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Patriots

Senior duo of Allyson Gaedje, Sam Rrutt one-two in 800-meter run; 4x800 relay places third

Kiera Hughes flies over the hurdles. File photo by Bill Landon

By Desirée Keegan

Kiera Hughes couldn’t contain her excitement as she rushed off the track toward her family and friends. It was a moment she’d worked day and night for — ensuring she could race just one more time.

The Ward Melville senior crossed the 100-meter hurdle finish line in 14.76 seconds for first place at the Suffolk County track and field individual championship/state qualifier June 2 and 3 at Comsewogue High School.

Kiera Hughes shows off her new hardware alongside head coach J.P. Dion following her state-qualifying win. Photo from Kiera Hughes

“Really, I took it even slower than that,” Hughes said. “I just wanted to live another day past the preliminary round. I wanted to do as best I could to make sure that I’d qualify to race in the finals.”

She got that and so much more.

“Running — it was so much fun,” Hughes said. “I felt so fast going over the hurdles, I felt so powerful. I was so determined because I really, really wanted to win. And to cross that finish line and see my name at the top of the leaderboard I was ecstatic. I was beyond happy.”

Head coach J.P. Dion and her teammates were cheering her on as she flew down the track. They were on the sideline to congratulate her with hugs and praise following her finish.

“Kiera Hughes has amazed me all year long,” Dion said. “When the pressure is on her she seems to rise to the top — just an amazing competitor.”

Some of the hurdler’s teammates will be taking the trip with her to the state championship at Cicero-North Syracuse High School June 8 and 9.

Seniors Allyson Gaedje (2:14.82) and Sam Rutt (2:14.93) pulled off a one-two finish in the 800 run and were a part of the 4×800 relay team that finished third.

“We planned on trying to run the race together,” said Rutt, who also came in second (4:38.02) in the 1,500 just a few seconds behind Shoreham-Wading River phenom Katherine Lee. “We do most of our workouts together, so it was relaxing to be by each other’s side in such a big race like that.”

Gaedje didn’t have the state standard in the 800, or time needed during the regular season at a sanctioned qualifying meet, to compete at states, so she needed a higher placement. Because Rutt already did, having to finish in at least second, so she eased off.

Allyson Gaedje races down the track. File photo by Bill Landon

“When you’re running with your teammate, there’s a little extra motivation to push yourself,” Gaedje said. “We’re all more focused this year, and it’s shown making our times — we’ve seen we can and have run some strong times, so we’re confident. We’re running faster than ever.”

Senior Sam Sturgess and sophomore Elizabeth Radke rounded out the relay quartet that crossed the finish line in 9:35.88. The same girls have been competing together the last couple years, placing third in the state this past indoor season and at New Balance Outdoor Nationals last June.

Dion said he’s continuously tried to get his student-athletes to believe in the process, and more importantly, in themselves. Over the years, as Gaedje pointed out, it’s led to results.

“These kids competing this weekend have been the heartbeat of Ward Melville girls track over the past four years,” he said. “This has been a very special group for us.”

And a group of seniors that, although close to graduating, are still anxious to get back on the track.

“I’m hoping that I’ll be able to race as fast as I can, and I’m hoping for a new personal record and to stay up there with all of the other girls that are competing,” Hughes said. “I’m a pretty determined person — I always was to improve myself and push myself. I’m looking to be a role model for the younger girls and race another day.”

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Matt Grillo scores twice, Dylan Pallonetti and Liam Davenport add a goal and an assist each in Patriots' 19th Long Island championship title win

By Bill Landon

The competition to become Class A’s Long Island champion came down to a battle for the ground balls, and as Ward Melville’s defense scooped them up, with it, came the title.

Long-stick midfielder Ethan Larson grabbed five ground balls and long-stick midfielder Pat O’Neill had three in the Patriots’ 8-5 win against Massapequa at Hofstra University June 2. Defenseman Alex Mazzone took hold of two grounders and caused two turnovers. All were crucial given Massapequa (17-2) won 11 of 17 faceoffs.

Being up by just a single goal to start the second half isn’t something the Patriots are used to, minus their one-goal loss to Half Hollows Hills East April 18. Senior Matt Grillo (two goals) said he thought the team was on edge given the unfamiliarity with being in a tight game after halftime, but said one of O’Neill’s possessions gave Ward Melville the spark it needed to ignite a string of scores.

