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Steven Zaitz

By Steven Zaitz

A soggy day got even soggier for the Northport Lady Tiger soccer team, as it dropped a 2-0 decision to its top-of-the-table rival and reigning New York State champion Ward Melville this past Saturday.

The Lady Patriots scored one very early and another very late to secure the win and, in between, used a suffocating brand of defense that allowed Northport nary a chance to even sniff a scoring opportunity. This was an especially impressive feat by Ward Melville, considering Northport had obliterated Walt Whitman two days earlier, 7-0.

Lady Pat senior Peyton Costello scored on a penalty kick in the 16th minute of the game, her eighth goal of the year, and freshman Aliyah Leonard knocked in a header off a gorgeous centering pass from Marissa Tonic with 13 minutes remaining for the knockout punch. Leonard was able to get a large piece of not only the ball, but Tiger goalkeeper Kaleigh Howard’s arm, as Howard was rising up to catch Tonic’s curving crosser. Howard never gained control and the ball squirted free and over the goal line.

The Lady Patriot defense did the rest. Fullbacks and sisters Adriana and Ale’ Victoriano were twin terrors on the backline with Sarah Jablonsky, Samantha Ruffini and Tonic at center midfield. The Patriots forced Tiger stars Madison Howard, Jamie Inzerillo and Brooke Heffernan into slippery decisions and often missed connections as Ward Melville goalkeeper Kate Ronzoni had a reasonably easy day at the office.

Northport had outscored its previous five opponents by a combined 21-2. Saturday in Setauket, however, was a different story for the Lady Tigers as they mustered only two shots at Ronzoni’s net. 

For the Patriots, it’s business as usual. Only one team scored against them all season and it was non-league Syosset. Ward Melville won that game anyway 7-2. So far this season, nine other teams have tried and failed to slip one past Ronzoni — including Northport.

“Our team is a mix of such good players from different club teams in Suffolk,” senior captain Tonic said. “Everyone works so well together, and we have such a great defensive shape.”

Ward Melville remains undefeated at 9-0-1 and has used that defensive shape to achieve a goal differential of 32-2 this year. Northport falls to 7-2-2. 

The game was played just hours after historic amounts of rain fell across Long Island and while the rain had tapered off considerably at game time, it was still played under slick conditions. Northport wasn’t using it as an excuse.

“Ward Melville has a very strong defense,” said junior captain and striker Madison Howard, who is Kaleigh’s sister. “I think we came out a little tentatively because there was a lot of hype surrounding this game. But if and when we see them again in the playoffs, we’ll know what to do.”

With their unblemished 8-0 record in Suffolk Division I, Ward Melville has a simple focus — repeat as state champs.

“We have a completely different team now than we had last year,” Costello said. “We are very young but still very hungry to win it all again.”

Northport, also with lofty aspirations, is now a respectable 6-2-1 in the division and currently seeded fifth. The top two teams in the conference will earn a bye in the first round of the playoffs. The victory by Ward Melville was a big step toward that pot of gold, but Northport is not done chasing that rainbow.

“We always try to stay positive,” Madison Howard said. “We will win as many games as we can and see where we end up.”

With opponents including Connetquot and Commack in the coming days, the Lady Tigers hope to crank up the machine again and render this loss a wet and wild one-off. 

Ward Melville intends to keep the good times rolling with upcoming games against Bay Shore, Connetquot and Walt Whitman.

By Steven Zaitz

On the first day of spring in the year 2021, the Northport Lady Tigers lost a field hockey match.

It was a chilly day on the campus of Smithtown High School East as the Lady Bulls and the Lady Tigers would need an overtime session and a shootout to decide a victor.

Smithtown East’s Dani Brady, who is now a junior at the University of Maryland, netted the winner against Northport’s future hall of fame goalkeeper Natalie McKenna and this set off a wild celebration for the Lady Bulls with Brady at the bottom of a raucous pile.

Fast forward two and a half years later to the first day of autumn, 2023, and the Lady Tigers still have not lost a game since that long-ago day in St. James.

