East Hampton High’s rebuilt baseball field, a largely volunteer effort that has resulted in the field’s becoming, in the athletic director Joe Vas’s words, “probably the best in Suffolk County,” was dedicated before Friday’s game with Amityville.
And fittingly, the Bonackers, who had already won the first two games of the series from the UpIsland team, went on to take the third (and thus sweep the Warriors) by a score of 12-0, putting them in position to make the playoffs should they take two of three from Miller Place in the regular-season finale, which was to have been played this week.
Will Collins, who assists Ed Bahns in coaching the team, said that Friday’s winning pitcher, Maykell Guzman, a sophomore with “a lot of ability,” threw a one-hitter that day, “a little grounder in the fifth that touched the third base bag after Cameron [Yusko, Bonac’s third baseman] had let it roll.”
Guzman pitched six innings, during which he struck out nine and walked one. A.J. Bennett finished up, striking out two and getting the other out by way of a ground ball hit to Yusko.
The big hits, said Collins, were run-scoring triples in the bottom of the third inning by Maykell Guzman and Michael Abreu, the center fielder.
East Hampton won the first game of the series by a score of 14-2, a game recounted in these pages last week, and won the second, played at Amityville, 11-1 behind the deft pitching of Dylan Carroza, who improved his overall record to 5-1 (4-1 league) as a result.
Carroza as of earlier this week had, because of the pitching rotation, yet to appear on the mound at home, “though you might get a chance to see him if we’re rained out Monday,” said Collins.
East Hampton was to have played at Miller Place Monday. It was to have played the second game at Miller Place Tuesday and was to have finished the regular season here with the Panthers yesterday, though rain was forecast for the entire week.
As for the matchup, Collins said, “It’s anybody’s ballgame. They’re 8-7 and we’re 8-7. We both were swept by Sayville, we each took one from Shoreham and Rocky Point, and we both swept Amityville and Westhampton.”
East Hampton would have to have finished at 10-8 to make the playoffs. Last year, with a record of 8-10, it did not make them.
“It will be like a play-in series,” said Collins, who added that “the kids have worked hard. They deserve a playoff atmosphere. It should be fun.”
Getting back to the ceremony, Vas and Ed Bahns extolled the work of the volunteers — Bistrian Materials, Whitmore’s, and Lillie Irrigation — whom Kevin Brophy, a longtime youth coach, had gotten together a year and a half ago.
Patrick Bistrian III, whose company regraded the field, and who remembers being “able to see only the catcher’s head when I used to play out in center field,” Bob Pucci, who handled the sodding and overseeding for Whitmore’s, and Brophy, who estimated that the volunteers had done $100,000 worth of work all told, were the honorees.
“There were no questions when I went to them,” Brophy said of the volunteers. “They all immediately said, ‘What is it you need?’ ”
“And don’t forget to mention Dave Fioriello’s grounds crew,” said Brophy. “They’ve done a great job.”
The school district has paid $10,000 of the cost of the new fence — which is 12 feet high from the left field foul pole to left-center, a distance of about 200 feet, and which is 6 feet from there to the right field foul pole. The team, through raffles, is to raise the remaining $3,000 to $4,000.
With the backstop having been moved back 25 feet and with the outfield fence having been moved back 10 feet, the field, whose short porches, especially in left and left-center, used to be cleared regularly by lazy fly balls, now has legitimate dimensions — having been extended to an estimated 310 feet in left, 325 in left-center, 340 in deadaway center, and to about 310 in right.
Jim Nicoletti, who coached varsity baseball here for 23 years before retiring, and who was one of the ceremony’s attendees, said, “I would have loved to have had this field. . . . I remember games, when Richie Cooney and Chris Becker played, and when Ross [Gload, now a pinch-hitter with the Philadelphia Phillies], Henry [Meyer], Kevin [Somers], and Guy [Ficeto] played when we’d hit nine home runs.”
When questioned later, Collins said, “I think less than 10 homers have been hit here this season.” He remembered a playoff game in 1997, he said, when, with the wind blowing out of the northwest, eight were hit (six by Shoreham-Wading River and two by East Hampton), including his “first home run ever.”
Eleven home runs (perhaps the record) were hit (again with the wind out of the northwest) in a first-round playoff game played here with Westhampton Beach in 1996 — eight by the Hurricanes and three by the Bonackers.
Frank Grande, East Hampton’s senior second baseman and one of the team’s captains, read from a dedicatory plaque prepared by Bahns and Collins that is to join the one honoring the volunteers who built the home and visiting team dugouts in 1993: “The players who wear maroon and grey, as well as those who coach and cheer for them, are eternally grateful for the hard work and dedication it took to create the stunning beauty of this ballpark. The efforts of the Bistrian family, Larry and Colin Lillie, Bob Pucci and the Whitmore family will never be forgotten, but will in the future be enjoyed by those who take part in our game.”