All summer long, MSG Varsity brings you a recap of the past year in Long Island’s top high school sports. We’ll publish a new “Year in Review” article every Thursday through August 13. Next up, we look back at the year that was in Long Island baseball.
One to remember: Connetquot
It was an emotional end of the season for the T-Birds, who dedicated their fourth Long Island Class AA title, and first since 1995, to the memory of Walter Hengge, teammate John Hengee’s father who died unexpectedly about an hour after Connetquot beat Ward Melville in the first game of the Suffolk finals.
And all along the magical journey to the Long Island championship, Connetquot, which finished 24-5, had a different player step up. Case in point, the Long Island final against MacArthur. Tom Monti hadn’t pitched since May 5, but he came up huge with 4-2/3 innings of three-hit ball, helping lead the T-Birds to a 3-2 win over the Generals.
The ride came to a close in the state semifinals, when the T-Birds were uncharacteristically sloppy with the baseball and were done in by six errors in a loss to Mamaroneck.
It wasn’t the way Connetquot wanted to end its season, but it was a year that no one in that program will soon forget.
Dynamic duo: Travis Bruinsma and Aaron Gagliano, Connetquot
Bruinsma set a school record with 13 wins to lead Connetquot to the Long Island Class AA title. The righthander finished with a 13-3 record and had 91 strikeouts in 86 innings, pitching for an ERA of 1.54. He was the winning pitcher in the Suffolk Class AA and Long Island championship games.
Gagliano led Suffolk with a .565 batting average and earned the Blue Chip Prospects Silver Slugger Award as Suffolk's top hitter. He drove in 34 runs, including 23 with two outs, and scored 31 runs en route to helping Connetquot win the Long Island Class AA title. He had seven game-winning hits and will play at Albany in the fall.
Nick Fanti, Hauppauge
The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder has a resume that compares to some of the all-time best from Long Island. Fanti received the Yastrzemski Award as Suffolk County’s best player after batting .541 with 27 RBI, 35 runs and nine stolen bases. Fanti also pitches consecutive no-hitters in April and finished 7-1 with a 0.67 ERA, a 0.63 WHIP and 87 strikeouts in 52 innings.
Joe Flynn, Ward Melville
Flynn could have earned All-Metro honors as both a hitter and pitcher this season. A four-year starter, he batted .509 with five home runs, 19 RBI and 30 runs scored. Opposing pitchers almost refused to give him anything to hit, evidenced by drawing 29 walks and posting a .697 on-base percentage. Flynn, who had 16 career homers, also received the Paul Gibson Award for Suffolk County’s best pitcher after going 6-0 with a 1.07 ERA and 73 strikeouts.
Sal Fradella, Chaminade
The flame-throwing right-hander guided the Flyers to the NSCHSAA Championship with a sweep over St. Dominic. Fradella, A 6-foot-4, 210-pounder went 8-0 with an ERA just over 1.00 as Chaminade atoned for losing in last year’s league final. Fradella pitched nine shutouts innings in Game 1 of the series to cement himself as one of the elite arms on Long Island and in the Tri-State.
For the record: Mattituck wins first-ever NYS title
Jon Dwyer was doing backflips at the end of Mattituck’s run to the state Class B baseball championship. The second baseman was celebrating with the rest of the Tuckers after they beat Livonia, 4-1, to capture the title at Broome Community College.
Senior Marcos Perivolaris threw 61/3 innings and scattered eight hits before he was relieved by Chris Dwyer, who came on and retired the final two batters to clinch the school's first state baseball title.
“It’s been a long time coming for our program,” said Perivolaris, a five-year starter, who helped the Tuckers win three Long Island crowns. “We’ve been close, but never finished the deal. This is so special because our team has played together for the last 10 years from summer travel ball to school ball. Someone asked if it was sad because it was over for the seniors but there’s nothing sad about having this championship medal hanging from my neck.”
Five and fly:
Fanti signs with Phillies
Hauppauge lefthander Nick Fanti, selected in the 31st round of Major League Baseball’s amateur draft in early June, has agreed to terms with the Phillies on a minor-league contract. He called it "a dream come true.”
“This is so cool because I never thought I’d be that person,” said Fanti, who won the Yastrzemski Award, given to Suffolk’s best player, hours after being drafted. “I get to play baseball as a job and it’s not really a job. When you love what you do, you don’t work a day in your life, and that’s how I feel about it.”