Last Friday, senior forward Kenzie Bliven rattled off three goals in a four-minute span of the first quarter to help defeat the combined forces of Bay Shore and Islip by a score of 4-0. It was the seventh win of the year for Northport, who have now won a mind-blowing 62 games in a row. The team is also seeking its third straight New York state championship and fourth straight Long Island championship, as there was no statewide tournament in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Northport besieged Bay Shore/Islip goalkeeper Sabrina Frazer with 23 shots on goal as Bliven, who leads the Lady Tigers with seven goals this year, worked relentlessly at the goalmouth to hammer away at her natural hat trick. Senior Makenzie Maniscalco added a goal in the second half for the Lady Tigers, and freshman sensation Julianna Tietjen had three assists while junior Lily Beamer had one.

Senior Grace Wickard and junior Mariselle Camillone split time in goal for the shutout. Northport has outscored its opponents by a combined 20-1 so far this season despite losing a star player such as McKenna, her sister Olivia McKenna, Emma McLam, Sydney Wotzak, Mackenzie Sweeney, Emma Fabrizio, Mallory Bennett and Julia Cavallo, who are all spread across the country enjoying life as college freshmen. 

In an oddity of the scoreboard, the Lady Tigers have scored either four goals or two goals in all their games this season. But despite the relatively tame output on the scoreboard, Northport has relied on its trademark watertight defense to sustain the winning streak.

Northport put its streak on the line away to the Commack Lady Cougars Wednesday, Sept. 27, when the Lady Tigers went for a 63rd win in a row. The result was too late for press time.

By Steven Zaitz

The Northport Tigers Football team defeated the Smithtown Bulls on Sept. 14 in a rare Thursday afternoon matchup.

In observance of the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, schools throughout Long Island moved up football games to Wednesday and Thursday last week. The short rest was not an issue for the Tigers, as junior quarterback Enrique Hernandez tossed two touchdown passes and senior running back Giancarlo Valenti rushed for 211 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown. 

Tiger junior tailback Christian Campoli, who left the previous game early with an injury, was back in the lineup and it was he who was on the receiving end of both of Hernandez’s scoring throws. Lucas Santangelo rushed for 120 yards for Smithtown East, and senior quarterback Jake Fields was 8 for 17 for 65 yards and had a rushing touchdown. 

The game started off with a bang for the Tigers as Campoli ran a down, out and up on the right sideline and hauled in a floater from Hernandez for a 63-yard touchdown on only the fifth play from scrimmage.

Smithtown East would begin the second quarter with similar explosiveness. Santangelo took a handoff straight up the gut for 66 yards on a 2nd down and 2. 

A great hustle play by Campoli’s brother Michael stopped Santangelo at the 1-yard line, but Fields would tie the game on the very next play with a quarterback sneak. The half would end with the score 7-7.

It would become untied after Northport’s first possession of the third quarter when Hernandez threw a perfect strike to Christian Campoli for a 34-yard touchdown to put Northport up 14-7.

Valenti would put the game away midway through the 4th quarter when he blasted through the middle for a 49-yard touchdown, to make the score 21-7 in favor of the Tigers. 

Northport is 1-1 on the season as Smithtown East falls to 0-2.

By Steven Zaitz

The air was like soup and the astroturf near its melting point, as the Northport Tigers and North Babylon Bulldogs fought a hotly contested battle of attrition to open the football season this past Saturday.

Temperatures soared and tempers flared as momentum swung wildly throughout the course of this sweaty, sticky, hard-hitting mess of a game. There were almost as many players gasping for air, for both teams, as there were empty water bottles strewn about the sidelines.

At the climax, against a gassed group of Tiger defenders, North Babylon junior tailback Jawara Keahey delivered the death blow to the home Tigers with his fifth touchdown of the day — a 33-yard run around right tackle on third down and 13. Keahey, who rushed for a Long Island-best 258 yards on the day, slithered through a small hole at the line of scrimmage, broke a tackle attempt by Tiger defensive back Tommy O’Brien at the 10, and outran three other Northport defenders to score with a little over a minute remaining in the game to win it. The final score was 33-27 as the Bulldogs rang up 368 yards on the ground.

“That run was heartbreaking,” Northport head coach Pat Campbell said. “We had a chance to stuff it at the line of scrimmage, but [Keahey] found a crease, broke it to the sideline and was off to the races.”