O’Neill grabbed a ground-ball win on the opening faceoff 11 seconds into the second half, darted in on Massapequa goalie Mike Venezia, who shined with 14 saves, made a stick fake and scored. The junior’s goal gave Ward Melville a 3-1 lead.

“That really gave us the energy [we needed], fired us up,” Grillo said.  “We were tired, and the sun was getting the best of us, but we hydrated, we stretched, we just got our legs loose and we came out hot. We just didn’t turn back from there.”

Liam Davenport beat Venezia with a bouncer off a feed from Dylan Pallonetti to give Ward Melville a 4-1 lead with 10:33 left in the third, but Venezia robbed Pallonetti and Grillo from close range that quarter and made a stunner of a save on Grillo early in the fourth to keep the game close.

Ward Melville head coach Jay Negus tipped his hat to Venezia, who held the Patriots to 8-for-40 on shooting.

Ryan Pallonetti, Dylan’s older brother, scored to bring the game to 7-4 with 7:14 left, but again Massapequa had an answer. Venezia initially made the stop on Dylan Pallonetti’s shot, but when he spun his stick to try to trigger a fast break, he inadvertently flicked the ball back into the box.

“To be quite honest we were real sloppy in the first half on both ends,” Negus said. “We were missing some ground balls on the defensive end, but in the second half we made the adjustment. They really attacked the ground balls — I thought our poles did an excellent job then keeping their heads up and working to move in transition. Even the short-stick guys did a great job at picking up the ground balls — they were running all over and on a hot day like this, you can wear another team out. We like to play fast.”

Ward Melville will face Section II’s Niskayuna at Adelphi University in the state semifinals Wednesday, June 6 at 6:30 p.m.

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By Bill Landon

Ward Melville’s boys lacrosse team swallowed a bitter pill April 18 when the Patriots suffered their only loss of the season, 7-6, loss to Half Hollow Hills East. The No. 1-seeded Patriots had their chance to avenge that loss going up against the No. 3 Thunderbirds in the Class A county championship Wednesday, and did so in convincing fashion.

Behind junior Dylan Pallonetti’s five goals, Ward Melville won 14-5 at Islip High School May 30.

“We remembered that feeling when we lost to them — we weren’t going to let that happen again,” Pallonetti said. “We came out with some fire, put some goals in and never really let them take the game away. For now, we’ll practice hard, study Massapequa and keep the train rolling.”

Ward Melville (18-1) will face Massapequa (17-1) in the Long Island championship at 12:30 p.m. June 2 at Hofstra University.

Pallonetti said finding out that Ward Melville moved up to No. 1 in the nation, according to Inside Lacrosse, gave the Patriots a little extra juice.

It gave him some extra motivation, too, scoring a hat trick in the first half to turn a 5-4 first quarter advantage into a 7-4 halftime lead.

Half Hollow Hills East’s Mike Gomez found the back of the cage early in the third to close within two, but it was as close as the Thunderbirds would come the rest of the way. Ward Melville goalkeeper Collin Krieg (5 saves) said even with a nine-goal lead you can never get too comfortable in the game of lacrosse.

“Obviously we came out with more intensity today thinking we [shouldn’t have lost to them] in the first place,” Krieg said. “Yeah, we were ahead by nine, but to be honest you never know — that team can easily put up a bunch of points. I never like to count my chickens before they hatch.”

Having a potent Patriots offense on the other side of the field though didn’t hurt.

Eight different Ward Melville players scored, five finding the cage over a 4:30 span in the first quarter alone for a 5-1 lead before Half Hollow Hills East responded with three straight. Senior Matt Grillo added three on the day and seniors Zach Hobbes and Michael Giaquinto tacked on a goal and an assist apiece.

Ward Melville, which has now outscored opponents 204-75 this season, bring home the school’s third straight county crown and 26th overall in 40 appearances in the title game.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game — they played us hard the first time — but tonight we wanted revenge,” Grillo said. “It’s always nice to get another win, add some more hardware to the Ward Melville legacy.”

