Centereach Cougars varsity football team hosted Smithtown West Bulls Oct. 28. With the 33-14 win, the Cougars are now 5-3 in Division II.
Centereach Cougars varsity football team hosted Smithtown West Bulls Oct. 28. With the 33-14 win, the Cougars are now 5-3 in Division II.
By Desirée Keegan
Nick Grande was home for a few weeks during winter break, and while his mother joked he could get a job during his extended stay, the shortstop had a different idea.
“No, mom,” he said in response. “As soon as the new year starts that’s it, you won’t see me again. I’ll be at Stony Brook every day.”
The Stony Brook University sophomore was a standout for Smithtown West’s baseball team, helping the Bulls claim two league titles during the three years he was team captain. He was named second team All-State as a senior after posting a .529 batting average, which also earned him the Suffolk County Silver Slugger Award. He also captained the league title-winning basketball team in his senior season. But while there are always adjustments to be made making the jump from high school to Division I college ball, his freshman season didn’t go as smoothly as he’d hoped.
As a freshman at SBU, he played in 35 games, collecting multiple hits in seven of those contests. He notched his first collegiate hit and home run in the same game at Presbyterian College, and went 3-for-3 as the designated hitter in a win against Sacred Heart University. But he wanted to become more consistent, so he got up every morning during winter break at 8 a.m. to work on improving his game, and he did.
Grande batted .377 for the 32-25 Seawolves this past season. His 78 hits were the sixth most in a single season in Stony Brook history; his 32 stolen bases are the second most in a season only behind MLB-draftee Travis Jankowski’s 36 in 2012; he had 22 multi-hit games, including eight in a row; and reached base safely a team-best 22 straight games. Grande batted .418 in America East conference play and had five of his six home runs in conference.
“There’s a reason why people are talented,” said Nick Grande Sr., who was the head baseball coach and now principal at Island Trees High School. He recalled bringing his son to the field every day after school since he was 3 years old. “It’s all about the time they put into perfecting their craft … his desire, his determination. He hates to lose more than he loves to win, and that’s been since he was 3 years old.”
Although the elder Grande said his son has a fear of failure, he doesn’t show it. Grande Jr. said he’s picked up a philosophy of positivity along the way, from his time spent on the diamond at the age of 7 with his dad at the end of the day from his father’s Island Trees coaching job, to his new head coach Matt Senk, and everyone else he met along the way.
“You have to go into a game expecting to be successful — that’s the only way it’s going to work out of you, I think,” he said. “Even if you’re cold or having a tough day you have to step into the box knowing that you’re going to get a hit. I tried to have a positive mindset out there.”
“He hates to lose more than he loves to win, and that’s been since he was 3 years old.”
— Nick Grande Sr.
The starting shortstop earned back-to-back America East Player of the Week honors March 27 and April 3. He went 6-for-11 with a homer and three RBIs in a home series against the University of Massachusetts Lowell and went 6-for-6 with three doubles and a pair of RBIs in a win against Binghamton University. One of the nation’s top base stealers in 2018, he swiped three in a game twice. He went on to be named second-team ABCA/Rawlings Northeast All-Region, an America East spring scholar-athlete, a first-team Google Cloud Academic All-American and a first-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball.
“It was nice to be able to produce and contribute to help the team win games,” Grande said, adding it helped having role models like recent MLB draftees pitcher Aaron Pinto and infielder Bobby Honeyman and Coram outfielder Andruw Gazzola. “Being in a great lineup where top to bottom guys are having great at-bats didn’t hurt either.”
Despite his strong showing on the offensive side of the ball, Grande said he has a defense-first mentality.
“He’d rather catch a ground ball than get a base hit, and when he makes an error I hear about it for days,” Grande’s father said, laughing. “That’s because we’ve hit thousands of ground balls. He doesn’t stop, he doesn’t quit, and that’s because he wants to be as close to perfect as you can be.”
Senk said though that Grande wanted to be more of a consistent hitter to balance his game. He said he pointed out to his shortstop he had an inside-out swing that didn’t allow him to hit the ball as hard as he could, so he started pulling the ball more. Grande also practiced using his backhand to get to more ground balls.