O’Brien had a chance to stop Keahey before he scored, but could not.

“I had him and should have wrapped him up and brought him down,” said junior O’Brien, making his first varsity start. “I’m going to learn from this experience, and I know that it won’t happen in the future.”

Also making his first varsity appearance is junior quarterback Enrique Hernandez, who had a double order of unenviable as he is replacing the graduated football and baseball star Owen Johansen, and he had to do it against this snarling Bulldog defense.

“After that first drive, I felt pretty natural and comfortable,” Hernandez said. “It was the most physical game I’ve ever been a part of, and I think we had a good chance to win. We just need to fix a few things, and we’ll be fine.”

Hernandez looked like a seasoned veteran on Northport’s first possession, as he led the Tigers on an 80-yard, 11-play touchdown drive that was capped off by an 8-yard dash up the middle by senior Giancarlo Valenti. Senior running back Michael Campoli juiced up an already frenzied crowd with a 40-yard run on the second play from scrimmage. Hernandez then got the Tigers into the red zone with an 11-yard keeper. Five plays later, Northport led 6-0.

The Bulldogs bit back on their second possession. North Babylon quarterback Chris Stumpf completed a pass to Keahey for 29 yards midway through the second quarter and shortly thereafter, Keahey was doing the first of his five touchdown celebrations after he waltzed up the middle virtually untouched. It made the score 7-6 in favor of the Bulldogs, and it marked the first of three lead changes on the day.

“North Babylon is a very senior-heavy team, and they like to run it down your throat,” Campbell said. “We got a taste of it today with their guys up front, and obviously their running back [Keahey] had a special kind of day.”

After an exchange of punts, Northport took advantage of a short field and took back the lead right before halftime. Junior Christian Campoli, Michael’s brother, caught a 6-yard touchdown pass at the front-right pylon to give the Tigers the lead, 13-7, on the last play of the first half.

“Enrique threw me a perfect ball with a lot of pressure in his face,” said Christian Campoli, who would later leave the game with a painful leg cramp. “He got hit hard and still was able to get the ball to me.”

Hernandez only completed three passes for 48 yards, but Campbell was very pleased with his performance.

“Enrique did a great job,” Campbell said. “He went toe-to-toe with that defense in a tough environment and took a couple of big hits. But he’s a cool cat, and he kept his composure. I believe that he is only going to get better.”

But would it be enough on this day? The 5-foot-7-inch, 150-pound Keahey would provide the answer.

He ripped off 56 yards on three carries to start the third quarter and finished the 10-play drive with a 1-yard plunge off right tackle to swing the lead back to the Bulldogs at 14-13. North Babylon forced a punt, and Keahey got right back at it. He galloped 47 yards to cap a two-play drive and put North Babylon up by eight — a double-barreled assault on the Northport defense to start the half and wrest control of the game.

But the Tigers were still a touchdown and a two-point conversion from tying the game after Michael Campoli, his brother Christian now ruled out of the game, blocked the extra point.

“I didn’t know how bad his injury was,” Michael said of his younger brother. “But I was playing angry — for him. I know what he means to this team, so I did everything I could to keep us in the game.”

After Valenti electrified the crowd with a 44-yard touchdown run, slicing through the middle of the tiring Bulldog defense for his second score of the day, Northport trailed by two. Campbell called Michael Campoli’s number to try and tie the score.

On a play called “wing sweep,” Michael Campoli followed right guard Connor Henigman and left guard Connor Farrington and lunged the ball over the goal line just as his knee hit the turf. The game was tied with just over three minutes to go.

“I told the guys in the huddle that there was no way they were going to stop me,” Campoli said. “And I was right. It was great blocking by the big guys up front, both of the Connors, and I just did the rest.”

Campoli finished the game with 91 yards rushing on 12 carries.

“He’s a warrior,” Campbell said. “He’s a quiet kid but he plays with a nasty streak.”

But North Babylon has competitors, too. The senior Stumpf picked a great time to complete his second pass of the day when he hit his tight end Jack Montecalvo on a bootleg for 27 yards to the Tiger 30. After a penalty, Northport had a chance to stop the Bulldogs on 3rd and 13 with a minute to go in the game and was likely headed to overtime if Northport could prevent a North Babylon first down. 

