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Defense

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Senior Dylan Winwood competes in final football game

By Desirée Keegan

Dylan Winwood couldn’t ask for a better way to end his football career.

Kings Park’s senior tailback/slot receiver hybrid and safety battled on the gridiron one last time Sept. 23, before getting season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum. Winwood’s injury occurred in a scrimmage Sept. 1, and he asked his doctor to clear him to play in one final game. Upon getting approval, he decided his last performance would be at homecoming.

“Any win is sweet for our coaches and our team, but having a great crowd to play in front of for homecoming made the atmosphere electric,” he said. “I can’t thank our fan base enough, truly one of the best groups on the Island.”

Although the team could credit running back Vince D’Alto for its 7-2 win over Hauppauge (0-2), Winwood also credited the Kingsmen’s fans and new surroundings for helping the team seal the deal.

“I felt great out on the field and the lights were fantastic,” he said of the stadium’s new ambiance. “I felt like homecoming made it that much sweeter — with the crowd and the team going crazy after every play.”

The junior running back scored the only touchdown of the day — on a 32-yard run in the first quarter. D’Alto said he was looking to ride a routine push play, but happened to stumble across a hole in the defensive line and carried the ball into the end zone. Senior Mike Trupiano’s point-after attempt was good to put the Kingsmen (2-2) up 7-0.

“I was just trying to get some yards to get out of our own end zone, but there was a hole and I took it,” said D’Alto, who finished with 155 yards on 15 carries. “It was a great team effort and there were a lot of ups and downs, but a win is a win.”

Despite the offense not playing up to its preferred tempo, the Kingsmen’s defensive unit was willing and able to pick up the slack, especially co-captain Winwood.

“I feel as if [the win] was due to our stout defensive effort,” he said. “The whole team rallied around a stellar defensive performance.”

The senior said he thought D’Alto was strong on both sides of the ball to help propel the team to victory.

“He was running extremely aggressive and was making plays on the defensive end that helped seal the game for us,” Winwood said. “This year’s team is definitely one of the fastest teams in our division. We have a bunch of athletes just waiting to make plays, and I’m looking forward to the Kingsmen capturing more wins in the future.”

D’Alto said he was inspired by Winwood’s willingness to put his career on the line to play football one last time, especially since he already has a lacrosse scholarship to Florida Southern College.

“Dylan had a lot of courage playing in his last game with a lacrosse scholarship on the line,” he said. “Dylan always plays great — one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen, and he played his heart out for his last game. It was great seeing him on that field risking it all for just one more game, telling us as a team how much this really means to him.”

The senior reflected on his final high school game.

“I felt awesome on the field; all I wanted was to finish my career on a win and it happened,” Winwood said. “I couldn’t ask for a better end note.”

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Chris Buehler hurls a pitch. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Just call on Joseph Rosselli to get the job done.

Tom Hudzik lays down the bunt while Joseph Rosselli races across home plate for a 2-0 lead. Photo by Bill Landon

Ahead 1-0, the race was on for the Ward Melville senior who was attempting a move that hadn’t been successfully completed since 2006. With a big leap off third, he rushed toward home following a successful Tom Hudzik bunt for a suicide squeeze that put the Patriots up 2-0 en route to a 4-2 win over Brentwood May 1.

“Coach Lou [Petrucci] brought us in and told us he wanted to attempt it,” Rosselli said. “The batter’s got to make contact with the ball because if he doesn’t, I’m out 100 times out of 100, so the pressure was on Tom Hudzik, and he came up big for us today.”

As the Brentwood catcher chased down the dribbler, Rosselli snuck across the plate, and although Hudzik was tagged out, his job was done.

Brentwood responded in the top of the second when Cooper Maselli blasted a home run over left center to make it a one-run game. A shot to center field that caused a collision placed the tying run at first, but starting left-handed pitcher Chris Buehler fanned the next two batters to extinguish the threat.

“I had my stuff, but I was leaving some pitches up,” Buehler said. “I got them down and then I felt I could go the distance. They had their ace throwing hard, good pitches — good curves, so we just had to get a couple of runs.”

