Tags Posts tagged with "Ward Melville"

Ward Melville

By Bill Landon & Desirée Keegan

Everything Brian Willetts has worked for led up to that moment.

With 1:53 left in double overtime in front of 3,000 fans at Wednesday evening’s Suffolk County Class A championship game, Smithtown East’s Willetts bounced in the game-winning goal to seal the deal for the Bulls for their second straight county title, with an 11-10 win over Ward Melville.

“When I’m training and working hard, I’m thinking about that final shot in the county championship,” the senior attack and co-captain said. “Once it went into overtime I’m immediately thinking ‘wow, this is my time,’ and I felt, as a leader, I had to take from ‘X’ and go get it.”

Willetts racked up a hat trick on the Stony Brook University field, while junior attack Dan Rooney added three goals and an assist to lead Smithtown East.

Both teams lit up the scoreboard consistently in the first quarter, with the action starting right from the opening faceoff.

The game was tied 1-1 after the first minute of play, with Willetts flicking one in and Ward Melville senior attack Billy McGinley responding with a goal of his own off an assist from senior attack Dan Bucaro.

Smithtown East dominated the faceoff ‘X,’ and senior faceoff specialist Gerard Arceri took the ball from midfield and headed straight to the cage, scoring unassisted to give his team a 2-1 advantage.

Smithtown East’s John Daniggelis, a midfielder and co-captain, found the net next off an assist from sophomore midfielder Bobby Burns, to give his team a 3-1 lead in a game that was still less than two minutes old.

Ward Melville senior midfielder Jake McCulloch’s shot found its mark to help his team pull within one, but Smithtown East quickly responded when sophomore attack Sean Barry found the back of the cage off an assist by junior attack Dan Rooney.

“I was thinking one faceoff was going to win the game, so it was a battle at the ‘X’ there at the end.” —Gerard Arceri, Smithtown East

Ward Melville’s Bucaro scored next, and Barry and Rooney connected for another Smithtown East goal, with Rooney scoring this time, and Willetts fired a shot off a pass from sophomore midfielder Bobby Burns, as the Bulls edged ahead, 6-3.

“I have to give a lot of credit to my defense,” Willetts said. “They made stop after stop against McCulloch and Bucaro, two of the best players in the county, so our defense was just unbelievable.”

Despite all the stops, McCulloch found a way to get to goal, and stretched the net twice more for a hat trick, to again pull his Patriots within one, 6-5, with 9:26 left in the second quarter.

Goals by Smithtown East’s Burns and fellow sophomore midfielder Connor Desimone gave the Bulls an 8-5 advantage with 6:58 left in the half.

Ward Melville junior midfielder John Burgdoerfer put a point on the scoreboard off a feed from McCulloch, to trim the deficit, but Rooney found the net for a second time to bring the score to 9-6 heading into the halftime break.

The Patriots opened the second half by rattling off three unanswered goals with two coming from Bucaro, and the third from senior midfielder James Kickel off an assist by McCulloch, to tie the game 9-9.

Daniggelis dished one off to Rooney, whose hat trick goal helped the Bulls pull out a 10-9 lead to begin the fourth quarter, and McCulloch scored the lone goal of the final 12 minutes, four minutes into the final quarter, to retie the score, 10-10, which held up until the end of regulation.

The game went into a four-minute overtime sudden-death period, but it yielded no goals.

“I lost the first [faceoff] in the first overtime period,” Arceri said. “I was thinking one faceoff was going to win the game, so it was a battle at the ‘X’ there at the end.”

Smithtown East senior goalkeeper Sean Turner stood strong between the pipes during the first overtime, even through a broken helmet switch, and made save after save — each punctuated by a gasp from the stadium crowd — to keep the Patriot high-octane offense at bay.

“Turner was unbelievable, especially in the fourth quarter,” Smithtown East head coach Jason Lambert said. “We weren’t scoring a lot after the third quarter, so he kept stepping up, making save after save and standing tall in the net. I can’t say enough good things about him, because that game could’ve gone either way.”