Keahey did them one better. He took the ball from Stumpf for the final time, made a subtle juke at the line of scrimmage and raced down the right sideline into the endzone — in his wake, leaving five exhausted Tiger defenders sprawled out like felled bowling pins. It was the final strike of the afternoon and, fittingly, it was delivered by Keahey.

“We got a little pinched in the middle, and he busted it outside,” Campbell said. “We have a lot of new guys on defense, and I’m thinking as the season goes along we’re going to learn on the job and get better. We have to.”

Northport will not have long to wait to show if they have taken lessons out of this one, as they play a rare Thursday afternoon game, Sept. 14, at home against Smithtown East. 

By Steven Zaitz

The Greenlawn Fire Department’s Fair, held every Labor Day weekend, is New York state’s longest-running fireman’s fair. It has run since the very early part of the 20th century.

The 2023 Greenlawn Fireman’s Fair grand marshal for the parade was coach George Kouroutis, who saved the life of a youth soccer player this past August. Kouroutis used an automated external defibrillator, restoring the young man’s heart rhythm and saving his life.

The fair ran for four days from Aug. 31 to Sept. 3 and featured raffles, face-painting, a giant slide and food and drink for both young and old alike.

Prizes that raffled off included a big screen television set, a gas grill, sided of high-quality beef. The grand prize, which was awarded on Sunday evening, was $10,000 in cash.

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Northport celebrates winning its season opener against Comsewogue. All photos by Steven Zaitz

By Steven Zaitz

Students across Long Island squeezed one last day out of summer vacation Tuesday, Sept. 5, but the Northport Tiger boys volleyball team was certainly open for business.

The Tigers traveled to Port Jefferson Station and vanquished the Comsewogue Warriors in three straight games, barely breaking a sweat. The scores were 25-17, 25-17 and a final dominating game of 25-8 to close out the match.

It marked the debut of new head coach, Liz Capra — Northport Class of 2000, former lady Tiger volleyball star and University of Delaware graduate. She was the girls junior varsity coach last year and has now taken over from the departed Amanda DiPietro, who had piloted the team since 2008.

The Tigers dominated the match from wire to wire as senior middle hitters Brendan Fenlon and Peter Kucza imposed their size over the smaller front line of Comsewogue. Fenlon had eight kills and Kucza had six to go along with his seven blocks at the net. Setter Dylan Sofarelli had an eye-popping 23 assists as well as 6 digs.

“It felt like nobody could stop us out there tonight,” said Sofarelli. “There is no better feeling than that, and it was awesome.”

Capra was pleased about the way  the way the Tigers played as a team, considering that the season is in its infancy.

“It was a total team effort tonight,” Capra said. “We served very well, got the ball deep, and that kept them from easily setting up their offense.”

The Tigers took advantage by taking shallow returns and bombing away from every angle, spiking the ball almost at will against the outgunned Warriors.

Above, middle hitter Peter Kucza with one of his six kills. Photo by Steven Zaitz

“It’s a great way to kick off the year,” Kucza said. “Coach Capra had us prepared, she’s very knowledgeable about the game. We really had a good plan and once we started to get warmed up, we played really well.”

Getting warmed up was not exactly difficult for either team on this day, as it was 90 degrees outside at the start of the match and probably an extra 10 degrees inside the Comsewogue gym. In fact, the volleyball itself had to be switched out several times due to moisture accumulation and the floor had to be mopped frequently between points. None of these factors slowed down Northport.

“Coach DiPietro did such an amazing job of building a strong foundation for this program,” said Capra, who as a middle hitter won two Long Island championships and three league championships as a Lady Tiger. “It’s a privilege to get the opportunity to carry on the excellence of Northport volleyball as a former player to now, 23 years later, as a coach. It feels great to start off with this win.”

If Tuesday’s match result is any indication, it will be the first of many for Capra. When asked if she’s ready for perhaps a 15-year run of her own as coach, she displayed that she has already mastered yet another aspect of coaching — handling the media.

“We got to take them one match at a time,” she said.

That next match will be at West Babylon Sept. 7. Capra will make her home debut as coach against Patchogue-Medford on Sept. 13.

By Steven Zaitz

Country came to Commack.