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By Bill Landon

A strong dose of Dylan Pallonetti is just what the doctor ordered.

With his No. 1-seeed Ward Melville boys lacrosse team down 2-0 in the first quarter, the junior scored three straight for a lead his Patriots would not let go of, and capped off the game with another three to seal the deal in a 14-8 Class A semifinal win over No. 5 Connetquot May 24.

Pallonetti ended with a game-high nine goals and one assist on the evening at Islip High School.

“We came out a little slow, but we started moving the ball well in the second half when we figured out their zone,” Pallonetti said. “And we scored some goals.”

He said his team will take the momentum built in this game and transfer it on to the next. Ward Melville faces No. 3 Half Hollow Hills East at Islip High School in the Class A title game May 30 at 7 p.m.

“We’ll have a couple days of practice,” Pallonetti said. “We’ll practice hard, go hard and just keep going.”

Ward Melville head coach Jay Negus said the team didn’t change its game plan when facing the Thunderbirds and will treat Wednesday’s game against the Colts the same way.

“We were a little impatient at first, but we came back to our game plan,” Negus said, noting playmakers on the field, especially on the defensive end, that made some of Pallonetti’s goals possible. “Ethan Larson, Frank Ciniglio, Alex Mazzone and Collin Krieg played well and Patty O’Neill made some unbelievable takeaways that sparked some transition goals.”

Seniors Matt Grillo (two goal, two assists), Zach Hobbes (two goals) and Lucas Flynn (one goal) also found the back of cage for Ward Melville. Senior Ryan Pallonetti, Dylan’s older brother, added an assist.

Ward Melville (16-1 overall, 13-1 in Division I) will look to avenge its only loss of the season. The Patriots fell to Hills East, 7-6, even after scoring three straight goals with 55 seconds left to close what was a 7-3 gap. Ward Melville is vying for its third straight county crown.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us against Hills East,” Negus said. “So we’re going to dig in the next couple of days and be prepared.”

This version has been updated to correct the amount of goals that Pallonetti scored.

Playoff game suspended due to inclement weather with No. 2 West Islip ahead 4-1

Third baseman Matty Maurer hurls the ball to first base. Photo by Desirée Keegan

A stroke of lightning might be what Ward Melville’s baseball team needed to turn things around.

First baseman Ryan Hynes reaches for a high throw in time to get the out. Photo by Desirée Keegan

With rain, thunder and lightning delaying the No. 7 Patriots’ second-round playoff game against host No. 2 West Islip May 15, it also ends the Lions’ one-run-per-inning scoring streak, with the two teams resuming
play May 16 at 4 p.m., barring no additional weather setbacks. West Islip held a 4-1 lead when play was suspended.

“We played uncharacteristically poorly on defense,” Ward Melville head coach Lou Petrucci said. “And it cost us.”

Ward Melville started the bottom of the inning off strong, with junior Max Nielsen smacking an RBI-single to shallow right center field on a 3-2 count to score senior Brady Doran from second.

“I knew either it was going to be a ball by a long shot or he was going to give me an easy pitch to just flick into the outfield, and he gave me just that,” Nielsen said discussing his discipline at the plate. “My approach was to simply put the ball in a hole somewhere. When I saw Brady [Doran] score I knew that it was going to be a good game.”

Petrucci said he expects that from one of his star starting pitchers and designated hitter.

“He’s been doing that all year,” the coach said. “Max had a big hit right there, and we need more of that from other guys, too. Baseball’s not a one-man show. Max did his job, but we have to come back the next inning and shut them down, and we didn’t do it.”

Max Nielsen races to first base. Photo by Desirée Keegan

West Islip answered with a ground-rule double, a bunt and a sacrifice fly to tie the score, 1-1. A grounder to third ended the inning, but Ward Melville came up empty over the next three innings while West Islip scored once in each. The Patriots also couldn’t cash in despite loading the bases in the top of the third with two outs.

“We came up empty a few times with runners in scoring position, but it’s hard adjusting and sitting back against a pitcher who is throwing low-to-mid 70s,” Nielsen said. “On the defensive side of things, we had a few hops and plays that didn’t go our way, so that’s baseball for ya. We knew that West Islip was going to be a tough team to beat, but we know that we can beat them. We wanted to get ahead early and really get into their bullpen.”