“It was a surreal feeling to be able to get that shot off for the game-winning goal for a team that I love so much.” —Brian Willetts, Smithtown East

At the 1:53 mark in the second overtime session, Smithtown East claimed its second straight Class A crown with Willetts’ goal.

“At our last timeout, [Willetts] said he wanted the ball in the huddle,” Lambert said. “He got it and he put it where it’s supposed to go.”

Willetts was overcome with emotion for what he was able to help his team achieve.

“I practiced that shot so many times,” he said. “It was a surreal feeling to be able to get that shot off for the game-winning goal for a team that I love so much.”

Lambert said that Ward Melville always sets the bar high, adding that as long as lacrosse has been played on Long Island, the Patriots have been at the top.

“I’m just so happy for these kids,” Lambert said. “We played a phenomenal opponent here tonight. They have great players; they have all the history there. My boys believed, they didn’t stop, they kept digging and they kept fighting.”

Smithtown East will face Syosset on Saturday for the Class A Long Island Championship title at Stony Brook University, with the opening faceoff scheduled for 3:30 p.m.

The boys are excited to get another shot at a Long Island title, as the team fell in a close 13-12 match to Massapequa last year.

“I’m so happy to get back to this point; to have another chance to win a Long Island Championship, it sure means a lot,” Turner said. “It means so much [to this team] and this time, we’re going to finish it.”

by -
0 353
Max Neilsen hurls a pitch from the mound in a Ward Melville baseball game earlier this season. File photo by Bill Landon
Max Neilsen hurls a pitch from the mound in a Ward Melville baseball game earlier this season. File photo by Bill Landon
Max Neilsen hurls a pitch from the mound in a Ward Melville baseball game earlier this season. File photo by Bill Landon

After completing the regular season with a 19-2 overall record and 16-2 mark in League I play, the No. 2 Ward Melville baseball team is hoping to power past East Islip, to take on the winner of the Connetquot/Smithtown East series in the Suffolk County Class AA finals.

After bypassing the qualifying round, the Patriots, with the help of starting pitcher Joe Barbieri, edged out and shut out No. 6 East Islip, 1-0, in the first of a three-game series.

The team traveled to its opponent on Wednesday. Should Ward Melville lose, the team will host East Islip on Thursday, at home at 4 p.m.

by -
0 535
Eddie Munoz celebrates a goal. Photo by Clayton Collier

By Clayton Collier

With 13 goals in the first half, the No. 4-seeded Ward Melville boys’ lacrosse team made quick work of No. 5 Half Hollow Hills East in a 17-1 routing Tuesday in the Suffolk County Class A quarterfinals.

Ward Melville head coach Jay Negus stressed to his team the need for a full 48 minutes of quality play to best their opponent.

“I’m very, very happy with the team’s effort today,” he said. “All year long I’ve been on them to play four quarters of Ward Melville lacrosse together, and today was it. … We put it all together today and at the perfect time. This is a very dangerous team when we can do that.”

Hills East head coach Gordie Hodgson said the Patriots were in control of the game the whole way through.

“I thought Ward Melville dominated in every aspect of the game,” he said. “They dominated on the faceoff and counter possession, and we weren’t able to generate offense because of it.”

Dan Bucaro maintains possession with Half Hollow Hills East players racing to stop him. Photo by Clayton Collier
Dan Bucaro maintains possession with Half Hollow Hills East players racing to stop him. Photo by Clayton Collier

In retrospect, all the Patriots needed was a 10-minute stretch to put the game out of reach for the Thunderbirds.

Ward Melville senior attack Dan Bucaro notched the first goal of the afternoon with just over five minutes remaining in the first quarter, muscling past a pair of Hills East defenders to sneak one past Thunderbirds goaltender Jordan Eichholz on the left side of the net. The goal was Bucaro’s first of four on the day.

“I came out fast and ready to go — the team really got me going,” he said. “Everyone came together today.”

The Georgetown University-bound senior said his work isn’t done with Ward Melville, and his goal opened the floodgates for the Patriots, as they tacked on an additional eight goals over the next 10 minutes of play.

Sophomore midfielder Eddie Munoz, who was responsible for two of those eight goals, said Negus told the team at halftime that the kind of offensive output the Patriots had has always been possible for the team.