Nathan Dean & The Damn Band moseyed onto the Hoyt Farm concert stage Saturday night, Aug. 26, and thrilled the crowd of about 300.

Playing mostly original material as well as crowd-pleasing covers from Shania Twain and Tracy Chapman, the foursome headed by Dean on lead vocals/guitar had the crowd, young and old, up on their feet and dancing in front of the stage for much of the evening.

Founded in Arizona in 2005, Dean’s group plays well over 200 shows a year and tours across the country. The quartet has shared the stage with artists such Dylan Scott, LOCASH, Big & Rich, Cody Johnson, Randy Rogers Band, Diamond Rio and Eric Church. The Dean band was recently nominated for three Josie awards for entertainer, artist and group of the year. The Josie Music Awards honors excellence and outstanding talents and creativity across the independent music industry.

In the month of August alone, the band has graced stages in places like Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Chicago, and Grand Junction, Colorado. The group features Dean, Jason Judd (lead guitar and backup vocals), Bill Bogan (drums and backup vocals) and Chris Duke (bass guitar).

The concert was the finale of the Hoyt Farm summer concert series for 2023.

 

By Steven Zaitz

Music lovers packed the area behind Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices on Main Street this past Friday, Aug. 11, for the latest installment of the Musical Moments in Kings Park concert series.

Coinciding with sunset, the crowd of about 700 enjoyed “Tequila Sunrise” and other past hits from California soft-rock legends, the Eagles, performed by the local six-piece tribute outfit known as the Eagle River Band.

There was barely an inch of space for one more lawn chair in and around Russ Savatt Park in Village Plaza, as band leaders Paul Graf and Kevin Byrne both ably impersonated Eagle front men Don Henley and Glenn Frey all evening long.

The band played all the hits of the 1970s and ’80s such as “Take It To The Limit,” “Life In The Fast Lane,” and “Desperado,” and formed a warm rapport with the audience as they made light-hearted, self-deprecating cracks at one another throughout the show.

The amiable Graf, who also uses the stage name Paul Henry, was the principal at Smithtown Elementary School from 1988-2012 and has great experience entertaining the masses. One of his annual thrills while serving at Smithtown Elementary was dressing up as Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat with full face paint as well as performing for the students whenever the opportunity presented itself.

“I’ve been playing and singing in front of my parents’ fireplace since I was kid,” said Graf, from Mount Sinai. “It’s an honor to be back in Kings Park and playing here again because the people here are always responsive, and they are a great audience.”

Graf was one of the first musicians ever to play at Musical Moments, which is supported by the Kings Park Civic Association. In 2008, the inaugural year of the series, he played as a duet with his friend Jeff Laino on bass guitar in front of a much smaller audience.

“I remember it was pouring raining and there were a few hardy souls in the crowd that night,” said Graf. “But we did our best.”

Fast forward 15 years and the delightful summer breeze, a crowd that was almost backed up onto the train platform and Graf and his five bandmates made for a perfect musical weekend kickoff.

Formed in 2017, Eagle River Band has seen lineup changes on occasion, but now features Jim Cairo (bass guitar and vocals), Mike Draddy (keyboards, guitars and vocals), Steve Lobmeier (drums) and Joe Savio (guitars and vocals) in addition to Graf (guitar, mandolin and harmonica) and Byrne (guitars and vocals). Savio was responsible for many of the famous guitar solos of legendary guitarist Joe Walsh.

The band played for about two hours and the crowd size and enthusiasm grew to a crescendo together with the music, as the band encored and closed with the Eagles’ most-beloved smash, “Hotel California” — and indeed for everyone at Russ Savatt Park in the center of Kings Park, it was “such a lovely place.”

The Kings Park Civic Association is a community group consisting of local residents who volunteer their time and energy to help maintain the highest standards of quality of life in Kings Park. Founded in 1970, KPCA has a long history of acting as a community advocate. 

Carol Kelly is a member of the association and she spearheaded and currently organizes the Musical Moments program. Local sponsors and raffle drawings fuel the project, and the Eagle River Band was the fourth act out of five for this year’s summer program. The country band Urban Rodeo will play the finale Friday, Aug. 25, at 7:30 p.m.