Hauppauge coach Josh Gutes wasn't surprised by Fanti's decision. “His dream has always been to play pro baseball since he was a little kid,” Gutes said. “The character that he showed on and off the field was second to none. I’m incredibly proud of him.”
Before being drafted, Fanti accepted a scholarship to Marist. He notified the Marist coaching staff about his decision and said the coaches were “real classy and supportive in my decision on taking the Phillies’ offer. It made me feel I made the right decision.”
In his senior season in 2015, Fanti went 7-1 with a 0.67 ERA, a 0.63 WHIP and 87 strikeouts in 52 innings. Only two of the 14 hits off him went for extra bases.
Mattituck title a party for whole community
The fire trucks that guided the Mattituck baseball team bus back to the school in the early hours of June 14 were driven by former players.
A crowd of hundreds awaited in the parking lot. A disc jockey blasted Queen's "We Are The Champions" as the bus doors opened.
This was all at 1 a.m.
It seemed, coach Steve DeCaro said, as if no one in the vicinity was sleeping.
"If they weren't awake, they were after the DJ started and the fire trucks came by," DeCaro said. "We didn't hear anybody complaining."
The town understood the significance of what transpired several hours earlier, about 250 miles northwest in Binghamton. The Tuckers of Class B had beaten Livonia, 4-1, for their first state championship.
"That's probably one of the best benefits of having a small community like this," said senior Marcos Perivolaris, who threw 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball to earn the win.
Smithtown Christian championship was family affair
Vinny Ciaravino remembers the speech that altered Smithtown Christian baseball. Tim Gorton delivered it near the beginning of the 2014 season, his last as a player with the Knights. It was straightforward.
"He said, how -- if we were ever going to become winners -- we had to look at ourselves as family, as brothers,'' said Ciaravino, a senior shortstop and captain of this year's team.
That became a key as the 2014 Knights won their first state championship. Now, it's the backbone of an emerging dynasty in Class D baseball.
Smithtown Christian defeated Westfield, 8-4, on June 13 for its second straight state title. Before that game, as every other time they took the field this season and last, the Knights chanted, "One, two, three, family!''
"We're just such a family,'' said captain Ben Damon, a senior catcher. "We chant 'family' because we're so unified. We're so connected. We take it onto the field.''
Ciaravino said that the team has a party before each season at a teammate's house to foster those connections.
"We would all go over and socialize to welcome the new kids and make them comfortable,'' said Ciaravino, the 2014 host. Damon hosted in 2015.
Papa pitches Division to Long Island ‘A’ title
After the final practice before the Long Island Class A final, Division starting pitcher Anthony Papa had his teammates watch a video.
Papa pulled up the highlights of the 2014 Long Island Class A championship game loss to Bayport-Blue Point. The team watched the Phantoms celebrate as the Blue Dragons walked off the field with their heads down. They rewound the dogpile five times.
“I told the guys, you can’t let this happen again,” Papa said. “This has got to be our year. We don’t want to see that dog pile again, we got to do it ourselves.”
Next year’s video will be more enjoyable for the Blue Dragons. Division defeated Bayport-Blue Point, 4-0, to win the L.I. title game at the New York Institute of Technology. It's the Blue Dragons’ first Long Island championship victory since 2011.
Papa relied on his teammates earlier in the season to take his spot on the mound, and in the championship game he needed them to back him on the field.
Papa threw a six-hitter with two walks while pitching out of jams in the third, fourth and fifth innings.
“Typical Anthony,” said head coach Tom Tuttle, “he gears up, he pitches big in big spots and sometimes he pitches better when he has some adversity.”
Sommers gem leads Chaminade to NSCHSAA championship
An emotional Frank Sommers took to the mound knowing he was doing so for the last time in his high school career.
The Chaminade senior right-hander spoke with catcher Straton Podaras and Flyers ace Sal Fradella before Game 2 of the NSCHSAA finals at NYIT to formulate a game plan.
“Breathe, have good balance and just focus on the game,” they told Sommers.
Sommers did that and more, tossing a complete-game, three-hit shutout to lead Chaminade to a 10-0 win over St. Dominic’s. The Flyers captured their 17th NSCHSAA title and first since 2011, sweeping the best-of-three series.
It was the third consecutive playoff shutout for the Flyers, who beat the Bayhawks, 1-0, in 10 innings in Game 1 of the finals.
“Frank has been great the whole year. Our whole pitching staff did well,” Podaras said. “The game didn’t faze him at all. He was working hard the whole game and he kept pumping strikes.”