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By Desirée Keegan & Bill Landon

The Miller Place football team has seemingly been playing catch-up all season, and with a 21-14 homecoming win over Shoreham-Wading River Oct. 14, the Panthers have climbed up another rung on the ladder toward their destination: the top of the Division IV leaderboard.

“It’s kind of been our M.O. all season — we’ve been playing catch up a lot this year, but the kids believe,” Miller Place head coach Greg Murphy said. “They believe that they’re going to get it done and these kids have tremendous character. I couldn’t be prouder of this bunch.”

Miller Place quarterback Anthony Seymour tries to shake off a tackler on a keeper play. Photo by Bill Landon

The Panthers snapped the Wildcats’ 12-game winning streak, and with the victory, also avenged a 49-6 blowout at the hands of Shoreham-Wading River in the Suffolk County semifinals last season. Junior tight end Tom Nealis sealed the homecoming victory with a 5-yard go-ahead touchdown catch from senior quarterback Anthony Seymour with six minutes left in the game.

Seymour faked a handoff and dropped back to pass to Nealis, running a slant pattern, who despite having double coverage on him, came down with the ball as he slid on his knees in the end zone.

“Our defense played their butts off — we only allowed 14 points from a lethal offense [like theirs],” Nealis said. “We ended their 12-game winning streak. They came here [on our homecoming] and we ended it — that really means a lot.”

During that game-winning play, Nealis was matched up with Shoreham-Wading River sophomore quarterback and defensive back Xavier Arline, who had a 48-yard touchdown run of his own in the game.

“Arline, he’s a great defender,” Seymour said. “But [Nealis] came down with the ball for the touchdown — he’s been really big for us this year.”

Shoreham-Wading River senior running back Kyle Boden struck first for the Wildcats, but things changed when he went down with a knee injury late in the third quarter and sat out the rest of the game.

Miller Place tight end Tom Nealis reigns in the ball for a catch during the homecoming football game Oct. 14. Photo by Bill Landon

Miller Place’s Sebastian Cannon helped propel the Panthers to tie the game up first, after the Wildcats jumped out to a 14-0 lead with three minutes left in the first half. The junior running back returned a kickoff 60 yards before being forced out of bounds at the 8-yard line, and then finished what he started two plays later on a 14-yard dash into the end zone for his team’s first score. He also ran in an 8-yard touchdown to tie the game on the way to 48 yards on eight attempts in the contest.

“We jumped on them early, and we had a chance to capitalize on that momentum, but I think one of the big plays was that kickoff return after [our] second touchdown,” Shoreham-Wading River head coach Matt Millheiser said. “It was a big return which gave them some momentum — it got the crowd into it because they had been quiet for awhile. When they scored on that drive, that put us on our heels.”

Cannon said his team was poised to make the plays needed to turn the game around.

“I was confident that we could make a comeback — giving us momentum going into the second half,” Cannon said. “But it was our defense that won the game for us.”

Shoreham-Wading River and Miller Place are now tied at 5-1 behind undefeated Babylon in the standings. The Wildcats have dominated their division like few other Long Island teams ever have, winning the last three Long Island championship titles. No team has ever won four straight since the LIC began in 1992.

“In the end they out played us, they out coached us; they did a great job and they beat us all the way around,” Millheiser said. “We’ve been here before, so we’ll get back to work on Monday [to get ready for Babylon at 6 p.m. Oct. 20] and see if we can right the ship.”

Port Jefferson's Aileen Schretzmayer moves through the middle of the pack during the St. Anthony's Invitational Oct. 6 at Sunken Meadow Sate Park. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

With Port Jefferson cross country runner Aileen Schretzmayer nagged by injury and Shoreham-Wading River superstar Katherine Lee out on a college visit, both teams struggled to perform up to par during the St. Anthony’s Invitational Oct. 6.

Since Lee, who ran the Sunken Meadow State Park course in 18 minutes, 10 seconds, currently the fastest girl in Suffolk County according to her coach, was visiting Stanford University to narrow down her college choices for next fall, junior Alexandra Smith was first across the 5K finish line for the Wildcats.

Shoreham-Wading River’s Alexandra Smith powers past opponents. Photo by Bill Landon

Out of 300 runners, Smith placed 11th with a time of 20:38.50 behind first-place finisher Maggie Maier, a sophomore from Sacred Heart who finished in 19:39.