“He has such a tremendous work ethic — that was never an issue,” the SBU coach said. “He worked hardest in the toughest part of the game. He takes well to coaching, he kept working at it and working at it and ended up really clicking in a big way. I knew it when we were playing the defending national champs, University of Florida, and he hit a home run off first-round draft pick Brady Singer. From there his season took off. I think that was because of his dedication, athleticism and intelligence.”
But there’s more to the ballplayer than his devotion and talent. Smithtown West head coach Al Nucci said what he does in the classroom, and the kind of teammate he is makes him exemplary in every which way.
“He stood out from the day he started,” Nucci said of seeing Grande during a Booster Club practice as a youngster. “As crazy as it sounds as a young boy he had an incredible work ethic, he loved the game, he was always looking to improve, he smiled, he was super polite — as a 6-year-old on 60-foot diamond completely and totally standing out from his peers.”
He was pulled up to varsity as an eighth-grader to get more of a challenge, and ended up starting the second half of the season and into the playoffs after an injury sidelined one of his teammates. His coach joked that he might be the only Bulls player in history to hit a home run in his first at-bat and sacrifice bunt his next, showing his team-first mentality.
“He’s probably a better person and a better student than he is an athlete,” Nucci said. “He’s the first on the field and the last one off it, and he backs up his leadership skills and his work ethic with results on the field. And Nick didn’t need to speak — he spoke with his mitt, with his arm, with his bat, with his baseball intellect and with his attitude. Nick is the type of kid that takes a little something from everyone and uses it to his advantage. I hope my son ends up like Nick one day, I’ll tell you that.”
“He takes well to coaching, he kept working at it and working at it and ended up really clicking in a big way.”
— Matt Senk
Grande’s father said although it can be nerve-racking, it’s been nice to take off the coaching uniform and sit back and watch his son play.
“Your stomach is turning, you’re a nervous wreck, your hands are sweating, but there’s not a better place in the world to be than watching your kids play sports,” he said. “The sport to me always had such a positive effect on my life, and from an early age he seemed to be following in the same footsteps, that the game was going to be meaningful for him, too.”
Baseball is a game of highs and lows, and it’s those who turn the lows into highs that tend to become successful. Nick Grande is the epitome of that according to those who know him best.
“When you get a text from your son that says, ‘Dad, I was just chosen as first-team All-American,’ after you pick yourself up off the floor, you take a deep breath and say, ‘Wow, all of his hard work, all of his dedication really paid off for him,’” Grande Sr. said. “People that work hard deserve to be rewarded in life, and in his case he has.”
Gabby Griffin gave it her all in what could have been her final race across the hurdles, and clocked in with a top spot and a personal best.
The Comsewogue senior sprinted her way to a third-place finish in the 400-meter hurdles, clocking in at 1.03.94 seconds at the Suffolk County track and field individual championship/state qualifier June 2 and 3 at Comsewogue High School.
Griffin was also part of Comsewogue’s 4×400 relay and placed third in 3:57.53 that move on to the state finals with other top county winners at the state championship at Cicero-North Syracuse High School June 8-9.
Sabrina Donoghue, Brianna Quartararo and Annalise Russo rounded out the relay, which set a new school record, breaking its own record of 4:02.34 by almost five seconds.
Comsewogue junior Travis Colon came in third in the 110 hurdles (15.06) and fourth in the 400 hurdles (56.40).
Comsewogue Fernando Toledo third in the 400 dash, clocking in at 49.72.
Middle Country’s Maritza Blanchard blasted her way to the finish line, twice.
She took first in the 400-yard dash by clocking in at 56.39 and ran the anchor leg of the 4x400 relay team that placed first.
The relay team of Blanchard, Dana Cerbone, Jess Faustin and Lexie Roth, which now ranks second in the sate, crossed the finish line in 3:52.96.
Her teammate, Cerbone, who ran the third leg of the relay, also capitalized on two opportunities, sprinting her way to second in the 200 dash with a time of 25.37.
Nick Cipolla can also run.
The Smithtown West senior crossed the 3,200-meter run finish line in 9:27.31 for first place.
Other area runners excelled in the 3,200.
Northport senior Dan O’Connor came in third (9:40.92), Smithtown East junior Kevin Cawley fourth (9:41.44), Smithtown West junior John Cuff fifth (9:42.91) and Northport sophomore Thomas Fodor sixth (9:47.13).
