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Baseball

Coach Matt Senk. Photo from Stony Brook Athletics

Baseball head coach Matt Senk has a long resume as he enters year 32 at the helm. National Coach of the Year, College World Series participant, New York State Baseball Hall of Famer, and now, he’ll be enshrined in another Hall of Fame.

The Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame announced its 20-person Class of 2022 and the College World Series participant will be honored at the ceremony on May 18 at East Wind in Wading River.

Coach Matt Senk

“I cannot thank Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame Executive Director Chris Vaccaro and the induction committee enough for this incredible honor,” Senk said. “Undoubtedly, recognition such as this never happens if not for the unbelievable opportunity Stony Brook University gave me 32 years ago. Also, without the endless support of so many people involved with the Stony Brook Athletic department over those years; from equipment managers to athletic directors and everyone in between, I sincerely thank all of you. Most importantly, all of the amazing assistant coaches and young men that chose to be part of either our Patriots or Seawolves baseball program. Without all of you, this unquestionably could not have happened. For that, I am so proud and humbled to accept this induction in your honor.”

Senk joined the Seawolves program for the 1991 campaign and has posted 871 wins, including a program-record 52 en route to Omaha. That total is good for 17th-most among active Division I baseball coaches. In 30 full seasons on Long Island, Stony Brook posted 25 winning seasons and 15 seasons of 30 wins or more. Senk has led his team to six America East tournament titles and seven NCAA Tournaments and is coming off a regular season championship during the most recent campaign.

During his tenure, the Seawolves have had 27 players drafted into the major leagues, including six-time all star Joe Nathan. Stony Brook has also had four draft picks inside the top five rounds, including first-rounder Travis Jankowski. Five of those draft picks made appearances in the major leagues, including Jankowski who is currently in the Phillies organization.

Stony Brook is set to open the 2022 campaign on February 18 with a three-game set at McNeese State. The schedule is highlighted by 2021 Super Regional participant South Florida and regional top-seed Old Dominion before diving into its 30-game league schedule.

Gerrit Cole. Photo from Wikipedia

By Barbara Anne Kirshner

The 2021 baseball season fizzled out for the Yankees with their embarrassing 6 to 2 loss against the Red Sox in the AL wild-card game. Fans were abruptly forced into a long, cold winter with the only ray of sunshine coming from the promise of spring training.

It is frustrating that Yankee fans were reduced to watching the ALDS with their arch nemesis the Boston Red Sox playing their villainous rivals the Tampa Bay Rays and then the ALCS with the Red Sox advancing on to play the sign stealing Astros. And the meanest cut of all is those dishonest Astros making it into the World Series against pearl-sporting Joc Pederson and the rest of the Atlanta Braves. The heart has been taken out of postseason for Yankee fans, but if there is any justice in this world the Braves will shut out the Astros.

There is much speculation over what our team will look like come 2022. The lingering question of will Yankee’s manager, Aaron Boone, face the same ax that the Mets’ Luis Rojas got as soon as the season ended was answered when General Manager, Brian Cashman, held a press conference on Oct. 19, where he announced Boone would receive a three year contract with the Yankees. 

Cashman defended this decision by saying, “Boone is part of the solution not the problem.” This response has only added to the frustration of Yankee fans. Apparently, Cashman feels his shake-up in the coaching staff with firing hitting coach, Marcus Thames, third-base coach, Phil Nevin, and assistant hitting coach, P.J. Pilittere, is the easy fix.

In that Tuesday press conference, Cashman went on to take all the blame for the Yankee’s dismal season. He is almost putting his own head on the chopping block with statements like that. By taking ownership for the failures, does this mean he’s out next year when his contract is up?

One thing Cashman promised is that the roster needs a turnover and will not look the same next year. Cashman admits they are seeking a short stop, a catcher and even center fielder. So, what is the fate of Aaron Hicks who spend most of this season on the IL for a wrist injury?

And it is well-documented that Hal Steinbrenner, Chairman and Managing General Partner of Yankee Global Enterprises, does not rule with an iron fist like his dad, George, who went into every season with the foregone conclusion that his Yankees would win.

It appears the heart has gone out of the Yankees. At the end of this season, only two players carried the entire team, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. D.J. LeMahieu was a dud. He has undergone sports hernia surgery and is expected to be ready for spring training. Let’s hope that will get him back to 2019 shape. 

