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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.”

 

In lacrosse, there’s a term “take it to ‘X,’” when a player brings the ball directly behind the goal crease. But Shoreham-Wading River was taking the ball to a different “X” Wednesday.

The X-Man, Xavier Arline, was the Wildcats’ superhero May 30, as the freshman used speed and skill to stymie an Islip surge — the Buccaneers scored four fast goals to pull within one and make it a close game — to lift Shoreham-Wading River to its second straight Suffolk County Class C title with a 13-7 win over Islip. The title marks the 12th in program history.

Arline had a highlight reel play at the 7:48 mark of the fourth quarter, after Islip opened with four goals in a two-minute span, he stole the ball from the opposing goalkeeper on a ride, and no-look passed behind his back to senior Chris Gray for an empty-netter.

“I was just trying to help my team win,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to do too much, I wasn’t trying to do too little. I was just making the plays to help my team win.”

He said during practice, head coach Mike Taylor lets the team be free and creative, which made the eye-popping play feel routine.

“When I saw Chris out of the corner of my eye, I picked it up and threw it like it was natural,” he said. “I didn’t even think twice.”

Gray said Arline’s play wasn’t surprising to him either.

“Xavier is a beast — he used his athleticism,” he said. “And he’s only a freshman, which is really scary.”

Arline had two goals and two assists before that score that extended Shoreham-Wading River’s lead to 9-7. Senior Kevin Cutinella followed with his hat trick goal on a man-up opportunity, and from there, it was Gray’s turn to step up.

Gray went coast to coast, scored off a pass from Arline after Cutinella carried the ball into Islip’s zone, and added another unassisted goal to cap off the five-goal Wildcats run. Gray finished with five goals and one assist.

“We used a lot of teamwork,” Gray said. “We told ourselves we wanted to jump out on them early, get a fast lead, then kind of take the air out of the ball and let our offense do its thing — because we have one of the best offenses on the Island, I have full confidence to say that. They make me a better player.”

He said the team’s defense doesn’t get a lot of credit, especially being that Gray is second in Suffolk County scoring behind Smithtown East’s Connor DeSimone, but it was hard to miss senior James Mirabell locking down a strong Islip offense, and racing to ground balls that led to crucial possession. The defense, also led by Dan Cassidy and Kyle Higgins, helped protect goalie Andrew DePalma, who made five saves.

“I think it’s the best defense we played all year,” Arline added. “We faced some adversity but we buckled down.”

During the lapse that saw Islip pour in four straight goals, Cutinella said his team fell flat.

“We were complacent,” he said. “And getting a penalty drained us.”

He credited Arline’s goal for sparking Shoreham-Wading River to get back on its game.

“You can’t teach that,” Cutinella said of the Arline to Gray play. “He’s making plays, getting everyone rowdy. It changed the game. That lights us up.”

Taylor said the Wildcats closing out the show the way they did was something he expects from his high-powered offense.

“They were resilient — Islip was battling back and I’m so proud of how they stood their ground,” he said. “We bent but we didn’t break.”

The head coach added that his team will celebrate, but just for a short time before getting back to work, because after last season’s state semifinal loss, the team feels it has some unfinished business. Arline said after being a part of the county and Long Island championship-winning team last year getting to that level almost becomes an addiction.

“It’s a feeling you want to get back every single year,” he said. “Our goal is to get a state championship and we’re one step closer.”

Shoreham-Wading River will play Cold Spring Harbor in the Long Island championship at Stony Brook University June 3 at 3 p.m.

Sophomores Declan Beran and Emma Kirkpatrick successfully convinced the district’s board of education to let them head Shoreham-Wading River’s first debate club. Photo from Shoreham-Wading River school district

A love of law and political science, combined with the impact of recent presidential debates, sparked the idea for two Shoreham-Wading River sophomores to push for a debate team.

Thanks to the efforts of Declan Beran and Emma Kirkpatrick, the board of education saw no argument against the idea, and unanimously approved the newfound club, which will begin the 2017-18 school year.

In their PowerPoint presentation during a board meeting a month prior to approval, Beran and Kirkpatrick, who will serve as co-captains of the club, said the first year will serve as their “pilot year” in which they’ll assemble the team, hold weekly meetings with an advisor, compete in practice debates and sharpen their skills to prepare for competition with other schools, which they hope to do by their senior year.

In convincing the board, the two students are already well on their way to being successful debaters, said 10th and 11th grade English teacher Brenna Gilroy, who will serve as the club adviser.

“I just gave them some guidance — they approached me about starting the club and legitimately did most of the work,” Gilroy said. “I think [the board agrees] it’s important for students to be able to communicate well and effectively, but in a respectful, researched and knowledgeable way.”

“I think [the board agrees] it’s important for students to be able to communicate well and effectively, but in a respectful, researched and knowledgeable way.”

— Brenna Gilroy

Beran, a lacrosse player and vice president of his class, said he “prides himself in being an eloquent speaker.” He has wanted to form a debate club since his freshman year, in the hopes the skills acquired could help him, and others with similar interests, in future career endeavors. Beran plans to be a political science major in college, to work on becoming a corporate lawyer.