Smithtown West junior Nick DeFelice finished second in the 3,000 steeplechase (9:44.70). Smithtown East’s Cawley came in fourth (20:02.76).
Smithtown West junior Emily Eng placed second in the pole vault with a 10-6 leap.
Kings Park junior Mike Perez jumped 6-2 in the high jump for a fourth-place finish.
By Bill Landon
Smithtown West’s boys lacrosse team found itself in an unfamiliar position this season.
Down four goals in the third quarter, the Bulls bounced back to tie the game 7-7 and eventually take a 10-9 lead, but a last-minute goal forced overtime, where the No. 2-seeded boys lacrosse team fell to No. 3 Half Hollow Hills East in the Class A semifinals May 24.
With Smithtown West down four goals, seniors Kyle Zaradski and Andrew Arce each scored twice, and junior Matt Caddigan made the go-ahead goal to give the Bulls their first lead of the game with six seconds left in the third quarter.
Half Hollow Hills East’s Mike Gomez found the net four minutes into the final quarter, but Arce stretched the net three minutes later to retake the lead, 9-8. The Colts countered again, but Arce continued to have an answer, scoring his fourth goal of the game for a 10-9 Bulls lead with 3:22 left to play.
With a minute left, Half Hollow Hills East forces overtime, and held the ball for one shot in the final seconds of a four-minute overtime period, which gave the Colts a sudden-death victory.
Smithtown West, which had outscored its opponents 202-82 this season, ended the year with a 14-2 record.
By Bill Landon
The No. 4-seeded Smithtown West softball team found itself in a hole against No. 13 Lindenhurst that it started to climb out of before the May 15 Class AA playoff game was suspended due to weather.
“We made a couple of mistakes early on, and you can’t do that against a team like that,” said Smithtown West head coach Dave Miller. “Yeah, we’re the No. 4 seed and we won 14 games, but [Lindenhurst] hits the ball much harder than we do.”
The Bulls ended up in a 3-0 hole fast, with two of the runs being allowed on errors. In the top of the fourth inning, the deficit grew to 5-0 before Smithtown West started to rally.
Sophomore Keri Dufficy singled and got to second base on a sacrifice fly before stealing third. Sophomore third baseman Sarah Chapman’s bat spoke next with a drive to right field for a stand-up double that plated her team’s outfielder for the Bulls’ first run.
In the bottom of the fifth with two outs, junior outfielder Kristin Horoszewski smacked the ball to right field and was able to stretch out a double. Junior second baseman and outfielder Natalie Ardizzone hit a long fly ball up center field that scored her teammate to trim Lindenhurst’s lead to three runs, 5-2.
Smithtown West’s defense helped retire the next three Lindenhurst batters before the wind picked up and the skies grew dark. A flash of lightening prompted a 30-minute delay, but as the storm picked up referees made the call to postpone the game.
“I think our pitch selection wasn’t as good as it should be — we have to be smart about that,” Miller said. “We’ve struggled with that the entire year. Hopefully we’ll finish this tomorrow, but we have to do the basics
correctly. Defensively we’ve been solid all year, but mistakes opened it up.”
Smithtown West is scheduled to retake the field Wednesday, May 16, and resume the game in the bottom of the sixth. If storms continue the game would once again be postponed to a later date.
Defense helps contain Sachem East in final quarter to pull out 5-4 win
By Bill Landon
Sachem East sent shock waves through the Smithtown West boys lacrosse team, but the Bulls didn’t back down from the fight.
After the Flaming Arrows scored to draw within one in the fourth, Smithtown West took control and slowed the clock to come away with a 5-4 win during an autism awareness fundraiser game April 14. Smithtown West remains undefeated on the season outscoring opponents 100-34 through eight games.
“First of all, hats off to Sachem East they played a complete game, a great game and they tested us in every phase of play today.”
— Bob Moltisanti
“First of all, hats off to Sachem East they played a complete game, a great game and they tested us in every phase of play today,” Smithtown West head coach Bobby Moltisanti said. “Defensively we did a great job, our short stick midfielders did a great job as well, so hats off to them and to our goalie holding them to just four goals. And on offense we got the job done and got the victory.”