“He said this was one of our first games this year that we played a full half,” Munoz said of Negus’ message to the team, while up 13-1. “We started off slow this season, so he said it was the first time that we started a first half well, and told us to just keep going.”

Senior attack Billy McGinley had a trio of goals, while classmates and midfielders Jake McCulloch, James Kickel and John Burgdoerfer each scored twice as well.

The lone Thunderbirds goal came on a deflection from Ward Melville junior goaltender D.J. Kellerman.

“He had a goal,” Bucaro said, with a laugh. “He played great, really. He’s just got to keep it up.”

Kellerman made eight saves on the day.

The Patriots will head to Northport Friday for the semifinals, taking on the No. 1-seeded Tigers at 4:15 p.m. at Veterans Park. Ward Melville will enter the game with a chip on their collective shoulder. The last time the two teams matched up, Northport scored four goals in the final quarter to edge out the Patriots, 7-6. Bucaro said his team is hungry to get the win the second time around.

“I’m expecting a really tough game,” he said. “They’re a very good team. We’ve got to get payback; we’ve got to get angry and be ready to play.”

by -
0 559
Holly Regan bounces the ball in for a Patriots goal. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

After a slow start, the Ward Melville girls’ lacrosse team kicked it into high gear to top Sachem North, 14-6, on the Patriots’ home turf Tuesday in their final game of the regular season.

After a senior day celebration for the 13 girls graduating on the roster, Ward Melville went to work.

Kayla Purdy fires at the cage for Ward Melville. Photo by Bill Landon
Kayla Purdy fires at the cage for Ward Melville. Photo by Bill Landon

Senior attack Samantha Nemirov dished one off to fellow classmate Alex Vignona, an attack and co-captain, who drove the ball home. Five minutes later, Ward Melville senior midfielder and co-captain Kayla Purdy found the back of the cage unassisted, to help her team pull out in front, 2-0.

Sachem North fired two straight shots to tie the game, but Ward Melville senior attack Katlyn Scarpinella, on a penalty play from the circle, faked a shot and flicked the ball over to Nemirov, who dumped it into the corner to help her team pull out in front, 3-2, to end the scoring in the first half.

“We came out strong early in the game. but they had a lot of good looks at the cage and they really ran our defense well,” Ward Melville head coach Kerri Kilkenny said. “We came out on fire in the second half, we sparked it on transition, we were more aggressive on the draw controls and we pushed forward.”

Ward Melville senior Catherine Smith, an attack and co-captain, got the ball rolling two minutes into the second half with a shot between the pipes, and Vignona and Nemirov connected on another play, this time, with Vignona assisting, as the team edged ahead 5-2. Nemirov returned the favor and dished one off to sophomore midfielder Kerry McKeever, whose shot found its mark with 19:30 left to play.

Ward Melville sophomore attack Kaitlin Thornton hit Nemirov, who was cutting across the front of the net, and whipped it in for her hat trick goal, and junior attack Holly Regan scored unassisted to give her team a commanding 8-2 lead.

“I think we started off a little slow early in the game,” Nemirov said, “But then we were able to put the pieces together and finish strong.”

Alex Vignona shoot for Ward Melville. Photo by Bill Landon
Alex Vignona shoot for Ward Melville. Photo by Bill Landon

With 13 minutes left Sachem North notched two unanswered goals, but Ward Melville’s Thornton and Nemirov scored next to bring the score to 10-4.

“We stepped it up in the second half,” Thornton said. “We won the draw and we pushed the ball to the cage.”

Sachem North’s defense picked off a pass near the crease and with three quick passes, the team advanced the ball the length of the field and found the net to trail by five.

Plagued by penalties, Ward Melville’s opponent was down two players, and Kilkenny said she was impressed with her team’s poise against Sachem North’s aggressive style of play.

“The girls held their composure through all of their yellow cards and aggressive play, and I was pleased with their discipline,” she said.

Another yellow card left Ward Melville up three players, and the Patriots looked to cash in on the opportunity.

