Huntington Blue Devils barrage Tiger bullpen

Huntington Blue Devils barrage Tiger bullpen

By Steven Zaitz

The Huntington Blue Devils were three outs away from a lost weekend of baseball.

Down by two runs going into the seventh and final inning on Saturday, May 8, and looking dead in the water, they exploded for four runs off of a leaky Northport Tiger bullpen to steal a 6-4 victory. They were able to salvage a split of their two games on the opening weekend of high school baseball season across Suffolk County.

Senior pitcher Kyle Colleluori threw a complete game and was able to settle in after the Tigers scored three unearned runs against him in the first inning. He finished with six strikeouts and the four runs he allowed were all unearned.

“We showed a lot of heart out there today,” Colleluori said. “I knew the guys would settle down defensively. I have a ton of confidence in my teammates, and I’m glad we got this win.”

Despite Colleluori’s righting of the ship and the defensive improvements they made throughout the game, it was a late and surprising offensive assault by the Blue Devils that stole the show and stunned the Tigers. After senior pitcher Liam Darrigo pitched six brilliant innings of his own for Northport, the Tigers, clinging to a 4-2 lead, brought in Joseph Gonzales to face the bottom of Huntington’s batting order to secure the save.

Gonzales was greeted rudely by a hard hit single by Devil second baseman Alex Bellissimo and then a towering double to right by the lanky first baseman Palmer O’Beirne.  That immediately put the tying runs in scoring position and stirred further activity in the Tiger bullpen.

With one out, Blue Devil senior shortstop Chris Segreti drove in a run with a clean single to left, his fourth hit of the game, cutting the Tiger lead to 4-3. Gonzales was replaced by Dan Thomson, setting up the seminal moment of the game.

Centerfielder Dylan Schnitzer, recently recovered from a broken thumb, stepped in against the hard-throwing lefty Thomson. He sat on a 3-1 fastball and laced it to left center field for a hit. O’Beirne scored easily from third, and Segreti dove headfirst underneath the tag of Northport catcher Richard Kershow to plate the go-ahead run. Schnitzer later scored to give Huntington a 6-4 lead.

“That was a huge hit there by Dylan,” said Blue Devil head baseball coach Billy Harris. “It seems like it’s been two years since we’ve gotten a timely hit like that, so that was a really big moment for us.”

“It was really cool to be in that position and give my team the lead,” said the versatile Schnitzer, whose primary position is catcher, but was playing centerfield on this day. “We wanted to attack their bullpen as soon as possible, because the other guy [Darrigo] was cruising the whole game.”

Northport head coach Sean Lynch believes his decision was the correct one despite the result.

“One of our biggest strengths is our pitching depth and our bullpen,” Lynch said. “Liam was up around 90 pitches and we need him for the entire year to give us length.  If we can’t count on the guys in the pen, then we’re not the team we thought we were.”

“But I feel confident that the guys we brought in will bounce back. In baseball, you blow saves sometimes, and I don’t think any of us coaches feel like we should have done anything differently in that situation.”

The day before

Northport didn’t need the bullpen on Friday Night against Smithtown East as Liam Fodor was brilliant, striking out 11 Bulls batters in a 4-0 complete game masterpiece.  The game was scoreless until the sixth inning when junior shortstop Ray Moreno manufactured a run with a single, advanced on a wild pitch, then a fielder’s choice and scored on a passed ball. The Tigers tacked on three more in the seventh inning, as catcher Mike Catrone and third baseman William Deriso both hit triples and scored.

Huntington ran into a buzzsaw that same night as they fell to reigning Suffolk County champions Connetquot, 7-1. Thunderbird shortstop James Goff had three RBIs, and pitcher Sean Mileti held the Blue Devils offense at bay, giving up only one run on five hits in seven strong. Legendary Connetquot baseball coach Bob Ambrosini, who died this past December from COVID-19 complications, was honored before the game, which was held at Moriches Baseball Complex. Carmine Argenziano, of Deer Park, and Bill Batewell, of Sachem and Bellport, both of whom have also recently passed, were also honored.