The Bulls struggled against Sachem East’s (3-5 overall, 3-4 League I) stout defense early, with long sticks swatting at every pass and scooping up sever loose balls, taking four direct takeaways.
Midfielder Andrew Arce scored his first of three goals off a feed from attack John Hoffman for the early lead at the 7:46 mark of the opening quarter, but as with most of the game, Sachem East answered. Just 34 seconds later, Peter Engleken’s solo shot stretched the netting to even the score.
Smithtown West showed its a threat from every position when defenseman Kevin went the distance a minute later and scored.
Again, it was Engleken that made it a new game before Hoffman, who leads his team in scoring with 21 goals and 10 assists, broke the stalemate with four minutes remaining in the half on a feed from attack Marc Cottage.
“There was nothing easy about it. They cut our lead to one and we had to play mistake free if we were going to come out with the win.”
— Andrew Arce
Smithtown West banked its first insurance goal with just under five minutes left in third quarter when Sean Byrne flicked the ball to Arce on the cut, but Sachem East’s Nick Pagnotta dumped one in from close range to once again keep things close.
Arce fired a shot from 20 yards out with 10:35 left in regulation to complete his hat trick and put the Bulls out front again by two, 5-3.
“We knew we had to go back to our basics,” said Arce, a Binghamton University-bound senior. “They were tough on defense and they came at us hard the whole game — there was nothing easy about it. They cut our lead to one and we had to play mistake free if we were going to come out with the win.”
Tyler Jordan scored the final goal for the Flaming Arrows, but Moltisanti credited defenders Kevin Ehli, Reed Greco, Dave Gonzalez and Christian Lowd for holding off Sachem East to close out the game, and Kyle Walker for his 10 saves in goal.
Smithtown West will be tested once again when the Bulls travel to Connetquot (5-2 overall, 5-1 League I) April 18 at 5 p.m.
By Jim Ferchland
In the rainy and windy conditions, junior attacker Marc Cottage and the Smithtown West Bulls dismantled
Middle Country Mad Dogs on its home turf.
Scoring the first four goals for boys lacrosse team April 3, Cottage sparked the Bulls offense with a team-high eight points in a 15-3 victory at Newfield High School. He helps keep their season perfect so far at 4-0 and gave Middle Country its third loss of the year (1-3).
“It felt good,” Cottage said about his performance. “I thought our offense played great in the first quarter. It was a good team win.”
The Bulls got an early first quarter advantage leading 5-1 after a Danny Caddigan goal with 3:15 left. The game was tied at one point after Cottage’s first goal in the first minute. Then, Middle Country’s Tom Stock found the back of the net 43 seconds later to tie at up at 1-1.
Not much scoring happened in the second quarter, but it was Kyle Zawadzki who scored all two of Smithtown West’s goal in the 12 minutes. His first goal gave the Bulls a 6-1 lead, assisted by Christian Lowd with 10:46 left. Middle Country’s Jacob Hyman had an unassisted goal 1 minute, 13 seconds later to cut the deficit back to four, but Zawadzki’s shot in final minute hit its mark to make it 7-2 Bulls at the half.
There was a combined 28 points scored between 12 different players for Smithtown West. The Bulls had 13 assists on 15 goals.
“Everyone was contributing,” Zawadzki said. “It wasn’t just one person, even though Cottage did have seven goals. He was just capitalizing on all the opportunities he had.”
The Bulls put the game away in the third quarter, outscoring the Mad Dogs 5-1, giving the Bulls a nine-point advantage at 12-3. Matt Caddigan scored 48 seconds into the quarter and was assisted by John Hoffman, who had four assists on the afternoon. Andrew Arce also had a goal and an assist for the Bulls. Three of Cottage’s seven goals came in the third, with one of them finding the back of the net in the final four seconds of the quarter.
Hoffman, Cole Vencak and Troy Riley all had good, unanswered goals in the fourth for the Bulls to win 15-3.
Even though he’s a junior, Cottage sees himself as a captain of the team.
“I always have seen myself as a leader,” Cottage said. “I’m pretty sure all the starters feel that way — to teach the younger kids — just to be the best and play well.”
Stock found the net twice for the Mad Dogs and going up against Smithtown West, he wanted to do exactly just that.
“They’re a pretty good team,” Stock said oft Smithtown West. “They’re ranked pretty high. I was just trying to score some goals.”