“I was first [for my team] because Katherine wasn’t here, but it was my personal best,” Smith said. “The toughest part of the course for me was the down hills, but I’m pretty good at running up.”

Lee currently sits atop the Class B leader board and is ranked No. 8 in the nation and No. 2 out of all seniors, according to Shoreham Wading-River head coach Paul Koretzki.

The coach was pleased with his team’s eighth-place overall finish, especially given the outcome for a handful of his runners.

“The first five ran their fastest times today,” he said. “The only Class B team that beat us was Kings Park, by a couple of points, and with Katherine we would’ve been right up there, maybe even moved to third.”

Port Jefferson’s Schretzmayer was first to cross the finish line for the Royals in 24:51.14 placing 161st.

“It’s not her personal best,” Port Jefferson head coach Donald Slingerland said. “She’s been injured, so we’re trying to bring her back slowly.”

Second across the line for the Royals was junior Amanda Brosnan, who covered the distance in 28:23 for 250th.

Port Jefferson’s Amanda Brosnan sprints toward the finish line. Photo by Bill Landon

Slingerland warned his girls to drink plenty of fluids during the warm day, and to slow down when they thought they needed to, especially on what Brosnan said is tough course.

“It was a really big race,” Brosnan said. “There’s a lot of people running today and people came to this race from Connecticut. Cardiac Hill — it’s like a quarter of a mile long, it’s steep and it’s dirt and it’s right in the middle of the course, [so when you get to it], you’re already pretty winded.”

Shoreham-Wading River sophomore Nicole Garcia, who clocked in at 21:55.50 for 38th, also spoke to the course’s demands.

“Cardiac Hill was definitely the hardest [part],” Garcia said. “It’s a very steep hill and you think it’s never going to end; it’s very difficult.”

Smithtown’s Catherine Farrell placed second, Gabrielle Schneider placed 6th and Emily Ginty wasn’t far behind in 12th. The trio gave the Bulls enough points to finish 4th in the team standings. Kings Park’s Bridget Roell placed 15th while the Kingsmen came in 6th overall.

In the 1.5-mile run, Ward Melville’s Briana Grant was the top-place finisher and teammate Julia Stafford crossed just inside the Top 10 with a 9th-place time to help the Patriots take first in the team standings. Kings Park’s Tanner Richter rounded out the Top 10.


                

Longtime Shoreham-Wading River High School cross country and track and field coaches Bob Syzmanski and Paul Koretzki were named state coaches of the year. Photo from Shoreham-Wading River school district

Bob Szymanski and Paul Koretzki are used to winning together. With a combined 72 years and more than 100 seasons as cross-country, winter track and spring track and field coaches at Shoreham-Wading River High School, the dynamic duo has steered four decades of Wildcats toward victories and scholarships, and put the district on the map with a consistent winning record.

It’s no surprise the two veteran coaches — Szymanski, 70, the boys cross-country coach and Koretzki, 77, the girls cross-country coach — were recently recognized as coaches of the year by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association. While they take different approaches to the job, with Koretzki as a hard-nosed, numbers-based wiz and Szymanski cracking jokes and belting out Bobby Darin songs during practice, the pair work best together.

Bob Syzmanski. Photo from Shoreham-Wading River school district

“I like to call them Abbott and Costello,” said Mark Passamonte, the school’s athletic director, during the district’s Sept. 12 board of education meeting. The coaches were recognized by board members for their accolade, which measured their number of years coaching, career records and status as positive role models within the school and community. They are now eligible for national coach of the year awards.

“I’ve worked with both of these gentlemen for the last four years and they are outstanding,” Passamonte said. “They bring such wisdom and great humor to the cross-country program.”

Koretzki and Szymanski joined forces this past winter and spring as head coach and assistant coach, respectively, and, as a result, the girls 4×1-mile relay team took home the national title for both seasons. The boys fall team, so far, under Szymanski’s leadership, boasts a 5-0 record, triumphant against Sayville and Mount Sinai at recent meets.

Koretzki started coaching girls cross-country at the school in 1980 and suggested to the district it hire Szymanski, who had coached in the Center Moriches and Amityville schools, a year later when a job opened for the boys team. The two have not had a single argument since they met in the 1970s.

“The only thing I have against Bobby is he beat me in a race once in 1976,” Koretzki joked at the podium before thanking the board. “It’s a very nice honor and not the kind of thing we expected.”