Regan scored on a penalty shot, Nemirov tacked on another, and Purdy also scored off a penalty shot to bring the score to 13-5 with 1:32 left in the game.

“In the second half we just went to goal more — we were smarter with our passes,” Regan said. “We were making smart looks in the middle and our shooting percentage went up.”

Sachem North wouldn’t go quietly and stretched the net once more before Vignona tacked on the final goal of the game in the closing seconds, to put it away, 14-6.

“We were very excited at the start of the game because it was senior day,” Vignona said. “In the second half we picked it up, we were hitting our passes and we hit the back of the net, so it was just awesome for our senior day to win this one.”

With the win, the Patriots improve to 10-4 in Division I. As the No. 6 seed, the Patriots will play No. 11 Half Hollow Hills West on Saturday, May 16, in the first round of the playoffs. The opening draw is scheduled for noon.

by -
0 547
Corey Aviles, after forcing a turnover, races across the field and fires a shot across the net for a Patriots goal. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Being down 3-1 early against championship-caliber boys’ lacrosse program in Chaminade didn’t scare the Ward Melville Patriots.

The host team bounced back to tie the game in the second quarter and eventually edged ahead, holding onto a marginal lead to pull away with a 7-5 nonleague win.

“Chaminade is a great program,” Ward Melville head coach Jay Negus said. “It was a slugfest and our boys took a big step beating a powerhouse like Chaminade and I’m very proud of them. Even though it wasn’t as pretty as I would have liked in terms of execution — we had some breakdowns — we just wanted to put four quarters together and we did that today. We got the result we were looking for.”

Danny Bucaro maintains possession of the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Danny Bucaro maintains possession of the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Both teams came out on fire right off the opening faceoff, and Chaminade scored two quick goals before Ward Melville put its first point on the board to cut the deficit in half. The two teams traded possession with some passing miscues, and at the end of the first quarter the score remained 2-1.

The Flyers (now 8-2, 5-0 NSCHSAA AAA) scored again in the opening minutes of the second to edge ahead with a score of 3-1, but the Patriots (now 10-2, 6-2 League I) answered back with two quick goals. The first was a stick-side high left shot by junior midfielder Owen McAvoy to cut the lead to one. The second was a rocket from the right goal post by senior midfielder Corey Aviles after he forced a turnover in the Patriots zone, carrying it all the way down the field for the tying goal at 3-3.

“It’s great to get a big win against a school like Chaminade,” McAvoy said. “It’s the first game we really came out here and went balls to the wall — and put it to them.”

McAvoy added another goal off an offensive rebound that shocked the Chaminade goalkeeper, and Aviles tallied his second point with nine seconds left in the half to give his team a 5-3 advantage heading into halftime.

Negus addressed his team during the break and explained to his athletes that the game was all about seizing the opportunities when they were presented to them.

“You guys are taking that next step to be at that level with this team,” he said. “We got to give the defense a rest. Bury the ball and make this game out of reach.”

Still struggling to win possession at the faceoff, Chaminade capitalized early in the third to make it 5-4, but Ward Melville junior goalkeeper D.J. Kellerman came through with two big saves to preserve the one-goal advantage.

D.J. Kellerman attempts a save. Photo by Desirée Keegan
D.J. Kellerman attempts a save. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I felt confident,” Kellerman said. “A little shaky in the beginning, but my defense really shut it down. I love them — they’re great.”

Ward Melville ripped another crossing shot to bring the advantage back to two, 6-4, and Kellerman caught another save to maintain the lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Senior midfielder Jake McCulloch rocketed a shot from nearly 20 yards early in the final stanza, and Chaminade scored once more a minute later. Kellerman made three big saves in the final minutes to keep the Flyers at bay and seal the Patriots’ 7-5 victory.

“It’s a big win for us as a program,” Kellerman said. “We had a tough loss against Northport [6-7, on April 22] but we bounced back. Coach did a great job getting us ready and we’re a hardworking team.”

What McAvoy said he thinks continues to lead the players to success is that ability to continue to fight, even when the team is down.