Gleyber Torres, at only 24 years old, played like an old man, limping along when he should have been running to catch a ball. And the old man of the team, Brett Gardner, still has spirit though inconsistent at best. Don’t even get me started on Aroldis Chapman! Every time he came to the mound, it was cringe worthy! He has given away so many important games that it is perplexing he keeps getting chance after chance with Yankee fans reduced to sitting on the edge of their seats not knowing which Chapman will appear on any given day. Will it be the aggressor he was signed to be or will he melt down before our very eyes giving away the game? 

What is there to say about the disappointing start of Gerrit Cole, the golden boy with his $324 million dollar contract, who was not so golden after all. He gave up two home runs before he was pulled in the second inning of that wild-card game. It looks like those spider tack rumors were true! 

Poor catcher, Gary Sanchez, never gets a break. Yes, he fumbles behind the plate and fell into a long slump, but at least he worked hard, regrouped and started hitting home runs. At the end of this season, Sanchez was someone to count on for at least get on base.

I feel your frustration Yankee fans! We are reduced to boredom for the remainder of this 2021 season and we don’t even care who wins the World Series now that our ‘mighty’ Yankees have struck out.

Miller Place resident Barbara Anne Kirshner is a freelance journalist, playwright and author of Madison Weatherbee —The Different Dachshund.

Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves. Wikipedia photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Before I get to the current difficulty of deciding which of the four remaining baseball teams to support, if any, I’d like to offer the following observations on a bipolar Yankees season, in which a 13-game winning stream seemed as unlikely as a 70 loss season.

The team had the talent, sort of. They are, as the saying goes, what their record says they are. In many ways, it’s remarkable that they even made the one-game wildcard playoff. They weren’t exactly world beaters against the Baltimore Orioles, who almost single handedly made it possible for the other four teams in the division to finish with over 90 wins.

They also gave away games that they seemed a lock to win, coughing up leads late, and losing key games to a Mets team that struggled to find its identity and mojo after the best pitcher on the planet, Jacob deGrom, was injured.

But this isn’t about the Mets. So, for what it’s worth, here are my Yankees thoughts. Stop worrying about how much money you’re paying players. Go with the players that helped you win. That means, if defensively-gifted shortstop Andrew Velazquez played a key role in big games with his range and defense, give him a chance.

If that also means Greg Allen needs a few at bats and a chance to race around the bases, give him a shot, too. Oh, and Tyler Wade? I know he’s not going to hit 400-foot home runs too often, but he is a versatile gamer with an ability to play numerous positions and, on occasion, to have a high contact hot streak.

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If I were managing my favorite team, I’d stick with whatever is working and not try to race injured and under performing players back. Sure, Gleyber Torres and Gio Urshela have been valuable pieces in the past, but that’s not a reason to put them back on the field in the hopes that they’ll be something they weren’t before each of them got injured.

As for the current playoff conundrum, what should Yankees fans who are still paying attention to baseball root for during the last three series?

Come on, it’s almost impossible to root for the Red Sox because, well, they’re the Red Sox. Then again, the Astros are not just a baseball villain, but are also Yankee killers. Jose Altuve, who used to be a beloved versoin of the little engine that could, hits a huge home run in 2019 off of Aroldis Chapman then covers up his uniform so no one can rip it off and show a tattoo he didn’t like? Yeah, I’m sure that’s what happened because these players are so modest about their body ink.

One of those two teams will represent the American League in the World Series. If I had to choose one, I think, gulp, I’d go with the Red Sox. Part of the reason for that is that I have so many friends and professional colleagues who love the team that I’d be happy for them.

In the National League, the Braves are a feel good team. I saw Freddie Freeman at the All Star Game a few years ago and he seemed like a genuinely good father. I know that’s not a critical criteria for rooting for someone, but he held his kids and smiled at almost anyone who talked to him.

The Dodgers are the beasts of baseball in the last few years. Just when you think they couldn’t get any better, they add Max Scherzer (seriously?) and Trea Turner, two incredible deadline acquisitions for a team that was already a powerhouse. Mookie Betts is otherworldly in one way or another, with his speed, incredible and accurate arm and his ability to put the ball in play and, at times, over the wall.

I’m going to root for the underdog in the national league here, pulling for the Braves to make a Cinderella journey into the World Series and beat the deep and talented Dodgers.

Now, if I get my way and it’s the Braves against the Red Sox? I’m going to root for the Braves because it’s still the Red Sox. No matter who wins, though, I’m hoping for a seven-game series because that’s good for baseball and for the baseball fan. I know the season is long enough, but those last few games are like the final number in a Broadway musical. The energy is high, the fans are on their feet, and no one wants to leave.

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By Barbara Anne Kirshner

The mighty Yankees and the AL Central first place White Sox magically emerge from a voluminous cornfield to take their places on a well-manicured baseball diamond and the game begins.