Ward Melville will dive into its bullpen, with the pitch count rules leaving both starters ineligible to return to the mound for the remainder of the suspended game. Matt DiGennaro will come out of the bullpen to replace Ethan Farino for the Patriots.

“I don’t know who they’re going to use, but I can’t worry about them, I have to worry about Ward Melville,” Petrucci said. “We’ve had the right hitters up, but we couldn’t get the big hits. Hopefully with a day change we’ll get these opportunities again and try to put some good swings on the ball. We have to see if we can fight back.”

Second baseman Logan Doran tosses the ball to first base.

Nielsen said the team has been in tough hitting situations before, and Petrucci added players have struggled all year with two-out production, and that was the case through most of the day. The head coach said he told his boys following the postponement that the plays West Islip made gave them a 4-1 lead, and the plays the Patriots didn’t make helped Ward Melville to a 4-1 deficit.

“Offensively we’ve struggled all year with two-out hitting — now it’s a playoff game and we’re doing it again,” Petrucci said. “Hopefully we can make up for it over the next three innings. The season’s not over — we’ve had a great one, the kids have played hard all year, we just have to continue to play hard for the next nine outs and see where the chips fall.”

Results from the second part of the suspended game were not available at press time May 16.

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By Bill Landon

Ward Melville’s Dennis Chen does it all for Ward Melville.

The sophomore solidified first-place finishes in the high jump and 110-meter hurdles, nabbing personal bests with each victory in the boys track and field team’s 74-44 home loss to Patchogue-Medford May 7.

Needing to clear 5-4 for the top spot, Chen said he drew energy from his competition to pull out his 5-6 leap.

“We push each other,” he said.

He clocked in at 15.9 seconds in the hurdles and won his heat in the 200 dash, it being the first time he competed at that distance this season.

The day of firsts continued when senior Danny Ryan crossed the 400 hurdles finish line in 59 seconds, which according to head coach Ryan DeLuca is two seconds shy of the school record. Junior Ryan Abbatiello came in first in the triple jump with a lead of 39-9.5, a personal best by almost a foot, DeLuca said. Although sidelined for the meet, middle distance runner Eric Zulkofske also pulled out a personal best at the St. Anthony’s Invitational over the weekend. He tweaked his quad in the last 70 meters of the 1,600 to finish third, but his 4:16.24 finish bested his previous record by two seconds. The senior made it to the state championship during the indoor season and qualified for the states in cross country in the fall.

“He tweaked his quad muscle while he was making a move to run down the leader,” DeLuca said. “I believe he would’ve [clocked] a 4:13, but it was visible in the video that he pulled up because of the injury.”

Taking his place in the 1,600 against Pat-Med, sophomore Ethan Winter’s 4:58 and junior James Moore’s 5:02 were both personal records.

Freshmen Minseob Kim and Jonah Komosinski both notched personal records in the 800 meters, with 2:14 and 2:15 times, respectively. Classmate Anthony Petrillo came in under five minutes in the mile. His 4:57.6 is a new personal best.

“He’s a young guy who’s been running some great races,” DeLuca said. “That’s a big step forward for him.”

The loss dropped the Patriots to 1-4 in League I this season. Ward Melville will travel to Sachem East May 9 for a 4:30 p.m. meet. The Freshman/Sophomore Championships are May 15, division championships will be held May 22-24 and the state qualifier will take place June 1-2.

“We have a lot of young talent, and a lot of kids driven to better themselves every day,” DeLuca said. “This team is a pleasure to coach and I am really looking forward to the upcoming championship season.”

Malachy McAvoy adds four goals and two assists, Michael Giaquinto goes 20-for-20 on faceoffs

A Northport defender gets trips trying to keep up with Matt Grillo as he races around the goal. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Each player brings something to the table for Ward Melville, be it Michael Giaquinto’s crafty faceoff wins, Dylan Pallonetti’s swift assists or Ethan Larson’s physical defense. Matt Grillo brought the scoring for the Patriots Tuesday, using his speed and athleticism to put away six goals in the first half of Ward Melville’s 19-5 home win against Northport.