“We were fighting for ground balls and hustled all over the field,” he said. “We were fired up in the locker room and thought this could be a big statement make for us. We laid some bodies all over the field and really made them feel our presence.”

Aviles and McAvoy finished with two goals each, and McCulloch and senior attack Danny Bucaro tacked on a goal and an assist apiece, while Kellerman made 13 saves on the evening.

Ward Melville was scheduled to host Brentwood on Wednesday. The Patriots will travel to Patchogue-Medford on Friday, and the opening faceoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

“We’ve been talking about fighting back against adversity and that shows the character of the team,” Negus said. “Today we showed that we can battle back against the best of them.”

by -
0 1340
From left to right, Matt Lopiccolo, Jacob Arditti, Maki Stavropoulos, Jeff Towle and Mark Napoli signing their letters of intent. Photo from Chris Boltrek

By Clayton Collier

Five Ward Melville student athletes will continue their football careers after committing to play at the collegiate level — a rare occurrence for the lacrosse powerhouse that they hope will soon become a trend.

All-County quarterback Jeff Towle, center Maki Stavropoulos, guard Matt Lopiccolo, defensive end Jacob Arditti, and tackle Mark Napoli will all move on to play college football this fall.

Ward Melville head coach Chris Boltrek said having more of his athletes signing to play in college is essential in reviving the Patriots football program, largely because it makes the sport more appealing to other athletes at the school.

Jeff Towle reaches back to throw a pass in a previous contest. File photo by Bill Landon
Jeff Towle reaches back to throw a pass in a previous contest. File photo by Bill Landon

“To get the football program at Ward Melville to take off, the environment and the image had to change,” he said. “I thought there were plenty of good football athletes in the district that just didn’t realize the potential they had and didn’t realize that playing college football was a real possibility, and instead they gravitated toward lacrosse or baseball or other sports that they thought offered that for them.”

Boltrek, who played college football at St. Lawrence University after graduating from Ward Melville, said the program occasionally gets one player every few years who moves on to the collegiate level. Now having five in one year, he hopes it will bring new life into the program.

“To have five in one year is a pretty big deal for us,” the first-year varsity head coach said.

Towle, who will attend Division II Pace University this fall, also doubled as a talented catcher on the baseball team, but said football has long been his preference.

“I was always a quarterback at heart,” he said. “I just happened to be showing more talent in baseball at the time. Then I got my opportunity on the football field and play well. I’ve been a football guy my whole life.”

Towle was not even the starting quarterback until the final five games of the season. Serving as the reserve, Towle continued to train to ensure he would be ready should he get his chance.

“I worked as hard as I could, knowing maybe I’ll get a shot, maybe I won’t,” he said. “But if I did, I wanted to be ready.”

When Towle got his chance, he thrived, completing 13 touchdown passes and tossed for over 1,100 total yards of offense.

His mother, Jessica Spencer, said her son’s dedication led him to obtaining such an opportunity.

“He hung in there and he did everything they asked him to and it paid off,” she said. “I’m very proud of him and I’m very grateful to have him.”

Stavropoulos, a captain and three-time All-Division honoree, and Lopiccolo, who also achieved All-Division honors, will remain teammates as the pair heads to Division III Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Lopiccolo and Arditti, like Towle, had obstacles to overcome as both were cut from the junior varsity squad in ninth grade.

“I was sad because football is my sport — I’ve been playing since I was five,” Lopiccolo said. “But at the same time it gave me the drive to work harder and hit the gym.”

To ensure that they wouldn’t be cut again, the pair “lived in the gym,” as Boltrek described, working out for 90 minutes a day, five days a week under the coach’s guidance. Lopiccolo said he was thrilled when he and Arditti made the team the following year, crediting the effort they put in  aover the year to improve themselves physically.

“It’s crazy how the tiniest bit of effort can change something completely,” he said.

Napoli, the team’s final commit, was an All-Division tackle who will attend the Division III Stevenson University.

Towle said he, along with his four fellow teammates that committed to play college ball, owe their diligent work ethic and ultimate success to Boltrek for his ambition and guidance.