Winning pitcher Alex Peña celebrates St. James-Smithtown Little League’s 14U championship with coach Rich Conner. Peña had two hits on the day and pitched the final 3 2/3 innings for the win. Photo by Steven Zaitz

By Steven Zaitz

In the world of Little League baseball, when players reach their 13th birthday, they are forced into retirement – barely teenagers yet too old to play. 

Those days are over. 

In just their second year of existence, the St. James-Smithtown Bulls won the 14U Half Hollow Hills Summer Little League Championship on Saturday, Aug. 5, at Otsego Park in Dix Hills. In dramatic fashion, the Bulls scored two runs in their final turn at bat to triumph with a 3-2 victory over Bay Shore.  

This team of grizzled “veterans” now join in on the summer-long celebration of softball and baseball excellence in Smithtown.

Smithtown 14U shortstop Brandon Castoro strokes a two-run double to give the Bulls a 3-2 lead over Bay Shore in the Half Hollow Hills Junior C championship game. Photo by Steven Zaitz

The improbable win capped off a 10-6 season following their inaugural season in 2022 when they stumbled to a 5-16 record. Head coach, Rich Conner, assembled this team and applied for admittance to Half Hollow Hills Junior C League because he wanted to prolong the baseball life expectancy for kids who “age out” of traditional Little Leagues when they become teenagers. 

His son Dylan, who plays second base for the 14U Bulls, wanted to keep playing without the joining the grueling and ultra-competitive travel leagues. It was out of Dylan and his friends’ desire to continue that motivated his dad to launch the team.

“Initially, we sent an email to everyone our league, I think we got three or four kids,” said the elder Conner, who played at SUNY Albany and has coached at St. Joseph’s and Hofstra universities. “Dylan reached out to some of the kids he knew and from there, with some word of mouth, we were able to put a product on the field. The first season we did this, we were a younger team and we struggled but nobody wanted to quit. One year later, look at what happened. We won the championship.”

To win it, the Bulls had to go through Bay Shore, who won 11 out of 16 in the regular season, including five in a row to end their year. The South Shore team trotted out their ace right-hander Tyler Drago to try and secure a ring. Drago was untouchable over the first four innings, striking out eight and allowing only two baserunners.

Smithtown starter Nathan LoRe, despite loads of heavy traffic, managed to keep Bay Shore off the board for three innings. He allowed the first two runners to reach and was relieved by Alex Peña, who allowed his inherited runners to score but nothing more. The only ball that was well struck in the inning was by cleanup hitter Christopher DiGiovanni, who Peña dueled for nine pitches until Giovanni knocked in the first run of the game with a single up the middle.    

“Alex plays at a very high level, and he’s a perfectionist,” Conner said. “That inning could have gotten out of hand, and Alex did a fantastic job of limiting the damage and keeping us in the game.” 

“I wasn’t happy giving up that hit,” said Peña, who missed a chunk of games in the middle of the year with an ankle injury. “We battled hard against each other, and [DiGiovanni] won that battle.”

The way Drago was throwing, it looked like Bay Shore was also going to win the war. 

“He threw pretty hard,” Peña said of Drago. “But not only that, he was locating his pitches where he wanted to, so he gave us a hard time.”

Niko Kostas steals second base for the Bulls. Photo by Steven Zaitz

But after 106 pitches, Drago was out of the game after six innings. Clinging to a 2-1 lead, Bay Shore summoned righty reliever Jake LaGrange. The Bulls got to work on him immediately. 

Left fielder D.J. Savage, who saved three runs in early in the game with a nifty, two-out, bases-loaded catch, led off the seventh with a single to left. He was sacrificed to second by Jake Scandaliato.  

Peña drove a hard single to center and Conner, who is the third base coach, elected to hold Savage at third and not risk running the Bulls out of a very promising inning. After Peña stole second, Smithtown had the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position for power-hitting shortstop Brandon Castoro. 

Castoro drove LaGrange’s  second offering deep into the left-center field gap and all the way to the wall – a two RBI double that turned a 2-1 Smithtown deficit into a 3-2 lead. 

Castoro pumped his fist proudly as he stood on second base. His teammates in the dugout and Bulls fans on the first base side screamed in delight. 

