defense, led by Vengilio, senior Haley Dillon and twin sisters Meaghan and Kirsten Scutaro, which has held opponents to 3.7 goals per game this season, including two shutouts in April.

“Our cuts, picks and screens were the best they’ve been all season,” Mitchell said. “This senior group, they mean the world to me, and I wanted their last year to be a special one.”

Leah Nonnenmann, who added two goals in the win, said she remembers losing in the county final game her freshman year, and the motivation she had to come back and change the result the following year.

“All I could think about was coming back next season and winning it all,” she said. “It wasn’t an easy ride — we had to work hard — and we continue to prove everyone wrong. We fought for the respect we deserve.”

That longtime mission was accomplished, according to Vengilio.

“It feels better than all the other ones,” she said of the win this season.

Tyrrell agreed: “Three LICs in a row — how much better can it get?”

The Mount Sinai girls’ lacrosse team outscored Wantagh, 10-4, for the Mustangs’ straight Long Island championship win. Photo by Desirée Keegan

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