Dylan Pallonetti fires at the cage and scores. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The senior was quick to share the credit.

“Our offense played great today,” said Grillo, as 10 different players got on the scoreboard. “Everyone was moving together, which opened up lanes for me and I was able to capitalize.”

But a performance like he had is something the attack has been working hard for. After senior Malachy McAvoy (four goals, two assists) got things going with back-to-back scores, Grillo put away three straight goals in just 1:37 of game time.

The first came off a flick from Pallonetti. Grillo grabbed the ball for mere milliseconds before rocketing the ball into the netting from 10 yards out. His third goal came when he was caught off guard by a shifting defender, found a diagonal lane toward the right side of the cage and fired over his shoulder and behind his back while he raced past it.

Michael Giaquinto dashes into Northport’s zone after winning a face-off. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I always try to have a quick, smooth transition from when I receive the ball to when I release it,” Grillo said. “It helps to make what I’m going to do less predictable. I always love to shoot from all different angles and areas of the field. It makes me more dangerous as an offensive player, and I’ve practiced these different shots many times over the years in order to be able to execute them during a game.”

Head coach Jay Negus said his captain’s capabilities don’t surprise him.

“I expect that from him,” Negus said. “He practices hard and spends a lot of time with his stick.”

Pallonetti (two goals, four assists), who helped on McAvoy’s hat trick goal that put Ward Melville (10-1) up 8-0 to end the first quarter, scored what would end up being the game-winning goal at the 3:32 mark of the first quarter.

“We have built a very strong connection,” Grillo said of working with his junior teammate. “We are always looking for each other — helping each other get good looks. Today he did a very good job of keeping his eyes up and moving in, once he drew the slide, which really helped our offense out.”

Liam Davenport maintains possession as he crosses midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Giaquinto was 20-for-20 on faceoffs, winning possessions early that grew to be crucial when the Patriots’ bench players stepped in to compete in the second half, up 15-0.

“I’ve been real impressed the last three games with how they’ve come out firing right away, been consistent, and that’s something we’ve been preaching to them constantly,” Negus said. “It took us a little while, and it took a loss [7-6 at Half Hollow Hills East April 18] to be a good learning lesson. I was really happy with how we got to the ground balls, the unselfish play and how we were locking it down defensively. Collin [Krieg, seven saves] was great in goal as well as the poles around him. All the guys are putting in hard work and it shows on different days, which is a good thing, but we’ve got to keep pushing to get better because we’re not satisfied with where we’re at right now. We just have to keep getting better every day.”

Ward Melville hosts Sachem North May 4 at 4:15 p.m. before traveling to Smithtown East May 8 at 4:30 p.m. The Patriots wrap up the regular season with a May 10 contest at Riverhead at 4:15 p.m.

Tigers take 9-6 win over Ward Melville's, which was the 400th of head coach Carol Rose's career

The Northport girls lacrosse team’s motto this season is “earned, not given,” and the Tigers proved Tuesday that they’re heeding the message.

In a battle of undefeated teams, Northport worked for each possession, goal and turnover to take a 9-6 win over host Ward Melville April 24.

“It’s the best feeling knowing we came out strong and were able to finish against a really great team,” said junior midfielder Olivia Carner, who scored a game-high four times and added an assist. Her final goal served as insurance, finding an empty net with 33 seconds left. “I was nervous, but I knew we had to be confident and work together.”

“I’m just so happy that they kept up the intensity throughout the entire game. They’re fighters, and they kept their composure.”

— Carol Rose

Northport junior goalkeeper Claire Morris made a stop with 7:18 remaining, and senior midfielder Nicole Orella scored the go-ahead goal off that possession for a 7-6 advantage in a game that saw five ties.

“We wanted to take care of the ball, make good decisions, and they were able to do that,” said Northport head coach Carol Rose. “They played as a team — they needed everybody.”

Rose said she was most impressed with senior attack Katherine Meyer, who scored twice. Her second goal, off a Danielle Pavinelli assist, gave Northport an 8-6 cushion with 2:03 left in the game.

“That’s the most she’s scored in a game, so she stepped up big for us,” the coach said. “Everybody contributed in some way. The defense was relentless, they caused a lot of turnovers. The goalie played really well. I’m just so happy that they kept up the intensity throughout the entire game. They’re fighters, and they kept their composure.”