This scene played as if right out of a movie, except this wasn’t a movie, it was an actual baseball game. But it wasn’t being played in a grand stadium, instead it was played in a regulation ball field in rural Dyersville, Iowa, surrounded by acres of tall corn only feet away from the original baseball field and house featured in the iconic Kevin Costner movie Field of Dreams.

The regular-season baseball game, which had been delayed for one year due to the COVID pandemic, finally played Thursday evening August 12. It was exciting as if scripted by Hollywood with a surprising edge of your seat twist at the end. 

The Yankees fought their way back from a 7-4 deficit at the top of the ninth when they rallied with a two-run homer from Aaron Judge, then another two-run homer by Giancarlo Stanton off the Sox closer Liam Hendriks, to make the score 8-7 in the Yankees’ favor. 

But the Yankees’ dreams of victory in Iowa were suddenly dashed when at the bottom of the ninth inning Tim Anderson hit the first pitch from Zack Britton to land a walk-off home run right in the middle of those corn fields giving the win to the White Sox.

Though the Yankees left in defeat, just being a part of this spectacular event was thrilling for the players and their fans. Yankees manager Aaron Boone said, “That was as special and breathtaking a setting for a baseball game as I’ve ever been part of.” Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge said, “It was pretty cool driving in and seeing everybody standing on the side of the road, with signs, cheering us on as we’re coming in.”

This newly built 8,000 seat ballpark sits right next to the original built for the 1989 movie starring Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, Ray Liotta and James Earl Jones. Before the game, Costner ambled onto the outfield like his character Ray Kinsella and watched as the White Sox and Yankees walked out of the cornrows to take their places. 

Baseball in hand, Costner headed to the microphone while the original musical score from the movie accompanied him. The actor looked at the crowd and uttered, “It’s perfect. We’ve kept our promise. The dream is still alive. There’s probably just one question to answer. Is this heaven? Yes, it is.” And it was perfect; it was heaven. The dramatic introductory festivities were a prelude to this exciting game.

Throughout the evening there were clips from the movie featuring some of the classic quotes, adding to the enchantment of it all. One pivotal quote from James Earl Jones’ character Terrance Mann was “Ray, people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom.”

And that’s exactly what happened Thursday, August 12, 2021. People came to Iowa to that magnetic cornfield to be part of the tradition of baseball, but more than that, they came to be part of a unique event. In addition to those in attendance were the 5.9 million total viewers on FOX Television, the largest audience for a regular season game on any network since 2005.

At the end of the movie, the ghost players were on the field with Ray Kinsella looking on. Suddenly, the catcher takes off his mask revealing he is Kinsella’s deceased dad and after a few words, the father and son play catch leaving all of us to ponder what if we could have just a few minutes to play catch with a loved one. 

Playing catch is such a singularly inviting activity for two people. The ball and the throw unite the pair. If only I could have one more moment with my mom, the person who introduced me to baseball and her beloved Yankees. If we could play catch like we did when I was a kid, what I would give for the chance to relive that moment with her. 

Fans and players lingered after the game, then finally started their pilgrimage back home with the wish for one more moment.

Thankfully, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred announced that the Field of Dreams game will return to Dyersville, Iowa next August 2022. The teams taking part are undecided as of this writing.

Miller Place resident Barbara Anne Kirshner is a freelance journalist, playwright and author of “Madison Weatherbee —The Different Dachshund.”

Newfield win the Suffolk III championship title in a 2-0 victory over West Islip Jun. 18. Bill Landon photo

Although the bats were cracking with runners on base, it was a defensive showcase by both Newfield and West Islip who went scoreless though 5–½ innings in the Suffolk County Conference III title game June 18.

Newfield pitcher Kendal Kendrick was dominant from mound where the senior went the distance but it was Josh Jacob’s bat that decided the game in the bottom of the sixth inning when the junior ripped a shot to left field driving in two runs for the 2-0 lead.

Kendrick disposed of the last three West Islip batters in the top of the seventh to advance to the Long Island Championship game.

 Photos by Bill Landon 

Number 1 seed advances to conference finals against Bay Shore

By Steven Zaitz

The Huntington High School Baseball team rode a nine run first inning and cruise to a 13-6 victory over Northport on Wednesday. They will face Bay Shore in the finals Friday for the Conference II championship.

Dylan Schnitzer, who was four for five on the day, hit an opposite field, two run homer in that first inning and lefty starting pitcher Palmer O’Beirne was rock solid going 4 1/3 innings striking out seven.

Tiger third basement Owen Johansen hit a grand slam homer late in the game, but it was not enough as the Blue Devils improved their record to 17-2.