When Kirkpatrick, an honor roll student with similar career aspirations, also realized the school had no clubs catered to students with interests in political science or law, her next step was to make one. After speaking to Gilroy about moving forward with the idea, her teacher recommended she speak with Beran.

Upon meeting Kirkpatrick, Beran said “we knew this was the time to act.”

The two students, who were deeply invested in the atmosphere of politics last year, pointed to the coverage of the 2016 presidential debates as a catalyst in creating the club, wanting to use it as their template.

“Mrs. Gilroy, Declan and I met after school weekly, collaborating on our ideas for the club and putting together a presentation for the board,” Kirkpatrick said. “Through this process of creating the club, many students have approached me asking me about it and when they can join.”

Similar to the foundations of a debate, the sophomores told board members that students in high school are usually timed and limited by topic when writing argumentative essays, adding that the club could help students taking Regents and AP exams.

Skills acquired will help students not only in high school, but in college and the workplace as well, when doing things like formulating an argument, presenting it in a clear and cohesive manner, building self-confidence with public speaking and deepening research and analysis skills.

“We’ve found that as the students benefit from the debate team, the school will prosper,” Beran said, adding that he thinks the team will be made up of about 20 students overall.

High school principal Dan Holtzman said the required teamwork and collaboration within the club will be a tremendous asset to the students. As for the work of Beran and Kirkpatrick, he couldn’t be prouder.

“I’m a staunch supporter of students advocating for themselves,” Holtzman said. “The fact that Emma and Declan invested a great deal of time and effort into the presentation, it speaks volumes about their passion and commitment.”

Shoreham-Wading River High School. File photo by Kevin Redding

Shoreham-Wading River school district officials took action Thursday night following a threat to one of their schools.

On March 16, an anonymous text message to a student in the early morning threatened that “something might occur” at the high school March 17. The student who received the text reported it to district administrators,  who put in place procedures, which entailed searching lockers and school bags in addition to adding overnight security, upon hearing the news of the threat.

“We had a good plan in place to ensure the safety of our students,” superintendent Neil Lederer said. “Fortunately, we didn’t have to implement it because we identified the individual late last night.”

The student who sent the text will receive “appropriate consequences.”

“At this point there is no threat and the situation has been successfully resolved,” Lederer said in a letter on the school district’s website. “We take very seriously the potential threat to the safety of our schools and immediately notified the Suffolk County Police Department. The health, safety and welfare of our students and staff are always out main priority. Please know that every precaution is taken on a daily basis to protect the safety of our students and staff and to provide a secure learning environment for all.”

Back in January, the high school was also informed of an Instagram threat. The student was immediately identified and disciplinary measures were also administered in that case. Authorities were also notified and involved in the investigation in that case. It is unclear whether the two incidents are at all related.

Lederer did not respond to questions for comment.

The Suffolk County Police Department has not yet responded to requests for comment.

Updates will follow when more information is available.

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Mount Sinai's girls' basketball team remains undefeated with a win over now previously undefeated Shoreham-Wading River. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Victoria Johnson vindicated her team.

Mount Sinia’s Victoria Johnson scores. Photo by Bill Landon

For those that thought the Mount Sinai girls’ basketball team may not be able to top visiting Shoreham-Wading River heading into overtime, the senior showed why Mount Sinai is becoming a powerhouse across all sports, helping win the battle of undefeated teams. The Mustangs outscored the Wildcats 61-55 Jan. 17, with Johnson scoring a game-high 21 points.

Mount Sinai’s defense also stole the show. The Mustangs’ press overwhelmed the Wildcats, helping the team break out to an early 11-2 lead, and stretching the advantage to 25-16 by the halftime break. The goal, according to Mount Sinai head coach Michael Pappalardo, was to defend Shoreham-Wading River senior Mackenzie Zajac.

“Our game plan was to try to hold Zajac to 10 points or less, which is a tall order,” he said. “Brooke [Cergol] played lights out tonight — she was amazing on defense from start to finish. She held Zajac to just seven points.”

On the opposite end of the court, Shoreham-Wading River head coach Adam Lievre wasn’t pleased with how his team defended its end of the court.

“Our press in the first half didn’t work out very well, and we haven’t played a competitive game in a few weeks,” he said. “The level of competition took a major step up tonight, and we didn’t come out at tipoff ready to handle it, which put us in a hole.”

Mount Sinai’s Gabby Sartori defends against Shoreham-Wading River’s Mackenzie Zajac. Photo by Bill Landon

The Wildcats’ second half would be unlike the first though, learning from their mistakes. Senior Sam Higgins shifted the momentum of the game with a 3-pointer, followed several unanswered points, which was capped by a Maria Smith basket that made it a one-point game.

After a Shoreham-Wading River field goal, Johnson answered with a long distance three, but the Wildcats countered with a pair of Mikayla Dwyer free throws and a Higgins field goal to make it a two-point game.