During an interview, Szymanski said of his career alongside Koretzki, “We’re meant to do this job together for some reason. We work so well, he and I. He can cover me and I can cover for him. Paul is one of the most organized guys, he’s tremendous.”

“If you make practice tougher than meets, then they’re not afraid when it comes to competing.”

— Bob Syzmanski

In terms of their coaching strategies, the pair said not much has changed over the years.

Szymanski, who broke running records in high school and was cross-country captain at what is now Emporia State University in Kansas, pointed to techniques he learned from his own coaches, including middle-distance legend John Camien, as his foundation. Among his go-to workouts is one that “breaks the pain barrier.”

“Running is 50 percent physical and 50 percent mental,” he said. “When you run, and you feel discomfort, that’s when some people quit. You have to make the kids break that pain barrier in practice. If you make practice tougher than meets, then they’re not afraid when it comes to
competing at meets.”

He speaks highly of his runners, and said the best members on the team are often those who join merely to get in shape for other sports like lacrosse and football. Many of them end up with college scholarships, such as Bobby Andrews, a baseball player who joined the team in his freshman year in 2006 and was captain by senior year. He got a full ride to North Carolina State University, for which he has Szymanski to thank.

Paul Koretzki. File photo

“Without him, I never would have ran,” Andrews said. “He’s a great motivator. There’s something about him that just makes you want to perform your best. I had a great group of teammates around and we all felt the same way about him.”

Andrews and his teammates were also one of many packs of high schoolers over the years who have been introduced to the sounds of Bobby Darin through the coach, who considers himself a lifelong fanatic of the “Beyond the Sea” singer.

“In my lifetime, I must’ve given away over 50 Bobby Darin CD’s as I buy them as gifts for people,” Szymanski said with glee. He saw Darin in concert numerous times, has his fair share of signed albums and was even featured in a Biography Channel special on the singer. “When I’m in my car, going to school or a meet, I’m listening to Darin.”

Spending most of his career teaching math, in the Brentwood school district and at Suffolk County Community College, Koretzki didn’t start running until he was 33, encouraged by a friend of his who ran in a marathon.

“What I love most about the job are the kids,” Koretzki said. “Especially the ones who really dedicate themselves and see great improvement. Just seeing their faces or when they give a thumbs up after a race, that’s really nice.”

“What I love most about the job are the kids. Especially the ones who dedicate themselves.”

— Paul Koretzki

As a coach, he said he’s been running the same drills for 38 years. He’s been described as “very direct” and not one to sugarcoat a bad performance, as a way to help his runners better themselves. Alexandra Hays, an All-American who was among the national champions this past winter and spring, and currently runs at Columbia University, said she was able to achieve so much because of his tutelage.

She said her coach “pushed us to strive to exceed his expectations,” recalling a particular interaction after the team won the 4×1-mile in the nationals.

“He came up to me and told me how proud he was of us and he knew we would be able to pull off what we had because of how hard we’d worked in our practices,” said Hays, considering it his most meaningful post-race talk because it was her last. “He doesn’t give meaningless compliments or false reassurance, so to hear this after five years running for him was the best way to end my high school career.”

While Szymanski said he would like to retire after 50 years as a public high school coach, with 48 under his belt at this point, Koretzki doesn’t plan on leaving anytime soon.

“I have nothing else to do,” Koretzki said with a laugh. “I’m not interested in soap operas so I might as well keep going.”

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Wildcats win 49-12 to remain No. 2 in Division IV

By Bill Landon

Kyle Boden and Xavier Arline made Wyandanch pay for its kickoff return touchdown Sept. 23, combining for six scores to lead Shoreham-Wading River to a 49-12 homecoming win.

“Our offensive line did a great job today — they made so many holes,” Boden said. “We were a little slow to start the second half, but we picked it up and everybody was just flying around.”

Boden, a senior running back, powered his way up and down and scored all three of his touchdowns by the end of the first quarter. He finished the game with 108 yards on 12 carries. Arline scored on a 2-yard touchdown run, lunging to the left of two defenders, and again on a 45-yard run after a Wyandanch fumble. Senior Tyler McAuley, who was perfect on the day, split the uprights with each opportunity, and helped the team extend its advantage by nailing the extra-point kick attempt following the fumble recovery touchdown to put Shoreham-Wading River up 35-6 at the halftime break.