After the teams traded scores until the game was 4-all, senior midfielder Emerson Cabrera popped outside the zone and made an arc around to the front of the cage where she scored from the left side to give Northport its first two-goal lead, 6-4, with 20 minutes left in the second half. Once again Ward Melville raced back into contention, with seniors Kate Mulham and Shannon Brazier scoring on free position and diving shots, respectively, to make it a new game.

“Kate Mulham is a really fast girl and we all knew we needed to be on our toes with her,” said Northport junior defender Isabella Hubbard. “We paid attention to her a lot throughout the game. There was a lot of pressure on [the defense], but we knew what we had to do and how to get it done.”

“It was a midseason battle, a test, and I told [my girls] to remember this feeling, because I can guarantee we’ll be seeing [Northport] again somewhere down the road.”

— Kerri Kilkenny

The senior, who scored three goals, said she uses the pressure placed on her from being the team’s leading scorers as motivation.

“I’m confident in the talent of my teammates and know that if I am shut down by a double team or a faceguard, my teammates around me will step up,” she said. “Every girl on the field deserves to be there, and I know that they will perform just as well in high-pressure situations. Northport is a big and fast team, and we knew they had some serious skill and speed in the midfield. Possession was crucial, and Northport’s players on the draw circle were tall and shifty. We knew the draw controls could determine the outcome of the game.”

Ward Melville head coach Kerri Kilkenny said she saw her team struggling to move the ball, and that losing draws early on put the Patriots in a hole.

“Northport was shooting the ball — they took at least double the amount of shots that we did,” she said. “They were more disciplined today than we were. They were absolutely the better team, but we hung in there. It was a midseason battle, a test, and I told them to remember this feeling, because I can guarantee we’ll be seeing them again somewhere down the road.”

The win was Rose’s 400th during her 29 years at the helm. She has averaged more than 14 wins per season at Northport.

“It’s kind of surreal — that’s a lot of lax games,” she said. “It’s an honor to have had the privilege to coach these wonderful, talented players in Northport throughout my tenure. It would not have been possible without the dedication and hard work that these kids put in throughout the years. They wanted this win bad, more than me, and they were really excited. They’re taking care of business and they’re on a mission.”

Northport (9-0 overall, 8-0 in Division I) plays host to Sachem North April 27 for a 4 p.m. matchup. Ward Melville (8-1, 7-1) will travel to Sachem East for a 4:30 p.m. game April 27.

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Starting pitcher slams a double, scores game-winning run to go with 11 Ks during his complete game

Starting southpaw Max Nielsen hurls a pitch. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Nothing is stopping Ward Melville’s starting pitcher Max Nielsen from winning a game.

Trading a ball for a bat, the lefty led off the bottom of the fourth with a double, knocking the ball into the outfield on a bad bounce, and two more hits eventually scored what would be the game-winning run in a 2-1 Patriots victory over Patchogue-Medford April 17.

Brady Doran gets under an infield popup. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Nielsen, who added 11 strikeouts from the mound during a complete game while allowing just three hits and one walk, said he knew he’d won the game once he crossed home plate.

“I knew that was going to be the run that’d win it for us,” the southpaw said. “Because I knew I wasn’t going to give up another run.”

The junior allowed hits in the first and second and hit a batter in the second before a Patchogue-Medford bunt loaded the bases. He struck out the following hitter but allowed the only run later in the same inning. He surrendered his only walk in the top of the fourth, but also struck out two to get back on track.

“I always try to give my team the best opportunity to win,” Nielsen said. “I wanted to get ahead with the fastball, because once I get ahead I can start going through my other pitches and making it harder on the hitters. I had a rough second inning, but my defense got me out of it.”

Logan Doran and Kyle Rafferty each went 2-for-3 with a stolen base. Doran scored the Patriots’ only other run, and his brother Brady Doran also went 2-for-3. While the brothers said Ward Melville was slow to start, the Patriots are now firing on all cylinders, feeling in their element.