Smithtown West played with three different goaltenders in Cameron Young, Kyle Walker and Mike Simone. Adam Hyman stayed in the entire game as the only goalkeeper for Middle Country. He had nine saves on the afternoon. He said the team will bounce back from the loss.
“We just need to work hard in practice and take this loss as a ‘W,’” Hyman said. “We just have to keep on working hard. This loss motivates the whole team to get better because no one likes to lose.”
Middle Country head coach Chris Siragusa said that Smithtown West is the best team they will face all year. Middle Country finished 5-9 in Division I last year, and lost 16 seniors from that squad, boasting a majority
of freshmen and sophomore this year.
“I think it’s just [about gaining] experience for our guys, because of the youth,” Siragusa said. “Stock and [Jacob] Hyman are both sophomores and they’re going to be part of the future. They were part of the team last year when their heads were spinning. I think it’s just about getting older and maturing.”
Smithtown West will look to stay undefeated when it hits the road to face Northport April 5 at 10 a.m. Middle
Country wants to retaliate after the loss with an at-home contest against Sachem North at 4 p.m.
Annual game brings the fun while raising funds for DECA club
By Bill Landon
The Harlem Wizards’ Rocket Unit took off Thursday night.
The famed basketball team brought its tricks, hoops and alley oops to Smithtown West to dazzle a 600-plus crowd while raising money for the Distributive Education Clubs of America club.
“They put on a great show,” said DECA club advisor Cindy Wood, a business teacher at West. “The kids and the parents are great and we get everyone from all different schools right here in our district. We usually don’t get that, so it’s a really nice way to bring everyone together.”
Wood was one of many educators to excel out on the court as the Bulls battled against Rocket, Big J, The Artist, Jet and La Fiesta March 1. Tom Vulin, who usually fights from the sidelines as head coach of Smithtown East’s girls basketball team, showed his 3-point prowess to earn him a “shooter” shout out from play-by-play announcer D.J. Swiv every time the ball touched his hands.
Hauppauge resident Jaime Glas brought her whole family to the game expecting to enjoy it from the bleachers, but the Wizards had other ideas. Big J plucked the Comsewogue school district teacher from the crowd to meet him on the dance floor, and after immediate terror, turned lemons into lemonade as she showed him her moves.
“I was mortified,” said Glas, laughing. “As a teacher, that’s what we do every day — we just kind of roll with it.”
Behind Vulin and Wood was Accompsett Elementary School teacher Ed Vinas, who was brought out on the court for a different reason after receiving an email from event organizer Denise Massimo.
“When my daughter found out about it, she talked me into coming out tonight, so it’s become a family affair,” Vinas said. “I’ve seen them a couple of times and they put on a good show.”
Massimo, also a DECA advisor and business teacher, said putting on a spectacle of that magnitude requires tons of help. She and Wood, advisors of the business and marketing club, begin planning a year in advance. The kids running the booths, the ticket sales and concession stands are all officers of the club.
“It’s great to see everyone come together and everything culminate into what’s seen here,” Massimo said. “It was a great turnout.”
By Jim Ferchland
The Bulls have once again dominated League III this season.
Smithtown West’s wrestling team finished the season undefeated at 6-0 with a 57-18 win over visiting Riverhead Jan. 12.
“I have a senior group that’s ready to go, but I seem to have balance ,” head coach Ken Leverich said of the cohesiveness of his unit. “I have ninth graders in the varsity lineup winning matches, tenth graders, juniors and seniors — we look to keep this ball rolling.”
It’s the first time in school history the Bulls have won back-to-back league titles in wrestling. Leverich, who has been at the helm for 13 years, was hesitant to respond with how he felt.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I just like to put numbers up on the banner.”
Smithtown West even had to forego having three starters compete because they were upstate at the Eastern States Classic tournament. Despite their absence, Leverich was content with the backup and depth of his team replacing Kyle Reilly, Matt Weitemeyer and Tim Nagoski.
“When you have three starters away at another tournament, it was a little dicey without them,” Leverich said. “The expectations were a little uncertain versus Riverhead, but we were able to slide guys in with our depth and [they brought home] wins for us. It was big.”
Smithtown West junior 113-pounder Jack Desousa picked up a win and six points with a pin in 1 minute, 35 seconds over Riverhead’s Jason Daman.