The team’s quarterback was quick to compliment the offensive line, and his kicker.

“I can run, but it doesn’t happen unless the linemen make the holes — they did their job,” Arline said. “[Tyler McAuley] did his job. He finished, and if we do that every week I feel that there’s no one that can stop us.”

Arline carried the ball 65 yards for a touchdown return of his own on the second-half kickoff. McAuley was money once again, to bring the score to 42-6.

“I’ve got to give credit to the entire field goal unit, if the snap was there, if the hold was there and the blocking was there, that gives me an opportunity,” McAuley said.

Wyandanch quarterback Dionte Jordan helped cut the deficit on a keeper, and for the second time the Warriors failed to convert a two-point conversion attempt.

Quarterback Noah Block took over as quarterback and the senior didn’t skip a beat, taking in his own touchdown for the final score of the game.

“We’re going to enjoy it for now,” Arline said, “but we’ve got to get back to looking at film and keep working, because we’ve got a good team coming up.”

The quarterback was referring to his team’s next opponent: Elwood-John Glenn.

Shoreham-Wading River head coach Matt Millheiser said depth in the Sept. 29 matchup will be an issue.

“We’ve got to find ways to give breaks for guys here and there,” he said. “We’re going to have to play deep into the fourth quarter because you can’t let a small lead or a small deficit become real big —exhaustion or a cramp or an injury will turn the tide.”

The Wildcats kick off against the Knights at 6 p.m. Arline said his team will work hard to be ready.

“They’re a good team,” Arline said of Elwood-John Glenn. “We take every team seriously but they’re just going to get harder and harder from here on out.”

By Bill Landon

Shoreham-Wading River was on a hot streak — scoring 27 goals in the first three games of the field hockey season, all of which were shutouts. That spotless streak came to an end with a 3-1 loss to a tough Harborfields team Sept. 12.

“We were very worried and concerned about Shoreham,” Harborfields head coach Lauren Desiderio said. “They were blowouts, and that’s beyond impressive.”

The Tornadoes showed no worry or concern, as midfielder Gianna Bifulco dished the ball off to forward Jenelle Bennardo for the first goal of the game 11 minutes in. Not used to playing on grass, the Wildcats seemed to struggle.

“The ball moves very slowly on grass, and everyone reaches the ball more quickly. but I think we adjusted well in the second half,” Shoreham-Wading River junior Michele Corona said. “We just needed to talk more towards the end and we need to work on that in our next game.”

Opportunity came knocking again for Harborfields, and Sarah DeVito answered for a 2-0 lead with 11:26 left in the half.

“I’m not going to lie, I was really intimidated when we were told what their record was coming in,” DeVito said. “And all day in school, especially in math class, every couple of questions the numbers zero, three and 27 would pop into my head.”

On a penalty shot, Harborfields Sarah Gray put her team out front 3-0.

“We thought we were on the lower end,” said Gray. “But we were excited to get in the game and show them that we’re here to play.”

The Wildcats had no answer by halftime, but with 16:03 left in regulation, Harborfields went a man down, and Shoreham-Wading River looked to capitalize, but squandered the opportunity.

“They have a lot of skilled players and they’re very fast,” Harborfields Desiderio said. “They have skilled players and they did a good job putting pressure on us. I was pleased with our transition.”

Shoreham-Wading River found the box nine minutes later when Corona’s solo shot took the zero off the scoreboard to close the gap, but the team would come no closer.

With the win Harborfields improves to 2-1 and will see action today, Sept. 14 at Greenport-Southholdat 4:30 p.m. Shoreham-Wading River hits the road the same day to face Miller Place at 5:45 p.m.

“We’re so used to playing on a smooth surface we’re a passing team and that’s much more effective on turf,” Shoreham-Wading River head coach Jenna Stevenson said. “It’s our first loss of the season and we’ll look to see where our weaknesses were in this game and improve — get back on a winning streak.”

By Kevin Redding

With the start of a new school year, the Shoreham-Wading River school district will be led by a fresh team of administrators — a newly appointed high school principal, assistant principal and middle school principal.

Leadership changes within the district began in April when new superintendent Gerard Poole was officially sworn in. Poole previously served as assistant superintendent in the Freeport School District and is replacing interim Neil Lederer.