James Curcio dives to make a catch in center field. Photo by Bill Landon

Petrucci had all the confidence in his starter.

“He’s a competitor and an outstanding young man,” the head coach said. “He’s not fazed by these big situations.”

Even after Brentwood made it a new game with a sacrifice fly in the top of the fourth, and Maselli threatened to make matters worse for Ward Melville with a shot to deep center that after some debate wound up a ground-rule double with no outs, Buehler made sure Maselli never made it further than third. Then, his Patriots worked to get those runs he was talking about.

“Chris Buehler struck out three good hitters,” Petrucci said. “He concentrated. He’s been a great force for us this year — he’s 4-0 so far — he’s our Monday guy.”

After a base hit by junior Trevor Cronin, sophomore Max Nielson smacked a ground-rule double of his own. With two outs, a walk was drawn to load the bases, and Rosselli moved into the batter’s box. The senior waited for his pitch, and jumped on a fastball. He sent it deep to right field for a two-run double and a 4-2 lead.

Brentwood made three running errors over the next two innings, and Ward Melville’s defense made its opponent pay each time to preserve the lead.

“Once we give our dominant pitching staff a lead, it’s almost always a solidified [win],” Rosselli said. “So once we got that 4-2 lead, everyone settled down a little We put our faith in our pitchers, and that’s what we’ve been doing all year.”

Vinny Pepitone grabs the ball before tagging out the runner. Photo by Bill Landon

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Jack Collins makes a play at the plate. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Late errors proved costly for Port Jefferson’s baseball team as Pierson-Bridgehampton turned in an eight-run fifth inning en route to an 11-1 defeat of the Royals April 28.

Kris Cheslock rips the ball over the fence. Photo by Bill Landon

The Whalers struck first when, in the top of the second, a Royals throw to home plate was just late. But Port Jefferson’s leadoff hitter in the bottom of the inning, senior Kris Cheslock, knocked the third pitch he saw deep to left field that cleared the fence and then some, to make it a new game.

“It was a 2-1 count, I was looking for a fastball and it came to me right down the middle,” Cheslock said. “I had a nice swing on it, and I knew it was gone.”

Port Jefferson senior starting pitcher Sean Griffin had his hands full in the top of the third when the Whalers advanced two runners to scoring position with no outs, but he challenged the next three batters and the Royals defense did its job, as Pierson-Bridgehampton stranded both Whalers on base.

Port Jefferson sophomore Jordan Suarez hit a blooper to shallow right field next, and capitalized on the right fielder’s bobble to stretch a single to a double, but the Royals failed to bring him home. The Whalers plated a runner in the top of the fourth to break the tie.

“We saw them the last two games, so we knew we had to play a clean game, and we didn’t do that,” Cheslock said. “We need to work on our defense and it needs to be better.”

Sean Griffin throws a heater. Photo by Bill Landon

In the fifth inning, a pickoff throw to first fell into the dirt and rolled by the first baseman. Two pitches later, another pickoff attempt rolled by second base this time, to help the Whalers runner advance to third. Pierson-Bridgehampton slammed home hit after hit thereafter, and drew timely walks with the bases loaded to score eight runs by time the Royals tallied three outs.

“The way baseball is, you’ve got to take in one day at a time — the mistakes we made today can’t be mistakes we carry with us into Wednesday’s game,” Port Jefferson head coach Jesse Rosen said. “We’re 7-8 and we have games ahead of us that are winnable games for us. We need to go 10-10 to put ourselves in the playoffs, and truthfully that’s not an unreasonable thing.”

Despite the defensive mistakes, the Royals hit the ball hard in the bottom of the inning. Senior Nick Andriani smacked a leadoff single, and Suarez followed with a shot through the gap, and bother runners advanced on a wild pitch with one out. But the Whalers’ defense came through for the win.

“Granted not the way you want to step into the last quarter of your season — our defense was far from optimal today,” Rosen said. “Baseball’s a game where you [shake off a loss like today’s] and get ready for your next game.”