“To be honest, we probably worked harder than any team in the county throughout the week during the season, and that’s a credit to [Coach Boltrek],” he said. “We wouldn’t be where we are without him; any of us.”

by -
0 718
Ward Melville’s freshmen ice hockey team poses for a group photo after winning its second consecutive Suffolk County title. Photo from Billy Williams

The Ward Melville freshman ice hockey team capped off an undefeated season by winning the Suffolk County  Hockey League championship on March 3- with a win over Sachem.

The team finished the season with a record of 31-0, and has not lost a game in two years, with a record of 62-0.

This is back-to-back titles for the freshman team that had a dominant lineup led by Matthew Crasa, who was named the most valuable player of the playoffs, and sniper Jason Ruszkowski.

The team was led by head coach Mark Devlin, and assistant coaches Frank Catalina, Bobby Gazura and George Rainer.

Nikki Ortega grabs the ball off the draw and crosses into Ward Melville’s zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan

These Mad Dogs are showing their teeth.

In a dogfight between two of the top teams in Division I Monday, visiting Ward Melville dominated the beginning of the first half, edging ahead to a 4-1 lead, but the Middle Country girls’ lacrosse team found its groove and bounced back to prove why it’s undefeated.

With the 17-12 comeback win, the Mad Dogs improved to 6-0 to remain in sole possession of first place, while the Patriots dropped to 4-2.

“We have a big week ahead of us so to get one out of the way is a good feeling,” Middle Country head coach Lindsay Dolson said. “We kept our calm. We knew that we could score. We had a bunch of pipes in the first couple of minutes so that took a little wind out of our sails, but they did a great job coming back.”

Amanda Masullo races toward the cage for Middle Country. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Amanda Masullo races toward the cage for Middle Country. Photo by Desirée Keegan

After Ward Melville jumped out to a 3-0 lead, Middle Country senior midfielder and attack Nikki Ortega scored off a foul for the team’s first point with 15:21 left in the first half.

The Patriots tacked on another goal before Ortega’s younger sister, Jamie, a sophomore midfielder, netted back-to-back goals to pull within one, 4-3.

“We knew that we were down, but we always tell each other not to freak out; to talk to each other,” Jamie Ortega said. “I was frustrated because I knew we were the better team, so us down got me motivated.”

The teams traded goals, and after being down 5-4, Middle Country tied it up 5-5 with 4:39 left until the halftime break.

With the offensive sides strong on both ends of the field, the two teams traded another goal apiece to bring the score to 6-6 at the end of the first, and continued to trade goals until the game was tied 9-9.
From there, the Mad Dogs raced ahead to a 14-9 lead before Ward Melville senior attack Alex Vignona scored from 10 yards out, and followed her showing with an assist, as she passed the ball to sophomore attack Kaitlin Thornton who scored overhead in front of the net to close the gap to 14-11.

Jamie Ortega netted one next, taking the ball all the way up the field and, from the right side, crossing the ball in front of the net and into the left corner with 4:08 remaining in the game. Middle Country scored again, and Ward Melville sophomore midfielder Madison Hobbes scored her team’s final point before Nikki Ortega passed the ball to eighth-grade defender Sophie Alois off a shooting space foul with 16 seconds on the clock, for the final goal of the game.

Jamie Ortega maintains possession of the ball with a Ward Melville defender on her back. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Jamie Ortega maintains possession of the ball with a Ward Melville defender on her back. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We knew this was our time, this was our game and we had to step it up, and that’s what we did,” Middle Country junior defender Jordynn Aiello said. “I knew stepping on this field today we were going to come out with this win no matter what. One thing I love about my team is that we stay calm under pressure; we don’t break.”

While the team ran into trouble winning possession off the draw and the defense struggled with the slides, defenders, like Aiello, forced some crucial turnovers.

Vignona, Nemirov, Thornton, Hobbes and junior attack Holly Regan scored two goals apiece for the Patriots, while sophomore midfielder Hannah Hobbes and senior midfielder Cat Smith rounded out the scoring with a goal each.

“I never thought we’d get this far and I knew that they were going to give us a hard game,” Jamie Ortega said of Ward Melville. “I knew that if we came back and played how we usually play we’d end up on top.”