Comsewogue’s Brendan Topper makes the play at first in a road game against Newfield June 5. Bill Landon photo

Trailing Newfield 2-1 to open the 4th inning, Comsewogue loaded the bases when Christopher Valazquez laid off a pitch for the walk to plate Aaron Freidman to tie the score, but it was Dominic Schuch’s bat that spoke next for a base clearing inside the park grand slam homerun to jump out front for a 6-2 lead.

But Newfield chipped away at the deficit loading the bases in the bottom of the 4th inning plating a runner when the batter was hit by a pitch then Mike Madina drove in Stephen Lumme and Dylan Johnson. Newfield’s Joe Hackel scored on a passed ball in the bottom 6th inning to make it a one run game when Medina struck again with a 2 run rbi double to take a 10-9 lead to open the 7th inning.

Newfield’s defense prevailed to close out the one run victory.

With the win Newfield improves to 13-2 for the top spot in league III with 3 games left on their schedule while the loss drops Comsewogue to 7-8.

Post season play begins Tuesday June 15. 

By Steven Zaitz

Sometimes, it is two, and not one, that is the loneliest number.

It was exactly that for the Northport Tigers baseball team this past Monday, as they managed just two hits against Bayshore, losing by a score of 2-0.

Marauders starting pitcher Ty Panariello was nearly flawless, allowing only five base runners in the complete game shutout of Northport.  The 5-foot-7-inch sophomore stood tall in the saddle and with the win, he elevated his record to 4-2 on the season and brought Bay Shore to within a half a game of the Tigers.

Huntington leads League II with a glistening 14-3 record with Connetquot, Northport and Bay Shore right behind, and all within a game of each other.  The top two teams will enjoy a first-round playoff bye so this victory for Bay Shore kept that hope alive.

“For Ty to come out there and throw the way he did in a tense ballgame and shut those Northport bats down is impressive,” said Bay Shore Head Baseball Coach Mike Herbst. “It was a big win and we needed it.”

Bay Shore got the scoring started early, as they touched Tiger pitcher Liam Fodor for a run in the first inning on a two out RBI double by first baseman Darnell Guerrero.  It was all Panariello would need.

Getting ahead in counts and relying on his defense behind him, Panariello did not allow more than one runner on base in any inning and seem to get stronger as the game wore on.

“I was trying to mix up my pitches and keep them off balance,” Panariello said. “All my pitches — fastball, curveball, change-up and slider — were working and I was able to get ahead in counts. I also have to give props to the defense behind me. They were awesome out there.”

While Northport baserunners were at a premium, the Tigers were able to hit a few balls hard against Panariello, but on this day, they never found grass.

“We preach all the time not to give the opposing team extra outs,” Herbst said. “Today we played extremely well on defense, and it allowed our pitcher to get into a rhythm because he knew the guys behind him were going to make the play.”

Two of these guys making plays were centerfielder Jason Ambos, who will be attending the University of Central Florida in the fall and right fielder Coltrane Calloway, who is headed for Seton Hall. They had three putouts apiece and made it look easy out there.

“Jason Ambos is the best defensive outfielder in the county, and he’s been doing it since his freshman year,” Herbst said. “And Coltrane should be in the conversation for Most Valuable Player of the league. The guy is hitting close to .500, has 4 home runs and 4 wins as a pitcher.”

But it was Panariello who was the M.V.P. of this game, as he retired the final 15 batters in a row, overwhelmingly outdueling Fodor who gave up 10 hits and suffered his first loss of the year.

“Liam battled and never gave up the big inning,” said Northport Associate Head Coach Sean Lynch. “Bay Shore has one of the best lineups in Suffolk County and their kid (Panariello) worked ahead and rarely got into deep counts. He pitched to contact and let his defense play for him.”

The last defensive play of the game was made by Panariello himself, as he snared a hard-hit comebacker by Tiger third sacker Owen Johansen. After the momentum of the ball carried him towards first base, the sophomore ran it to the bag and emphatically stomped on it with both feet, putting an exclamation point on his job well done.

“It was a good game to win and there was a lot of emotion at the end,” Panariello said. “Once I got that ball in my glove, I really wanted to end the ballgame myself.”

Bay Shore and Northport have split the season series, with Northport notching a wild, extra inning win earlier in the year at Bay Shore. The possibility looms that these two teams will face off in the playoffs.

“We’ve had two great games with them,” Panariello said.  “Let’s decide it with a third.”

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Ward Melville struggled from the mound falling behind early in a road game against Pat-Med, giving up several walks with bases loaded, then hit a batter to find themselves in an 8-0 hole in the opening inning.