The Royals look to get back to .500 when they hit the road to take on Southold May 3 at 4:30 p.m.

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Marissa Spinazzola will play two sports at Mercy College

Marissa Spinazzola defends the open cage. File photo by Bill Landon

Marissa Spinazzola was given an opportunity she couldn’t refuse — to play both lacrosse and field hockey at Mercy College.

“When I first met with the lacrosse coach, she said she didn’t want to recruit a lot of people that were playing both sports, but I asked her if it was possible if I could play both and she told me it was okay, so I’m excited,” Spinazzola said. “I knew I didn’t want to leave field hockey behind because lacrosse wasn’t the only sport I had a love and passion for.”

The Warriors’ dual-threat first got her hands on a lacrosse stick when she was in first grade, and she said she knew it was the sport for her. While she also played basketball, Spinazzola said she knew she wanted to try her hand at field hockey, and made the middle school team in seventh grade. Come her junior year, she had to pick between basketball and field hockey, and said she thought continuing on with the latter was something that would benefit her in the long run.

“My mother thinks I’m better at field hockey,” the athlete said, laughing. “At first I didn’t know if I liked it because I didn’t know if hunching over my stick the whole time was going to bother me, but I stuck with it and found I had a passion for it.”

She was good at it, too, which is what caught the eye of Mercy field hockey coach Kayte Kinsley.

“The first time I saw her play I could tell how aggressive she was,” Kinsley said. “She was a hard worker, never quit on any play and she was all-around driven.”

Once she started a conversation with Spinazzola, the coach said she knew that much more that the athlete would be a strong fit for the program.

“Her personality is kind of contagious,” she said. “I think the first conversation I ever had with her I was hysterically laughing; she’s funny. She fits the whole mold of what we’re looking for in a player here at Mercy.”

Although originally playing midfield in both sports, the now-converted defender said she is excited about the role she plays on her teams.

Spinazzola calls out a play while defending. File photo by Desirée Keegan
Spinazzola calls out a play while defending. File photo by Desirée Keegan

“I love defense because I feel like you get so much action and you have to be a team player and communicate with one another to stop opponents from getting a goal,” she said. “I like that the defense works as a unit and no one is selfish. Playing defense helped me become the person I am.”

Spinazzola had the stick and personal skills that her high schools coaches were thrilled about having on their team.

“She doesn’t back down from anybody. She had a very good stick on the defensive end, you don’t have to worry about her throwing the ball away, “ Comsewogue girls’ lacrosse head coach James Fernandes said. “But more so, when I think about Marissa, I think about more than the lacrosse aspect, but about her as a human being. She’s a very good person. There’s not many kids like her that have the heart that she does.”

Fernandes said that what he noticed on and off the field was Spinazzola’s ability to become a phenomenal senior leader, taking the younger girls under her wing and helping them become comfortable on a varsity team with a diversified age.

That ability to be a leader earned her the Scott Hession Memorial Award, named after the former athletic director and boys’ basketball coach at Comsewogue, and given to a player that may not necessarily be the best player, but exemplifies what it is to be a leader.

“If there was one kid that touched my heart this year, it was her,” Fernandes said. “She was a great leader. There was no animosity or hatred; it was all love. And that’s what I’ll remember most about Marissa Spinazzola.”

Kinsley said she was looking for an immediate impact from Spinazzola.

“We are losing a couple of defenders, so with her skill level and her work ethic, we’re looking for her to come in right off the bat and be an impact player for us, and I believe that she is definitely going to be that for us,” she said. “I’m excited about her coming in. We’re looking forward to preseason.”

Spinazzola said she is looking forward to her new athletic careers at Mercy, and also hopes to be able to not only make an impact, but also learn from and grow with her new team.

“My goal is to step up, learn the game better than I already do, get playing time and be a unit with that team like I was at Comsewogue,” she said. “I learned from my coaches and tell myself that my stick doesn’t affect how I play, it’s the person behind the stick. When I think I’m having a bad day or something, it’s not my stick’s fault. I just know I need to focus harder to achieve my goals.”