The sophomore midfielder led the Mad Dogs with six goals while her older sister Nikki finished with four.  Sophomore midfielder Amanda Masullo tacked on three goals, while her twin sister Rachel, Alois, senior midfielder Allison DiPaola and sophomore attack Ava Barry added a goal apiece.

“She did a great job,” Dolson said of Jamie Ortega. “I spoke to her before the game and I said ‘Jamie, I feel it. You’re going to have a day today.’ And she did.”

Ortega said her team works well to pass each other the ball and stay connected, and Aiello said Middle Country’s ability to work together should take them far.

“There are no individuals on this field, it’s a team, and everybody has a job on this team and we get it done,” she said.  “I have a lot of faith in my team, I believe in us and I believe that if we continue to work on enhancing and perfecting our game, we’ll be unstoppable.”

by -
0 635
Dan DeCastro rips one deep into the outfield. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Having beaten Longwood the day before by just one run, the Ward Melville baseball team invaded the Lions’ territory Tuesday and let its pitching and batting do the talking to prove the Patriots’ worth. When the dust settled, the Patriots handed Longwood a 12-2 loss in the second matchup of a three-game series.

Alex Betz hurls a pitch from the mound. Photo by Bill Landon
Alex Betz hurls a pitch from the mound. Photo by Bill Landon

Ward Melville sophomore pitcher Ben Brown led the way with an impressive performance on the mound to earn the win in his first varsity start. Longwood struggled with the entire Patriots pitching staff, managing just six hits. The Lions were also plagued by four errors over seven innings.

Ward Melville blew the game open in the second inning, scoring six runs on an RBI double by Dominic Lamonica, a two-run double by Troy Davern, and Nick Rizzi drove in a run and with the help of two Longwood errors to give the Patriots a 6-0 lead.

“Today our hitters did a good job in their approach; we got a lot of clutch hits,” Ward Melville head coach Lou Petrucci said. “Dominic Lamonica had a big double in the second inning; Jeff Towle, Troy Davern and the middle-of-the-lineup guys did a good job.”

The Lions tried to claw their way back and scored two runs in the bottom of the third.

Towle took control of the fourth inning, blasting a shot to deep center field, giving both Nick Vitale and Joe Flynn the opportunity to come home for an 8-2 advantage.

“Today, as a team, we had great bats all around putting the ball in play, making them work, putting pressure on their defense and that helped us out today,” Towle said. “[Longwood is] a solid team, but the ball didn’t roll their way. That could’ve happened to us, but we hit the ball hard.”

Flynn was also excited to see the team putting the ball in play.

“Today we came out swinging with the right mind-set; we had to put the ball in play and do whatever we have to do to win,” he said. “We’re not a strong hitting team and we’ve relied on pitching in the past, and that’s what we’re going to do this year, but today we came out with the bats and did a great job.”

Troy Davern makes a grab for the out. Photo by Bill Landon
Troy Davern makes a grab for the out. Photo by Bill Landon

The Patriots crossed the plate once more in the inning, to surge ahead 9-2.

Petrucci said he was pleased with his entire lineup.

“The top of the order guys — Joe Flynn got on base; Nick Vitale had a great day today — those guys got on base and did a good job for us,” he said. “The big hitters drove them in with clutch hits and we had more base runners and took advantage of that opportunity.”

The Patriots found the scoreboard once in the top of the sixth and twice in the seventh to put the game away.

Brown said his team misjudged Longwood in the first game of the series.

“I think we came out with a lot of intensity,” he said. “We took this team a little lightly yesterday. We really played hard, we had really good at bats, so that was the difference today.”

With the win, Ward Melville improved to 3-0. The Patriots conclude their three-game series with Longwood on Thursday at home, with the first pitch scheduled for noon.

by -
0 772
Steve Matz with proud parents Ron and Lori, all flashing million dollar smiles, shortly after signing with the New York Mets last year. File photo

by Daniel Dunaief

Like other Ward Melville High School students who graduated last year, Steve Matz left his home in Stony Brook and took the next step in his life. Living in a hotel in Florida, Matz has changed locales, but hasn’t altered his intense focus on a skill that helped the 6 foot, 2 inch stand out on Long Island.