The Patriots mounted a rally in the top of the second, first loading the bases when catcher Thomas Ribaudo crushed a monster shot straight away over the centerfield fence for a base-clearing grand slam home run cutting the deficit 8-4. It would be the only bright spot for the Patriots as their bats went silent the rest of the way, save for a run in the top of the fifth, and fell to the Raiders 17-5 in a Division I matchup June 8.

The loss drops the Patriots to 12-5 with one game remaining before post-season games begins Tuesday, June 15.

By Steven Zaitz

The Houdinis of Huntington pulled off yet another escape — and it was the bullpen that wrote the final act.

The Blue Devils fended off a wild seventh inning comeback attempt by the Northport Tigers and won by a score of 4-3, May 27 in Huntington. Devils starting pitcher Palmer O’Beirne was brilliant again, going 6 1/3 innings and striking out nine. Closer Alex Bellissimo got the last two outs with the bases loaded to end the game.

“That last inning was definitely a lot of pressure, for sure,” the senior Bellissimo said. “But the whole time I was thinking that I’ve got to close it out for Palmer because he pitched a great game. I just stayed relaxed and tried to execute my pitches.”

While Bellissimo was relaxing, everyone else in attendance was on the edge of their seats — in the dugouts and in the stands. As the afternoon settled into early dusk, the other extra-curricular activities around the Huntington High School Athletic Complex had ended.  Lacrosse players, cheerleaders and other members of the student body began to buzz around the ballfield to watch these two fiery rivals play this seventh and deciding inning. They were in for a treat.

Three weeks prior to this game, Huntington stunned Northport with four runs in their final turn at bat to turn a 4-2 deficit into a 6-4 victory. Northport was looking for a little payback.

But O’Beirne, a junior, was perfect through three innings in this rematch and had given up only three hits and a run through six. He came out for the seventh inning having thrown 95 pitches and immediately showed signs of fatigue by giving up a single to Richard Kershow to start the inning. He had struck Kershow out twice before.

“I got two strikes on him and tried to finish him off with a curve,” the 6-foot-3-inch fireballer said. “I left it up a little bit and he was able to get it into right field for a hit. I wish I stuck with my fastball there.”

After getting sophomore Owen Johansen to fly out to right, Tiger first baseman Joe Gonzales lined a double to right center, bringing the potential tying run to the plate and knocking O’Beirne, tired or not, out of the game, as he reached his pitch count maximum of 105.

“I would have liked to have been out there to finish the game,” O’Beirne said. “I was counting pitches in my head instead of focusing on getting the batters out.”

So O’Beirne, who was named after Baltimore Oriole pitching great Jim Palmer, moved over to first base and his teammate Bellissimo was called upon to put out a smoldering fire — and things were about to get even hotter.

Northport shortstop Ray Moreno drove in Kershow with a single to right. Speedy leftfielder Tom Tini, who saved two runs the previous inning with a spinning circus catch, legged out an infield hit on a very close play at first base. Gonzales came in to score on Tini’s hit and Huntington’s lead was suddenly just a single run.

Right fielder Rocco Stola drew a walk, loading the bases and more importantly, putting the potential tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position with only one out.

Northport catcher Mike Catrone stepped up to the plate.  He had driven in a run with a well-struck liner in the previous inning but was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double. But Bellissimo got him to pop out to third and the Devils were one out away from victory — the late spring daylight now fading as the drama came to its crescendo.

Number three hitter and centerfielder Dan Thompson was the last hope for Northport.

“Getting that pop out was huge and took some of the pressure off,” Bellissimo said. “But I still had one more out to get.”

With two strikes, Thomson smoked a humpback liner to straightaway center field.  The pinging sound of aluminum on rawhide set off alarm bells over the now-hushed diamond. Centerfielder Kyle Colleluori, who seems to find a way to contribute every time he steps on a baseball field, ranged over a few steps to his left to snag the liner before it could find the grass. Ballgame over. Blue Devils win.

“Off the bat, I thought it was hit pretty good and maybe they just took the lead,” said the relieved reliever Bellissimo. “But I turned around and saw that Kyle was there, as he always is. What a great win!”

With the victory, Huntington and Northport, along with Bay Shore and Connetquot, sit atop the League II standings and are scrambling to best each other for playoff seeding.

“In our league, almost anyone can beat anyone,” O’Beirne said. “There are no guarantees.”

If these two teams meet again, it will be in the League II playoffs, and if recent history is any indication, there is one thing that can be guaranteed — that game will have another seventh inning storybook ending.

Who will author it?