“It’s amazing actually —two years in a row is great for our program,” the two-year varsity starter said of being part of another league championship-winning squad, also noting his closeness with Leverich, who he said has become a second father to him. “We have great coaches and I’ve been with them forever. I’ve had [Leverich] as a coach since second grade.”
Senior Jack Swanson finished his final match at Smithtown West with a win over Riverhead’s Chris Dubose in the 182-pound weight class. Leverich said the 10-3 decision over Riverhead’s Chris Debose was the highlight of the night.
“He stepped up and beat another county-ranked kid,” the head coach said of Swanson. “He’s got a ton of wins this season. He’s done a great job.”
At the 195-pound weight class, Smithtown West’s Steven Zimmerman pinned Romel Richards in 5:38 to give the Bulls a 37-3 advantage.
Leverich raved about freshman Nicholas Germano, who despite winning against Riverhead at 99 pounds as a result of a forfeit has only lost one match all season.
“He’s a little stud,” Leverich said of his 17-1 grappler. “Weight class 99 is where we should go furthest this year.”
Smithtown West junior James Campanelle earned a major decision over Jared Cawley (9-1) at 120 pounds, as did freshman Logan Hutter over Dominic Bossey (10-1) at 126.
Leverich said even with some of the boys’ close losses he was happy with how his Bulls performed.
“I wasn’t disappointed in any of my boys tonight,” he said. “They all wrestled well.”
Bulls come from behind in crosstown rival win
By Bill Landon
Defense was the difference-maker in a game of crosstown rivals Jan. 3.
Smithtown West held host Smithtown East to just 17 points through the first 16 minutes of play, and outscored the Bulls 31-14 in the second half to nab a 56-31 League II win.
“We always play hard — we’ve held our opponents to the least points in the county per game for the last two years,” said Smithtown West point guard Chris Crespo. “We play defense, and that’s how we win games.”
Smithtown West’s Michael Gannon sparked the offense midway through the third quarter, draining his third 3-pointer of the game to put his team out front 32-18. Smithtown East struggled to contain the big man in the paint, where Crespo would consistently feed the 6-foot, 6-inch power forward, who battled his way to the rim time and time again.
“In this league you can’t sleep on any team though,” Gannon said despite his effort. “Anyone has a good shot at winning no matter who you play.”
The Crespo-Gannon combination was too much for East to contain, and Gannon banked 10 of his game-high 26 points in the final eight minutes. Crespo finished with 11 points.
Smithtown West head coach Mike Agostino wasn’t surprised at some points of the contest, saying he’s come to expect great things from Crespo and Gannon.
“Our point guard Chris [Crespo] is pretty good at getting the ball to the open player,” Agostino said. “He can find people, and he found Michael today and he was making shots.”
He said he thought the end results wasn’t indicative though of what his team is really made of.
“They’re very good, and they make you uncomfortable defensively — they throw you out of rhythm,” Agostino said. “We haven’t practiced for two days, and mentally you’re not out of rhythm, but physically you are, because you have to shoot every day.”
Crespo still thought his challengers fought hard, saying he wasn’t surprised by the Bulls’ caliber of play, as both teams grew up together and know each other well.
“We know a lot of these guys, so you know what you’re getting, but when we play North Babylon or Copiague, it’s coach Agostino and coach [John] Tampori who do a fantastic job of prepping us before the game,” Crespo said. “[At]practice, they show us what to expect.”
Smithtown East head coach Keith Reyling said his team’s performance was not what he’d hoped it’d be for this point in the season. Atop the scoring chart was James Peters with nine points and John Cawley with six.
“We don’t ever expect to get out-worked, and we were severely out-worked by the other team tonight,” he said. “That’s uncharacteristic of us. We’re usually a hard-working, blue collar type of team, so it was disappointing to see that they worked so much harder than we did.”
Smithtown East will look to redeem the loss when the Bulls hit the road to face Huntington Jan. 5 at 5:45 p.m. Smithtown West is scheduled to be back in action on its home court today, Jan. 4. A 4 p.m. tip-off time is scheduled.
“We play North Babylon on Thursday, so we have one day to prepare,” Gannon said. “We’ll practice hard and go out and play hard.”