Despite being held to seven points, Zajac made her points count, and on a field goal gave the Wildcats their first lead of the game, 41-10. But the Wildcats’ lead was short lived. Mount Sinai sophomore Holly McNair came off the bench and found the rim to retake the lead with 4:32 left in the final quarter.

“Gabby [Sartori] stepped up big to hit an amazing shot when we needed it most to put us up by two,” Pappalardo said. “[Veronica] Venezia played awesome in the post, scoring and rebounding along with Holly McNair who really helped us off the bench.”

Swapping points on both sides of the court with time running out, Dwyer stole the ball and broke to the basket to tie the game at 51-51 with 21 seconds left in regulation.

“They came out very strong in that second half — they were aggressive, they were trapping and we didn’t expect them to do that,” Venezia said of Shoreham-Wading River. “Our defense was strong today and we’re very excited. This is our best year so far.”

Mount Sinai’s Veronica Venezia battles in the paint. Photo by Bill Landon

Each team traded points to retie the game at 55-55 with 1:48 left in the first four-minute overtime session, but the Mustangs inched away. Sartori’s shot found its mark, followed by a Johnson field goal and pair of free throws by junior Olivia Williams to put the game away.

“Olivia was all over the place,” Pappalardo said, “rebounding and diving for loose balls showing outstanding hustle.”

Venezia followed Johnson in scoring with 14 points and Sartori tacked on 12. Dwyer lead the Wildcats with 12 points and Higgins banked 11.

With the win, the Mustangs are 11-0 overall and atop the League VI leaderboard at 7-0.

Sartori said both the undefeated matchup and her team’s success so far this season puts the Mustangs in uncharted territory.

“It was our first overtime — we had to talk to each other, and we were ready for this one,” she said. “We knew how much we wanted this, and getting this win, we’re very optimistic for the rest of the season.”

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Senior running back Chris Rosati rushes away with four touchdowns in team's 24th win in two seasons

By Joe Galotti

Most young men who decide to put on a helmet and pads and play high school football never get to experience the joy of winning a class championship or putting together a perfect season. On Friday afternoon, at Hofstra University’s Shuart Stadium, the Shoreham-Wading River football team had the rare opportunity to reach both of those achievements for a second straight season, and did not let it go to waste.

The Wildcats jumped out to a 28-point first-half lead over Locust Valley, helping them come away with a 35-7 victory in the Long Island Class IV Championship game. Senior running back Chris Rosati led the way with four rushing touchdowns, and the team’s eye-popping winning streak was extended to 24 games.

“(Going undefeated twice) is very special,” Shoreham-Wading River head coach Matt Millheiser said. “It really was something I wanted them to achieve and carry with them, and they did that today.”

After the victory, Rosati admitted that the team felt pressure all season long trying to repeat last fall’s undefeated campaign.

“Every team was looking to beat us,” Rosati said. “We got everyone’s best game, but we just really fought hard against every team we faced.”

If the Wildcats were at all nervous on Friday, they did not show it, as they jumped all over the Falcons early on, putting up two quick scores on the team that had entered the contest allowing the fewest points on Long Island this year.

Rosati got Shoreham-Wading River on the board when he capped off the team’s opening drive by taking a pitch to the right side 26 yards for a touchdown. On the Wildcats next drive, Rosati delivered a two-yard rushing touchdown, which was set up by a 31-yard run by senior wideout Jon Constant.

Early in the second quarter, Rosati drove his way into the end zone once again, this time, on a 1-yard rush.

“Chris is amazing,” senior guard Dalten Stalzer said. “Just watching him play every week; it’s crazy. Some of the things he does and the tackles he breaks, it makes us look good.”

With 1:24 remaining before the half, senior quarterback Jason Curran put the game out of reach with a six-yard touchdown pass to Constant.

Shoreham-Wading River was extremely effective on the ground in the game, with Rosati rushing for 110 yards, Curran rushing for 91 yards and Constant rushing for 90 yards. Much of this was made possible by a dominant performance from the team’s offensive line.

“We knew what we needed to do to execute,” Constant said. “But [our success] all starts with our line’s performance.”

The Wildcats’ defense also put up a strong effort, forcing three interceptions and not giving up a score until the fourth quarter. Constant was responsible for two of the picks, while Rosati had the other.

With another perfect season in the books, Shoreham-Wading River is arguably in the midst of one of the best runs in Long Island high school football history. But Millheiser says that the key to the Wildcats’ success has been not getting caught up in any of the streaks or stats.

“We were more concerned about doing our jobs and doing the right thing,” Millheiser said. “When you focus on those things the fun numbers like 24-0 seem to come with it.”

During Shoreham-Wading River’s postgame team photo with its championship trophy, the team once again got the opportunity to honor the memory of their former teammate Tom Cutinella, who died as a result of an on-field collision in a 2014 game. Senior lineman James Puckey held up Cutinella’s No. 54 jersey for the group shot, making it clear that he was still very much a part of the Wildcats team.