By Bill Landon & Desirée Keegan
There are a few more Ward Melville pitchers following in the footsteps of alumni Steven Matz, Anthony Kay and Ben Brown.
Senior Chris Buehler and junior Max Nielsen are being added to Lou Petrucci’s pitching prospect pack after strong first starts to the season.
Buehler notched six strikeouts over four hitless innings in the Patriots’ 5-0 season-opening win over William Floyd Colonials March 26. Ethan Farino went two innings and Drake Eggleston pitched one in the combined one-hit shutout.
“We’re just a bunch of guys that are all one big family — we’re all brothers,” said Buehler, a lefty who’s committed to Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus. “We’ve been working hard in the offseason. I think we’ll be pretty good this year.”
Nielsen secured his first “W” of the year in Ward Melville’s 6-1 home victory against Patchogue-Medford Raiders the next day.
“We just have to get the bats going this season, we’ve got to hit the ball because there’s a lot of great teams in our division,” said University of Connecticut-bound Nielsen. “Pat-Med always gives us a great series.”
Nielsen’s got the pitching and the hitting taken care of. The junior lefty had a two-run single in the top of the sixth inning to give Ward Melville a 3-0 lead over William Floyd. Senior shortstop Logan Doran had an RBI-single in the seventh inning of that game. He and his brother Brady hit doubles in the win against Patchogue-Medford.
“We’re ready,” said Logan Doran, who noted it was a bit challenging getting ready for the season indoors. “Our pitching is still dominant across the Island, but our hitting has stepped up. [We’re starting] the season with the mindset that anybody can beat us, taking nothing for granted.”
Senior center fielder Trevor Cronin said his team will continue to capitalize on two of its strengths.
“We have a size advantage,” the captain said. “But our pitching [is great], especially with guys that work this hard.”
Buehler said the Patriots have a target on their back, but said his team feeds off of that.
“We just have to limit the mistakes — limit the errors — limit [our] strikeouts and we have to score runs,” Buehler said. “Our biggest challenge this year is putting some runs together, but if we play small ball, I think we can win some games.”
He said he sees Sachem East being one of Ward Melville’s biggest threats. After hosting Longwood April 2 at 10 a.m. and Brentwood April 3 at 2 p.m., the Patriots will be put to the test. They’ll face the Flaming Arrows on the road April 5 at 10 a.m.
“I think they’ve done a great job in their offseason workouts, especially this winter,” Petrucci said. “When the kids look up to Steven Matz, Anthony Kay and [most recently, Ben Brown] — they’ve all been an inspiration to all of us — the pitching staff has taken on a whole new dimension here at Ward Melville.”