Brady Doran, Kyle Rafferty and Alex Russo leap up in celebration after the win. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I wanted to attack the fastball, and he had a pretty good curveball,” junior second baseman Brady Doran said of Patchogue-Medford’s pitcher. “I’m comfortable, stay confident and try to attack the fastball and hit it hard. We gel; we’re a close team that really plays well together.”

Nielsen shared a similar sentiment, but said the funny feelings from the team’s uneven start are gone now.

“I can’t think of a weakness,” he said. “Our defense is great, I know all of the pitchers on staff are going to give us a great game and we hit.”

Head coach Lou Petrucci said he thought his southpaw controlled the game, and said he liked that he stayed under 100 pitches. Petrucci said the Raiders’ record didn’t fool him (2-7), because he knew he’d be facing a challenging opponent.

“Randall [Alejo] pitched a great game and we got away with a win today,” he said. “It’s a big rivalry game. We tried to have good at -bats, put good swings on the ball, we didn’t strike out much and the kids are showing great improvement. Our pitching staff is keeping the scores down, and now we’re working on getting the clutch hits, but we’re playing hard.”

The Patriots have now won five straight and are tied with Sachem East (7-2) at the No. 2 spot in League I behind Longwood (8-1). Ward Melville travels to Patchogue-Medford for Game 2 of the series. The first pitch is scheduled for 4:15 p.m.

By Bill Landon

The Patriots proved they have what it takes to go the distance.

After falling to Longwood 90-60 in the first League I matchup of the season, Ward Melville’s girls track and field team reversed the roles at an April 10 home meet against Middle Country, winning 90-60 with help from long-distance runners.

Junior Kate Cochran led the way in the 3,000-meter run with a winning time of 11 minutes, 39.5 seconds. She was pushed by Middle Country’s Kaitlynn Drennan from the moment the gun sounded, with Drennan finishing just six seconds behind her. Things were different in the 1,500, where it was a one, two finish for Ward Melville. Freshman Emma Rathburn crossed the line first at 5:18.1, and Shannon Ryan clocked in at 5:26.3. Drennan rounded out the top three with a 5:47.6 time.

“We studied the statistics — they’re a young team, they’re rebuilding, they have some very talented sprinters, but I knew that our strong events were going to be the distance events, the throws, along with some of the field events,” Ward Melville head coach J.P. Dion said. “From what they had in the winter and from last spring, I knew that this is where we could gain most of our points.”

Ward Melville senior Allyson Gaedje won at 800 in 2:36, a pace well off her personal best but enough to take the title.

Senior captain Kiera Hughes competed in the 100 hurdles, 100 dash, 4×100 relay and long jump. A returning All-County athlete in the spring and winter, she was ranked first in the winter 55 hurdles.

“I thought I did pretty well,” she said of her performances on the afternoon. “I’m happy, but my long jump was my strongest event, and it’s a good way to get back [into a rhythm].”

Hughes finished second in the long jump behind Ward Melville sophomore Allison D’Angio, who bested the field with a 15 feet 2.5 inches leap. Middle Country freshman Jada Hodge placed third covering 12-11.75.

“Kiera helps me out a lot by working with the younger athletes, helping them,” Dion said.

Ward Melville’s Samantha Sturgess, who also ran the 4×100 and 4×800 relays, won the 400 hurdles in 68 seconds. 

“I had a season-best, but it’s not my personal best,” the senior said. “I don’t have a problem getting over the hurdles, but I have to get faster in between.”

Middle Country head coach Charles Cuzzo said he was pleased with what he saw despite how young this year’s squad is.

“We were strongest in the sprints … the kids did very, very well,” he said, noting Maritza Blanchard, Dana Cerbone and Lexie Roth are players his opponents should watch out for. “It’s early in the season, but they keep on improving.”

Dion said he also saw several bright spots on the afternoon, especially with his jumpers.

D’Angio won the triple and the long jump and notched a personal best clearing 5 feet in the high jump, according to Dion.

The coach added Lauren Moore, a freshman,  increased her personal best in the triple jump by 4 feet. She notched another personal best with a 4-inch increase in the high jump, clearing 4-8.

“That’s huge,” said Dion.

The Patriots are back in action April 19 hosting William Floyd at 4:15 p.m. Middle Country is back on the track April 14 at the Coaches Meet at Bay Shore at 9:30 a.m.

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