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Suffolk County Class A Champions

By Bill Landon

Without a single senior listed on their roster Miller Place softball team, fresh off their Suffolk County championship victory, demonstrated that this Panther squad will be a powerhouse to be reckoned with for the foreseeable future.

After three-and-a-half scoreless innings against Nassau champions, Seaford, Ava Zicchinelli’s bat spoke first with an RBI double in the bottom of the fourth. Laney Vomero stepped into the batter’s box with the bases loaded, and drove in two more runs to put the Panthers ahead 3-0 at the end of four. 

Seaford capitalized in the top of the sixth inning on a Miller Place throwing error, plating two runners then drove in two more to take the lead 4-3.

After going 0-3 at bat, Miller Place junior Emily Lopez drove in a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth to retake the lead at 5-4. With two outs, the Panthers plated two more runs on a Seaford error to surge ahead 7-4. Leading by three, Zicchinelli did what she’s done all season and kept Seaford on its heels for the final three outs to claim the first Long Island Class A championship title in Miller Place history.

The Panthers will now enter uncharted territory when they return to the Martha Avenue Recreation Park sports complex in North Bellport Friday, June 7, for the NYS semifinal round where they will face Pittsford Sutherland. First pitch is slated for 9 a.m.Tickets can be purchased at: nysphsaa.org/sports/softballtickets.

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Mount Sinai falls in the Long Island championship game for a third straight season. Photo by Alex Petroski

It took 23 games, but the undefeated 2017 Mount Sinai Mustangs softball team finally met its match in the Long Island championship game. The Mustangs fell to MacArthur, 7-0, June 2 at St. Joseph’s College for its first loss of the season. Sophomore starting pitcher Julia Golino allowed five earned runs, 10 hits and two walks over 3.1 innings to blemish her was-perfect record.

Mount Sinai prays for a rally in the seventh. Photo by Alex Petroski

Mount Sinai’s powerful offense managed just four hits in the final after scoring at least six runs in 11 out of their last 12 games. For a third consecutive season, the Mustangs reached the high of a county championship, only to fall short of a Long Island crown.

MacArthur’s Jessica Budrewicz shut down Mount Sinai with a complete game shutout, seven strikeout performance. She allowed three Mustang hits in the first two innings, but just one more over the final five. Mount Sinai head coach Thomas Tilton applauded her performance in the circle.

“She’s good man — she moves it, she’s got a rise ball, a nice changeup, she hit her spots and she didn’t miss much,” he said. “   Tip your hat to her, she’s a good pitcher. That kid can throw.”

MacArthur celebrates defeating Mount Sinai in the Long Island championship game. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Generals put Golino in a hole early, scoring the first five runs on two-out hits. Golino couldn’t escape trouble in the fourth frame, and junior Emma Wimmer had to come into the game in relief to stop the bleeding. Even a 40-minute weather delay due to thunder and lightning couldn’t cool off Budrewicz and the MacArthur bats.

The Mustangs’ head coach reflected on the impact the team’s three seniors had on the season.

“They left a great mark, a great mark,” Tilton said of the departing group of 12th-graders who helped deliver the first three Suffolk County championships in program history during their tenure. “They’re the foundation of what we’ve built here and hopefully we can continue to do it.”

The Mustangs will be returning all but one starter in 2018, as left fielder Angela Bukofsky is the only regular graduating.

Hailey LaGuidice swings at a pitch. Photo by Alex Petroski

“It definitely means a lot — it’s great,” an emotional Bukofsky said after the game of the three county crowns she’ll be leaving behind at Mount Sinai. She said her teammates were what she will miss most about playing for the Mustangs. “We definitely deserve it. We worked really hard to get here. Going from a record that was about even in wins and losses to being 22-0 is just amazing.”

Though the loss stung in the present, Tilton said he still has a hopeful eye on the future.

“I think we’ve got a really strong team again next year — we’ll be back at it,” he said. Golino and fellow starting pitcher Wimmer dominated all season in 2017 for the Mustangs, and both will be back to try to get over the hump in 2018. Standout shortstop Lové Drumgole, who Tilton called “the real deal,” and one of the best players on the Island earlier in the playoffs, will also be returning for her senior season to give a run at a Long Island title another shot. “We won’t be quitting,” Tilton said. “I can tell you that.”

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Wildcats' senior Kyle Baylous walks off the field after a sixth-inning rally stalls. Photo by Alex Petroski

An old baseball adage says to beat a dominant starting pitcher, you have to get to him early, and facing one of the most dominant hurlers in recent Long Island baseball history, the Wantagh Warriors executed the game plan to perfection. The first six batters to face Shoreham-Wading River standout senior starter Brian Morrell all reached base, and the first four eventually scored in a nightmare first inning for the Wildcats, who dropped the Class A Long Island championship game June 3 at SUNY Old Westbury, 4-2.

Brian Morrell fires a pitch. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Warriors sent nine men to the plate in the bottom of the first on four hits and two walks to jump out early, and eventually hand Shoreham-Wading River its first loss since April 5. The loss snapped a 20-game Wildcats win streak. Wantagh was crowned the Long Island Class A champion for the second consecutive season after knocking off Mount Sinai for the title in 2016.

“I think they had a good approach because Brian’s hard to hit, so they probably just started hacking away when they could and got a good piece of the ball and did what they had to do to win,” senior catcher and team captain Thomas Brady said of Wantagh’s big inning against Morrell.

The University of Notre Dame-bound starting pitcher finished his rockiest outing of the season allowing four earned runs on five hits, three walks and five strikeouts over six innings. He eventually settled in, and only one Warrior base runner reached second base after the first inning.

The Wantagh Warriors celebrate knocking off Shoreham-Wading River in the Long Island Class A championship game. Photo by Alex Petroski

“It was like a dream come true kind of,” Brady said of the scorching stretch of baseball Shoreham-Wading River put together to reach the final game. “We all worked as hard as we possibly could. I love these guys to death and now we’re all moving on to a new chapter. Hopefully the younger kids can bring it home next year.”

The Wildcats’ entire starting lineup was comprised of seniors Saturday. Head coach Kevin Willi reflected on the successes of the outgoing 16-man senior class following their last game in blue and gold.

“They were awesome — I mean really all 16 guys were diehard all year,” he said. “They worked their tails off the entire time. I wish we could have came home with a Long Island championship for them, but that’s the way it happens. A county championship is a pretty good accomplishment, especially with the best record in program history; those are good things to remember that these guys earned.”

Wantagh’s left-handed starting pitcher, junior Anthony Fontana, kept the Wildcats’ normally potent offense off balance for most of the game. He allowed just two earned runs on five singles and a walk over five innings of work. Saturday was the first time all season Shoreham-Wading River had been held to two runs or less.

Brian Morrell takes a cut as Shoreham-Wading River’s last chance in the seventh inning. Photo by Alex Petroski

“He’s curveball heavy, so a lot of our guys don’t want to swing at a first pitch curveball, but when the pitcher gets ahead with a curveball the batter is already at a disadvantage,” Willi said. “We hit him hard a bunch of times, and right at guys. He did a good job.”

Despite the slow day offensively, the Wildcats still had a chance in the bottom of the seventh inning trailing 4-2 with Morrell — who hit two grand slams in the previous three games — at the plate as the tying run. He grounded out to third on a high chopper to end the Wildcats’ hopes of heading upstate for a shot at a state championship. Despite the disappointing conclusion, Willi reiterated how proud he was of the achievements of his 2017 squad.

“It was awesome — we played really well through that stretch,” he said of winning 20 straight. “Even this game we played well. We ran into a good Wantagh team.”