One of the newest members of the New York Mets, Matz, a lifelong Mets fan, is living within easy walking distance of minor league fields where promising players come to soak up guidance from wizened coaches, hone their already-prolific skills, and prepare for the intense competition to join their major league team.

So far so good for Matz, who knows he has a long climb to the mound at Citi Field, but who is already thrilled to be taking the first few steps toward that goal.

“Compared to Ward Melville, this blows it away,” Matz said of his first few weeks at the Mets minor league complex. “The grass and the mound are perfect.”

A left-handed pitcher whose fastball has been clocked at 95 miles per hour, Matz is working to improve his other pitches, including a curveball and changeup.

“The curveball [is a pitch that I] still have to work on,” Matz offered. “It’s a learning curve. I used to throw in the bullpen to keep my arm loose: now, I throw to work on things.”

For Steve’s parents Lori and Ron Matz, this is an especially big year. Not only is Steve living away from home with the Mets, but their older son Jon is also attending school away from Long Island.

Lori Matz said it was tough to “lose a little bit of that control with both of them gone. That’s what we raised them for, to be independent, well-rounded adults.”

At the beginning of spring training, Steve offered to make the 19-hour drive down to Port St. Lucie by himself in his new Ford truck he purchased with his signing bonus, but his parents would have no part of that. After they drove to Florida together, Steve’s parents felt encouraged by the discipline and structure in the minor league system. Some of the rules include fines for being out after curfew.

“It’s almost a little more regimented than on a college campus,” Lori Matz said.

Steve’s passion for baseball started when he was young.

“When Steve was 2 years old, I started having a catch with him,” Ron Matz said. The elder Matz could tell even then that his middle child — Steve has a 14-year-old sister Jill — had talent. “He had a natural form. You can’t teach that.”

Ron Matz coached his son Steve until he was about 13 years old. When Steve was around 10, he pitched a no-hitter. When he got in the car after the game, he was annoyed.

“I said, ‘Steve, you just finished a no-hitter, what’s the matter?” Ron recalled.

His son’s response? “I struck out once.”

Steve’s skills and interest grew in tandem. Ron Matz said that he’d have to drag his son out of bed on a Saturday morning if he had to take an SAT prep course, but if he had a practice or a game, “he’d be sitting in the den, waiting for me before I got up.”

Steve’s parents said his average grade at Ward Melville was around 90. He was motivated to maintain good grades so that he could keep the door open for school or professional baseball.

When their son was drafted first by the Mets last year, it was especially exciting to Ron and Lori, lifelong Mets fans who were high school sweethearts. Indeed, Lori Matz spoke by phone to The Village Times Herald minutes before a rain-delayed Mets game began. Lori said for the last year she has worn her late mother’s wedding ring on her pinky. Her mother, who passed away six years ago, was “a huge Mets fan and a huge Steve fan. I almost feel like, for him to be picked out of the thirty teams, she had a hand in it.”

For Steve’s parents, the journey to the minor leagues has already provided a wealth of new baseball experiences. On the day Steve signed his contract, the Mets brought him to Citi Field. He and his parents were escorted to owner Fred Wilpon’s office.

“We took this beautiful elevator to Wilpon’s suite,” Ron Matz said. “Fred comes up to us and says, ‘I want you to meet a friend of mine. Meet Sandy Koufax. Our legs were shaking. I was like, ‘hey, this isn’t happening.’”

Last year’s winner of the Carl Yastrzemski award — an annual honor given to the best high school baseball player in Suffolk County — Steve Matz is dedicating himself to the pursuit of his baseball dream. Steve is in good company as a Yastrzemski award winner: Boomer Esiason, the former quarterback for the Bengals and Jets and current sports broadcaster, received the same honor.

“Waking up every day and playing ball, going to the field with your buddies, that’s just awesome,” Steve declared. “There are so many good players around you, it definitely makes you want to work harder and really get better.”

Social

4,792FansLike
5Subscribers+1
981FollowersFollow
19SubscribersSubscribe