“It’s truly a privilege and an honor to have the chance to collaborate and build upon the successes of the school district,” Poole said during an April 18 board of education meeting.

Frank Pugliese

 

Welcoming new high school principal Frank Pugliese

Pugliese, 45, who has been an assistant principal in the Half Hollow Hills School District for the past 10 years, officially started his new position as Shoreham’s high school principal Aug. 1, taking over for longtime administrator Dan Holtzman.

With 20 years in education under his belt, Pugliese — a Brookhaven native with a bachelor’s degree in history from the State University of New York at Albany and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Radford University in Virginia — started out teaching social studies at Goochland High School in Virginia and Commack High School before receiving his administrative certification through Stony Brook University.

He was administrative dean of students at Ward Melville High School before settling in at Half Hollow Hills, where he worked as assistant principal for four years at Half Hollow Hills West and six years at Half Hollow Hills East.

Pugliese said he’s looking forward to bringing his years of experience in the high school setting to Shoreham-Wading River, a community he said has already made him feel at home.

“I feel incredibly supported here and it’s clear that everyone wants this to be successful — this is a community that values education,” Pugliese said. “I’ve always really enjoyed high school and being part of that environment, the structure, the bonds and making sure it’s a home away from home for students.”

Having gone through an extensive hiring process, which included multiple rounds of interviews with the district office and community members, he said it was intense but appreciated.

“They really took the process very seriously and wanted to make sure they were bringing in somebody competent for the job and also a good fit for the building and community,” he said. “I can’t wait to be out there meeting everyone at the football games, soccer games and not just become principal of the building, but a real member of the community.”

As principal, Pugliese said, his main priority is to build a strong trust with his students.

“The biggest thing is you have to get to know your kids and have to know what motivates them,” he said. “You also have to really accept the fact that something that may have worked previously may not work again. For me, it’s about being real, being genuine and letting the students know that I care, which can give way to very honest conversations. When they know you have their best interests in mind, that’s when they listen. If they think you’re just feeding them a line, they’ll tune you out faster than anything.”

But most importantly, in his first year, he wants to learn.

“Even though I’ve been here officially since the start of August, it’s not a school until the kids and teachers are here,” Pugliese said. “What I’m hoping for this year is to get to know the teachers, get to know the kids. It’s about learning what this community values and how I can best fit into that.”

Kevin Vann

Kevin Vann moving on up to  middle school principal

The new principal of Albert G. Prodell Middle School is a familiar face to the community. Vann, who will be replacing retiring principal Linda Anthony after her 11 years at the helm, has been the assistant principal at the high school for the last decade. Vann said he jumped at the opportunity to lead a school in the district he knows so well.

“I know the middle school is an excellent school, they’ve had a lot of success and the faculty is highly engaged with the students, so there’s a lot of really good things going on,” he said. “I just want to work with teachers, students and families to continue to move the school in a positive direction.”

Vann, 50, said working in the high school for so long has given him a good sense of what he should expect in the new building.

“I saw the product of the middle school when they came up to the high school,” he said. “The kids are very polite, very engaged, very eager to learn and I know that’s because of the good education and experience they’ve had here in the middle school.”

Before he landed the assistant principal position at the high school, Vann worked in sales before teaching social studies at the middle school level in the Patchogue-Medford School District. He also worked on a grant for the Office of Safe and Healthy Students at Pat-Med, and was the dean of students at Shoreham’s high school.

Vann holds a bachelor’s degree in history and education from St. Joseph’s College and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Touro College.

As Vann prepares for the new job, he said he is already planning on implementing a Chromebook program for sixth-graders this year, but mainly just hopes to build on the middle school’s friendly environment.

“We certainly want to continue to make the school a welcoming place for students,” he said. “I think the social and emotional aspects of middle school is extremely important. We want to make sure that kids feel valued and welcome and safe when they come in. Once that’s taken care, the kids are in a better place to explore mentally and for learning to occur.”

Michael Winfield

High school assistant principal Michael Winfield returns

Winfield is another familiar face to the community. He returns to the same position he held at Shoreham-Wading River in 2014, before he left to serve as assistant principal for sixth grade at Hempstead Middle School.

The longtime education leader, who has earned a doctorate in modern world history, a Master of Arts in history and a Master of Arts in sociology from St. John’s University, among several other degrees. He was also dean of students at Bellport Middle School, social studies chairperson at upstate New York’s Spring Valley High School, assistant principal for operations at Riverhead High School and administrative supervisor for the Hempstead High Annex.

