The Ward Melville Patriots, the No. 1 seed in their league this year, completed a successful season in 2019.
The team made it to the Suffolk County finals but lost in game 3 to Connetquot. Coach Lou Petrucci said it was the third time the team went up against Connetquot in the finals.
For the spring 2019 season, Petrucci said it was difficult to name just one favorite game or play.
“Anytime a kid plays a high school baseball game on his home field, it’s a memorable game,” he said, adding it’s more about what the players take from the game.
It was a season where Max Nielsen, the only five-year player in Ward Melville history, struck out 18 batters in the Suffolk County semifinals. The stats are a Patriots record, according to Petrucci.
Among the accolades he garnered this year, the left-handed pitcher won the Suffolk County Baseball Coaches Association’s 52nd annual Carl Yastrzemski Award for Suffolk County’s top player. He is the third Patriots baseball player to win the coveted award in the last 12 years. Petrucci said, in the past, AJ Nunziato and current Mets pitcher Steven Matz have been among the winners. Nielsen was also named a member of Axcess Baseball’s All Decade Team 2010-2019 second team, and the SCBCA awarded him Suffolk County League 1 Most Valuable Player and All-County Selection, too.
Nielsen, who is already taking two classes at the University of Connecticut this summer, is modest about the awards.
“It’s an honor to receive them,” he said. “It’s all because of my teammates.”
Nielsen said the May 25 Suffolk Class AA elimination game against Commack stands out as a favorite for him. The pitcher, just back from an oblique injury, witnessed his teammate Matthew Franco hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the 6th with two outs and two strikes. The Patriots went on to win the game, 8-6.
If it weren’t for Petrucci, Nielsen said he wouldn’t be playing at his present level. He also credits his fellow teammates Brady Doran, Ethan Farino and Matthew Maurer for their hard work.
“Without them, I don’t think we’d be in the position we were in this year,” Nielsen said.
The pitcher said the thing he will miss most about Ward Melville baseball is “playing with the kids I’ve been playing with since [ages] 8, 9, 10.”
Other Patriots racked in SCBCA awards including Farino for All-County, Doran and Maurer for All-League and Ryan Hynes for Academic All-League. Petrucci was the winner of League 1 Varsity Coach of the Year.
Petrucci said in addition to Nielsen playing for UConn, a few of the Patriots are moving on to play college baseball. Doran will play at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire; Farino at Marist College in Poughkeepsie; Maurer at Post University in Waterbury, Connecticut; Bryan Radzinsky at Immaculata University in Immaculata, Pennsylvania; and Patrick Schriffen at College of Old Westbury.
The coach said he thinks the players enjoyed playing baseball at Ward Melville.
“The kids gave their classmates, their parents and many people in the Three Village baseball community exciting baseball memories,” he said.