“I took the first pitch for a strike so Alex could steal second,” said Castoro. “After that, I was looking for something in the middle, and I put a good swing on it.”

The shortstop and his family were not even supposed to be at the game, as they had tickets to a Metallica concert in New Jersey. But after the team won their semifinal game against West Babylon three days earlier, the Castoros altered their travel arrangements. 

“I’m extremely glad I was able to play in this game,” said Castoro. “It feels great and refreshing to see all the work that we put in paying off with this championship.” 

Despite the sudden good fortune on the Smithtown side, it may have been lost on some folks that there was the matter of the bottom of the seventh. This was still a one-run game.

“I knew that there was still work to do,” Peña said. 

Named the game’s MVP for his work at the plate, on the bases and on the mound, Peña, who pitched a scoreless 3 2/3 innings to earn the win,  calmly struck out the first two batters on six pitches and got the last out on a harmless fly ball to Savage.

The game was over, and for Smithtown the rest of the day at Otsego Park was filled with bear hugs, Gatorade showers, smiling parents and photo ops with the championship trophy. 

“Over the two years that we’ve done this, the players and parents have become like a family,” Conner said. “Hopefully this will result in interest from the community and let people know that baseball is not over for a large portion of Smithtown kids at ages 13 and 14, if they don’t want it to be. Just look at what can happen.”

A championship happened — pretty good for a team that is competing in only its second year with most of its members playing at the ripe old age of 14

St. James-Smithtown Little League 2023 Accomplishments:

14U
Baseball:
Half Hollow Hills Junior C Champions 12U
Baseball:
District 35 champs, Section 4E finalists

10U
Baseball:
District 35 and Section 4E champs, New York State “Elite Eight”

12U
Softball:
District 35 and Section 4E champs, New York State “Final Four”

11U
Softball:
District 35 Champs, Section 4E finalists

Host Location for 2023 New York State Softball Championship Tournament for 10U, 11U, and 12U

 

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Eric Dubin, left, of The Whiskey Crows rocks Lake Avenue Sunday night, Aug. 6, during the Celebrate St. James concert series. Photo by Steven Zaitz

By Steven Zaitz

If you were strolling down Lake Avenue in St. James this past Sunday evening, Aug. 6, you might have been compelled to check the map on your phone to see if you were magically transported to Asbury Park, New Jersey.

Springsteen’s “Rosalita” rang out from Celebrate Park in the latest of the 2023 Summer Concert Series and this time it was The Whiskey Crows who got the people on their feet. The dynamic eight-piece band is an upbeat rock ‘n’ roll, twang and soul revue in the Jersey Shore bar band tradition. The band included a three-piece horn section.

Energetic front man Eric Dubin bounced around the stage and, thanks to the technology of wireless amplifiers, was able to sing and play while mixing with the crowd.

With a mix of Elvis, Dobie Gray, Mitch Ryder, St. James-resident Dubin and the boys played for two hours and had the crowd dancing with them in front of the canopied stage.

In addition to Dubin, the band features Mike Breier (bass and vocals), Rich Dashnaw (guitar and vocals), Andrew Rubenstein (drums), Joe Ferrante (keyboards and vocals), Mike Baratelli (saxophone), Josh Seifert (trombone) and Joe Boardman (trumpet).

As part of the Celebrate St. James Summer, a lucky raffle winner won the tidy sum of $318. Second place was slightly less lucky with the prize being a Whiskey Crows T-shirt.

Celebrate St. James Past-Present-Future is a nonprofit cultural arts organization. Housed in the historic St. James Calderone Theatre and built in the early 1900s, its mission is to preserve and celebrate St. James’ rich history and inspire an appreciation and knowledge of the arts in the community. 

Founded in 2017, Celebrate St. James was born as a nonprofit cultural arts organization by Jack Ader, Arline Goldstein and Natalie Weinstein to assist in the revitalization of the Lake Avenue district.

In November 2020, Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) and the Town Board joined Celebrate St. James in a groundbreaking ceremony commemorating the construction of Celebrate Park.

Blu Bayou, featuring the music of Linda Ronstadt, will play on Aug. 13 and the final concert will be Aug. 20 with SouthBound, which is heavily influenced by the music of the Allman Brothers.