Winfield will be replacing Vann, who will be leaving the position to become principal at Prodell Middle School.

“I’m looking forward to, again, working with the school, the community, the parents and to really get their students prepared for work, career and beyond,” Winfield said. “I want to help them become lifelong learners who embrace learning, embrace life and become good citizens. I’m excited to be here.”

Shoreham-Wading River’s Class of 2017 seniors celebrated graduation day June 25.

Students lined up across the Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field to receive their diplomas and toss their caps in celebration of the completion of high school.

Valedictorian Anthony Peraza and salutatorian Kyle Higgins addressed their peers, and other local officials and board of education members bid farewell. Special speaker Tim Sini, Suffolk County’s police commissioner, also shared some words of wisdom with the parting seniors.

Shoreham-Wading River's Brian Morrell was selected in the Major League Baseball draft by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 35th round. File photo by Bill Landon

By Desirée Keegan

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

After the right-handed pitcher helped lead his team to a 24-2 record and Suffolk County title to close out May, he performed in the Blue Chip Grand Slam Challenge, leading Suffolk County to that win, too. Last week, he became the second player ever to receive the Yastrzemski Award twice in the distinction’s 50-year history. The honor is awarded to the top player in Suffolk County, which Morrell also became just the fourth junior to receive.

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

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

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

“An absolute honor to be drafted by the Phillies today,” Morrell posted on Twitter. “Thank you to all of the people who have supported me over my baseball career.”

The feared slugger batted .500 with seven home runs and 39 RBIs while scoring 37 runs this season, and had a 10-1 pitching record with 93 strikeouts in 67 1/3 innings. His first loss didn’t come until the Long Island championship game against Wantagh. The senior set numerous school records, including hits in a season (44), career home runs (27) and career wins (29). Morrell threw six no-hitters in his varsity career, including three this season.

Shoreham-Wading River head coach Kevin Willi had his iPad close by at all times once the draft was underway. He cleaned out his coach’s office at the high school, did chores around the house, and finally, his young sensation’s name came across the screen. He gasped.

“This is awesome,” he shouted.

Willi was supposed to be having a birthday dinner with his family, after foregoing a birthday celebration the night before to attend the player awards dinner, but it had to be put off for at least another night. He immediately picked up the phone to call all the coaches he knew.

Shoreham-Wading River’s Brian Morrell is a 6-foot, 1-inch right-handed pitcher who is committed to Notre Dame University. File photo by Bill Landon

“It was a good birthday present,” Willi said of the back-to-back historic days for Shoreham-Wading River and for his 6-foot, 1-inch right-hander. “With each name that was posted I was keeping tabs. It’s exciting for him and it’s exciting for the program.”

Although Willi said it was expected, he added how interesting it was to see how the draft process works with a Notre Dame University-commit like Morrell, who has almost a full scholarship valued at nearly $300,000, according to Willi. Along with the Phillies, other teams that scouted Morrell closest included the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets.

After seeing about five scouts at each game, Willi was waiting with anticipation for that special moment for his senior, but he didn’t expect that to be the case for Morrell, since the hurler has always stayed cool under pressure.

“Brian works his tail off, and he does the right thing,” Willi said. “The first couple times the scouts were out, the guys were a little awestruck, but Brian has always been team-first.”

Morrell had one of his biggest showings in a no-hitter against Bayport-Blue Point April 27. At least five scouts were in the stands to see him nail down 15 strikeouts with three walks while tossing the seven scoreless frames. He topped out at 95 mph on the radar gun. A scout who came from Massachusetts and got caught in traffic, according to Willi, only caught the last inning, though he still got to see Morrell comfortably throwing each pitch at 92 mph late in the game.

“It was good for the scouts to be there and see some of his best stuff,” Willi said. “[Being drafted had] been on his mind all season, but he never let it reflect on his performance or how he treated anyone. He didn’t try to throw 100 mph and not care if he wins the game — he never had that attitude. He always did what he needed to do to win the game. He was never selfish. He never tried to impress. He just wanted to win.”

Scouts were also impressed with his body of work.

Mount Sinai’s Michael Donadio, a senior outfielder at St. John’s University, who was selected by the Miami Marlins in the 30th round. Photo from St. John’s University athletics

Jarred Carrier, New York’s scouting director for Prep Baseball Report, dubbed Morrell New York’s Baseball Player of the Year.

