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Eric Reichenbach

Rocky Point and Mount Sinai faced off in the Suffolk County baseball championship game in 2016, and though the schools are rivals, they’re on the same team once a year to honor Susie Facini.

A Rocky Point High School graduate, Facini died in November 2011 at 19 years old of a sudden heart attack. Without warning, she felt her heart race, and passed out just seconds later. Despite efforts of her mother, Bernadette, a registered nurse, Facini was unable to be revived.

Susie Facini’s parents, Bernadette and Pete, during the fourth-annual Live Like Susie baseball game and fundraising event. Photo by Bill Landon

The Rocky Point alumna had an immediate impact on everyone she met. Her reach was so strong, that over 3,000 people came to her one-day wake. As a result of her death, 18-year teacher Andrew Aschettino, head coach of the Rocky Point baseball team, felt compelled to host a baseball game in her memory.

“She was genuinely concerned for other people — she was the happiest person,” Aschettino said. “With a smile, she always had something nice to say about everybody everyday. Everyone was happier just by being around her, and that’s what we’re trying to spread.”

Rocky Point assistant coach Eric Strovink said Aschettino called up their good friend and Mount Sinai baseball team’s head coach, Eric Reichenbach, in 2014 to ask if his Mustangs would compete in a yearly game in Facini’s honor.

“Reichenbach said, ‘We’re in for as long as you guys do this,’” said Strovink, a Shoreham-Wading River graduate. “That’s pretty impressive.”

The two teams faced off May 6 in the annual Live Like Susie game, which raises money for a scholarship in Facini’s name. There’s no requirement for the student who receives the scholarship except that they be a kind and giving person.

“It’s extremely heartwarming,” Facini’s father Pete said of the event. “This is a community that came together to make something great out of something that is so sad and tragic. Susie represented nothing but kindness and that message transcends what has happened. These people here recognize it, and we couldn’t be more grateful.”

Mount Sinai tops Rocky Point

By Bill Landon

Although the matchup was in the name of a good cause, someone needed to come out on top, and with a five-run sixth inning put Mount Sinai’s baseball team ahead 9-2 at Ridge’s Fireman’s Field.

Mount Sinai senior Dan Deckert’s bat cracked first, drilling a home run over the left field fence and bringing home classmate Will Esposito for an early 2-0 lead. Mount Sinai junior George Rainer took a healthy lead off second base, and senior Alex Giantonnio helped bring him home for a three-run lead with a shot to deep right field.

Rocky Point junior John Rosman took the egg off the scoreboard for the Eagles, sending the ball through the gap and sending home senior Shane Owensby to make it a two-run game, 3-1.

The Mustangs found themselves in trouble in the bottom of the third inning when senior Robert Lindstrom walked a batter to loaded the bases with one out. Lindstrom focused in on his next two batters, and escaped the inning without letting up a run.

The team found itself in trouble yet again in the bottom of the fourth, but this time, the Eagles capitalized, with a run coming in off a walk with the bases loaded to cut the lead in half, 4-2.

Then, Mount Sinai’s bats caught fire in the top of the sixth with a pair of unearned runs, and followed it with a bases-clearing three-RBI single for a 9-2 lead and the win.

Rocky Point hit the road May 8 for the first of a three-game series against Sayville, coming up just short 5-4. The Eagles will host Sayville and Mount Sinai will host Elwood-John Glenn May 9 at 4:30 p.m.

He and his wife said they enjoy seeing that even though the current students and members of the baseball team may not have known their daughter, they’re excited to be a playing in such a special game.

“These boys never knew her, and we’re very proud,” Bernadette Facini said. “Sometimes I’ll be out shopping and I’ll see one of the kids from Mount Sinai with a purple bracelet on that says Live Like Susie or they’re wearing a Live Like Susie T-shirt, so we are so humbled by the kindness. She was adored by so many and she was just a joy to be around. She literally went from group to group to group — there were no outsiders in her life — and that’s why we keep the kindness award and scholarship going in her name.”

Reichenbach said he’s also proud to be part of the event.

“Our communities are so close — the kids all know each other — so it’s just good people getting together for a good cause,” he said. “I know [Susie Facini] was a big part of coach Asch’s life. It’s a great way to keep her memory alive.”

Parents donate food for the event, and in return for the free food, there’s a suggested donation toward the scholarship. Last year, $1,000 was raised, and with an even larger turnout at this year’s game, Aschettino said he’s hoping for an even bigger scholarship.

Cassie Rando, last year’s recipient, was home from college and attended the crosstown matchup. Bernadette Facini pointed to her as a reason why the family and the baseball teams keep doing what they’re doing. But Aschettino pointed to the Facinis as the real motivators.