“The 2017 high school season yielded many stellar individual performances across all corners of New York, but one player stood above the rest,” he said. “He delivered a statistically dominant season.”

Despite Morrell’s success, the 10-year coach and three-year varsity leader in no way takes credit for what his player has become.

“One of my coaching philosophies is that a player should be coached by many coaches,” Willi said. “One guy doesn’t have all the answers. There’s different strokes for different folks. Everybody had different body types, different talents, different skills in the game, and I think they should be exposed to many coaches. There’s a couple of things I taught Brian that he can take to the next level, and that makes me proud as a coach.”

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

“It’s sweet,” Willi said immediately upon hearing the news. “It’s really cool. To have coached six years total of varsity including assistant and head coach, I’ve had three players during that time get drafted that I’ve had the pleasure of coaching.”

Shoreham-Wading River’s Brian Morrell shows excitement following his two-run home run during a WIldcats win. Photo by Bill Landon

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

“He was a leader on the field,” Willi said of Tyler Osik, who played third base for the Wildcats. “He switched to catcher, which is interesting, because he’s followed the run of his father. He’s one of the Shoreham die-hard baseball kids. He loves the game, puts tons of effort into being the best and he did a good job listening to his coaches. I’m really happy to see his success.”

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

St. John’s appeared in the NCAA regional this year. Donadio posted a .374/.473/.547 with 24 extra-base hits, including four home runs, and 38 RBIs starting in all 55 games this season.

Players drafted have until July 15 to sign a contact, but Morrell is already settling in as part of the Fighting Irish.

“To have that kind of recognition, us coaches are proud of any kind of professional looks that we get,” Willi said. “Brian got the opportunities that many kids dream of. It’s a big decision on what path you’re going to take, but I reassured him whatever path he takes, it’s going to be a fun one. If he keeps working hard he’s going to be successful.”

Shoreham-Wading River’s boys’ lacrosse team finally met its match.

The Wildcats were tamed by a potent Cold Spring Harbor offense June 3, falling 16-7 in the Class C Long Island championship title game.

“It’s a hard pill to swallow,” Shoreham-Wading River head coach Mike Taylor said. “To go 16-3 and win the Suffolk County championship is tough enough. Unfortunately, we met a juggernaut in Cold Spring Harbor. They played excellent.”

Chris Gray shoots and scores. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Each time the Wildcats made a mistake, whether not winning the faceoff, falling victim to a forced turnover or having a pass bounce out of bounds, the Seahawks capitalized on the opportunity.

“Every time we made a mistake they made us pay, and they made us pay not only in possession, but turning those possessions into goals,” Taylor said. “They’re a good team; they’re some of the best.”

Taylor thought the two teams matched up similarly, and they did. Senior Chris Gray, who just recently edged out Smithtown East’s Connor DeSimone to become Suffolk County’s leading scorer with 90 goals and 25 assists, and Long Island’s top goal scorer, was a similar scoring threat that Cold Spring Harbor’s Taylor Strough was. Each team has lockdown defenders, and plenty of other offensive weapons.

“We’re both run-and-gun teams with so many guys that can score,” Taylor said. “The ball bounced their way a little more, and they made a lot less mistakes defensively. And our mistakes turned into big goals.”

Xavier Arline tries to push a Cold Spring Harbor defender out of the way to get a clear look at the cage. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Strough finished with four goals and two assists, while Gray led the Wildcats with three goals and two assists. Shoreham-Wading River, which edged out Garden City last year for the Class B Long Island title, also had contributions from senior Sean Haplin and freshman Xavier Arline, who added two goals each.

The Seahawks were up 4-0 before Gray scored unassisted on a dodge from behind the cage — the Wildcats’ only goal of the first quarter. He added another at the four-minute mark off a Joe Miller faceoff win, but Shoreham-Wading River was down 11-2 at the half.

After a 5-0 Cold Spring Harbor run that triggered a running clock with the team up 14-2, Arline scored twice, sandwiching a Haplin goal off a feed from Gray, to try and stop the bleeding. After a Seahawks tally, Gray completed his hat trick to help the Wildcats close within 10, 16-6. Haplin’s final goal came off another assist from Gray at 2:14, but neither team would score thereafter.

Kevin Cutinella makes his way to the cage. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“It’s been special,” Taylor said of taking his seniors on the Long Island championship-bound journey two seasons in a row. “I’ve had three years with some extremely talented kids, and I may never see that kind of talent again like I have in Kevin Cutinella, Danny Cassidy, Chris Gray. I have 16 fabulous seniors that are great lacrosse players and even better kids. It’s hard to spend so much time with them and see them move on, but I wish them nothing but the best.”

Cutinella said he’s felt privileged to be coached by Taylor and his assistants.

“[They have] spent so much time developing a team that can perform at a championship level year in and year out,” Cutinella said. “As a team, we didn’t perform well and to the level that Cold Spring Harbor played up to, and ultimately the score spoke for itself. But Shoreham-Wading River has shaped me into the person I am today. I’m grateful we made it this far, and even more grateful to play with all the other players on my team. My teammates, these coaches have done a lot for me, and I can’t thank them enough.”

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Wildcats' senior Kyle Baylous walks off the field after a sixth-inning rally stalls. Photo by Alex Petroski

An old baseball adage says to beat a dominant starting pitcher, you have to get to him early, and facing one of the most dominant hurlers in recent Long Island baseball history, the Wantagh Warriors executed the game plan to perfection. The first six batters to face Shoreham-Wading River standout senior starter Brian Morrell all reached base, and the first four eventually scored in a nightmare first inning for the Wildcats, who dropped the Class A Long Island championship game June 3 at SUNY Old Westbury, 4-2.

Brian Morrell fires a pitch. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Warriors sent nine men to the plate in the bottom of the first on four hits and two walks to jump out early, and eventually hand Shoreham-Wading River its first loss since April 5. The loss snapped a 20-game Wildcats win streak. Wantagh was crowned the Long Island Class A champion for the second consecutive season after knocking off Mount Sinai for the title in 2016.

“I think they had a good approach because Brian’s hard to hit, so they probably just started hacking away when they could and got a good piece of the ball and did what they had to do to win,” senior catcher and team captain Thomas Brady said of Wantagh’s big inning against Morrell.

The University of Notre Dame-bound starting pitcher finished his rockiest outing of the season allowing four earned runs on five hits, three walks and five strikeouts over six innings. He eventually settled in, and only one Warrior base runner reached second base after the first inning.

The Wantagh Warriors celebrate knocking off Shoreham-Wading River in the Long Island Class A championship game. Photo by Alex Petroski

“It was like a dream come true kind of,” Brady said of the scorching stretch of baseball Shoreham-Wading River put together to reach the final game. “We all worked as hard as we possibly could. I love these guys to death and now we’re all moving on to a new chapter. Hopefully the younger kids can bring it home next year.”

The Wildcats’ entire starting lineup was comprised of seniors Saturday. Head coach Kevin Willi reflected on the successes of the outgoing 16-man senior class following their last game in blue and gold.

“They were awesome — I mean really all 16 guys were diehard all year,” he said. “They worked their tails off the entire time. I wish we could have came home with a Long Island championship for them, but that’s the way it happens. A county championship is a pretty good accomplishment, especially with the best record in program history; those are good things to remember that these guys earned.”

Wantagh’s left-handed starting pitcher, junior Anthony Fontana, kept the Wildcats’ normally potent offense off balance for most of the game. He allowed just two earned runs on five singles and a walk over five innings of work. Saturday was the first time all season Shoreham-Wading River had been held to two runs or less.

Brian Morrell takes a cut as Shoreham-Wading River’s last chance in the seventh inning. Photo by Alex Petroski

“He’s curveball heavy, so a lot of our guys don’t want to swing at a first pitch curveball, but when the pitcher gets ahead with a curveball the batter is already at a disadvantage,” Willi said. “We hit him hard a bunch of times, and right at guys. He did a good job.”

Despite the slow day offensively, the Wildcats still had a chance in the bottom of the seventh inning trailing 4-2 with Morrell — who hit two grand slams in the previous three games — at the plate as the tying run. He grounded out to third on a high chopper to end the Wildcats’ hopes of heading upstate for a shot at a state championship. Despite the disappointing conclusion, Willi reiterated how proud he was of the achievements of his 2017 squad.

“It was awesome — we played really well through that stretch,” he said of winning 20 straight. “Even this game we played well. We ran into a good Wantagh team.”

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