“It’s a classic case of where the apple didn’t fall far from the tree,” he said. “Their son Andy is also a great kid — they’re just great kids from a great family.”

Rocky Point students and Eagles’ team members like Brian Forbes feel the same way.

“It just shows how we can all come together as a family,” the senior said. “[Mount Sinai doesn’t] have to do this, but they do. That shows how great they are.”

Senior Matt Pendl said he likes seeing the two teams continue to come together each year with mutual respect and admiration for a beloved community member.

“This is so important — it shows that there’s more important things in life than just baseball,” he said. “We had a blast celebrating the memory of someone who was just a great individual. I was not fortunate enough to know Susie, but my three older brothers who went to this school were fortunate enough to know her, and all I’ve heard is that she was an amazing person. This event is just a great way to remember her.”

To donate to the Live Like Susie scholarship, contact Rocky Point High School at 631-744-1600 or visit the school at 82 Rocky Point-Yaphank Road.

Bill Landon contributed reporting

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Mustangs drop game to Wantagh, 3-1, after winning program's first county title

The Mount Sinai baseball team huddle outside the dugout. The Mustangs fell to Wantagh, 3-1, in the Long Island championship game. Photo by Alex Petroski

Pitching and defense were the keys to the Long Island Class A baseball championship game Saturday. In the end, Wantagh had just enough of each, and Mount Sinai was left to wonder what might have been.

The Warriors defeated the Mustangs 3-1 behind a complete game, one hit, zero earned run pitching performance by senior Bobby Hegarty at the Police Athletic League Complex in Holtsville. Hegarty got the best of Mount Sinai senior Sam Kessler on the mound. Kessler also went seven innings; scattering five hits and one walk while striking out seven.

Mount Sinai senior starting pitcher Sam Kessler hurls the ball off the mound. Photo by Alex Petroski
Mount Sinai senior starting pitcher Sam Kessler hurls the ball off the mound. Photo by Alex Petroski

“He’s been tremendous all year long,” Mount Sinai head Coach Eric Reichenbach said of his pitcher after the loss Saturday. Kessler pitched the Mustangs to the championship game with seven innings of two-hit ball to close out a two-game sweep of Rocky Point in the Suffolk County Class A championship series on May 26.

“It’s another game where basically he dominated,” Reichenbach said. “He didn’t give up an earned run. We didn’t play stellar defense behind him, and that’s kind of been our bread and butter all year long — pitching and defense.”

The fact that the Mustangs’ “bread and butter” failed them will probably make Saturday’s result a little tougher to swallow. The Warriors scored the first run of the game in the third inning after an error and two singles loaded the bases with one out for senior designated hitter Will O’Brien.

O’Brien hit a shot to deep left field, which was run down by Mount Sinai outfielder Paul Gomes. The eighth-grader made an outstanding running catch, slamming into the fence for the second out. O’Brien was credited with a sacrifice fly. After a stolen base, sophomore Anthony Fontana singled to right field to put Wantagh up 2-0. Both runs were unearned.

“I thought I didn’t have my best breaking ball early in the game,” Kessler said after the game. “I think that’s where I got in trouble in that third inning a little bit. I made the adjustments, but it was just one of those days. Not much you can say — they played good and came out here and beat us today.”

Kessler settled down and retired 12 of the next 13 Warriors hitters. Mount Sinai answered the Wantagh rally in the bottom of the third, getting men on base via an error and a single. With one out and men on first and second, Wantagh failed to turn a double play and an errant throw by Wantagh second basemen Mike Derham allowed the Mustangs to cut the lead in half. Hegarty didn’t allow another base runner after the third. He retired the final 12 Mustangs he faced to secure the Long Island championship.

Mount Sinai’s Sam Kessler takes a strike from Wantagh’s Bobby Hegarty. Photo by Alex Petroski
Mount Sinai’s Sam Kessler takes a strike from Wantagh’s Bobby Hegarty. Photo by Alex Petroski

“Hats off to the other team, and to Hegarty,” Reichenbach said. “He threw a nice game. Sometimes you’ve got to tip your cap.”

Wantagh scored their third run on Mount Sinai’s third error of the game in the seventh inning.

The Mustangs captured their first-ever Suffolk County Class A championship title this season, though, so Saturday’s disappointing result didn’t stop Mount Sinai from reflecting on a special season.

“It’s hard now because the game just ended, but it’s still a tremendous accomplishment by the school and these kids,” the head coach said. “We’ve never won a Suffolk County championship before. We got one this year and it’s just unfortunate we won’t be going any further.”

Kessler will head to West Virginia University to pitch in the Big 12 Conference in the fall.

“It’s a great season all around,” Kessler said. “We took this team farther then we’ve ever been before. It’s a shame things ended the way it did. There’s a great group of guys here and they’ll be back next year.”