06/17/10 12:00am

After breaking four minutes at the state qualifying meet two weekends ago, the Bishop McGann-Mercy 4×400-meter relay team headed to the state meet in Vestal on Friday looking to repeat its performance.

At the state qualifiers at Port Jefferson High School, Olivia Schumann, Tori Cataldo, Kayleigh Macchirole and Sasha Vann broke their own one-year-old school record of 4 minutes 1.43 seconds. The team ran the race in 3:58.87.

Looking at the clock for the first time, the Monarchs nearly exploded in celebration. Once the giddiness wore off, they wanted to do it again. Replicating that feat in Vestal would have moved them up one place, from third place to second by less than a split-second. Bronxville won the race in a time of 3:58.56, and Waverly was second at 3:58.89.

The Monarchs finished third in Division II with a time of 4:00.91, good enough for second in the school’s record books.

Going into the race, Monarchs Coach Tricia Nunez said she thought her relay team could replicate its sub-4:00 performance from a week earlier. But on top of humid conditions that brought thunderstorms with it on Saturday, Schumann and Vann had run individual races earlier in the day.

Vann finished eighth in the 400-meter dash with a time of 58.22. Schumann also came in eighth, in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles, finishing the race in 1:06.80.

When they gathered for the relay race, they came close but could not crack 4:00.

“Their performance was excellent,” Nunez said. “To come in third in the state was such a great feat for them.”

Mattituck’s Emily Ianno also had high hopes entering the state meet. A week earlier, she had taken the small school pentathlon title at the state qualifying meet. In the process, she set personal bests in four of the five events that make up the pentathlon.

By the time Ianno arrived in Vestal, though, her aim had become to compete through a stomach virus. She finished the weekend in 20th place with 2,420 points. The overall federation winner was Amber Passalaqua of Pine Bush with 3,304 points.

“Emily held it together quite well,” Mattituck Coach Jean Mahoney said. “She said she felt like she was in a fog the whole meet with pains in her stomach.”

The illness seemed to affect her jumping the most. In practice the week prior to the state meet, Mahoney said Ianno was high jumping 4 feet 10 inches. She was only able to clear 4-6 on Friday. On Saturday, Ianno’s best long jump was 14-6, a far cry from the 15-2 that she began the season with.

The virus evidently did not hinder Ianno’s throwing or running as much. She nearly equaled her practice distances of between 31 and 32 feet in the shot put. Her throw of 30-6 placed her third in the event.

Ianno had aimed to break 17 seconds in the 100-meter high hurdles, which would have been a personal best. But she finished in 17.37, and in the race Mahoney said Ianno likes least, the 800 meters, Ianno finished in 2:49.16.

“Emily and I talked back and forth about her frustration,” Mahoney said. “As I said to her, it was skill that gave her the opportunity to go to states and represent us, but it was luck the day of the meet and how she felt.”

Riverhead sophomore Melodee Riley also entered the state meet with high hopes, and a goal of 40-0 in the triple jump. She did not quite hit 40-0, something only two competitors accomplished. But Riley finished fifth in Division I with a leap of 38-5 1/4.

Riverhead Coach Maria Dounelis said she thought Riley was primed for the federation championship on Saturday.

“She’s warmed up, she’s ready to go, and boom, thunder hits,” Dounelis said. “I’m like: ‘Are you kidding?’ “

Unfortunately not. The thunder and lightning delayed the event for two hours, which Dounelis said did not help Riley. Again, she finished fifth, this time with a distance of 37-5 1/2. But it was enough to make Riley the only non-senior on the podium.

“The potential to jump, forget about it,” Dounelis said. “I just see her doing something really special in the next two years.”

For Riley’s teammate, senior Alex Budd, it was something special just to make her first trip to a state meet. She could not quite match the 5-2 she high jumped in the state qualifying meet. That was her best jump of the season.

In the state meet, Budd finished 26th with a height of 5-0.

Dounelis said, “The fact that she had such a great day at the state qualifying meet and got herself a ticket upstate, that in itself was a great accomplishment.”

06/17/10 12:00am

Joshua Haghighi of Wheatley Heights may have had the state meet’s longest throw, but when it came to the competition that New York shot put enthusiasts wanted to see, Riverhead’s Mike Smith beat him.

It was Haghighi who, in March, ended Smith’s hopes of repeating as the indoor federation champion. And after winning the state Division II shot put championship in Vestal on Friday with a throw of 60 feet 6 inches, it seemed as though Haghighi might prevent Smith from repeating as the outdoor federation champion as well.

While Haghighi was busy sewing up the Division II state title, Smith won the Division I championship with a Riverhead High School record throw of 58-5 1/2, beating his closest competition, Sean Harvey of Lancaster, by more than a foot.

On Saturday, Riverhead Coach Steve Gevinski said, it was Smith who set the tone.

“He’s unbelievable,” Gevinski said of Smith. “He’s been good down the stretch. He’s a clutch performer. That’s one thing you can say about him. He never tightens up. He never feels pressure.”

On his first throw of the federation championships on Saturday, Smith set another school record, erasing the mark he had set the day before. The new standard is 58-8 1/4.

Nearly immediately, Smith had shifted the burden of pressure onto his competition.

Shane Smith of Fonda had a long throw of 58-6 1/2, and Breiten Balschmiter of Newark had an attempt land at 58-4 1/4. Close as they came, they could not overcome Smith, who repeated as the federation champion.

Highaghi could not match him either, fouling on his first two throws before picking up a throw of 54-8 3/4 on his final attempt. That was good enough for fourth place.

“To take my state title back, and federation, I think that was the best part out of all that excitement at states,” Smith said.

It was a hot and humid day, not the most ideal conditions in which to attempt to set a state record, which is the other accomplishment Smith wanted to achieve while in Vestal. “It felt like the sun was draining me,” he said.

But Smith did not blame the weather for the fact that he did not get a throw past 60 feet. He did say that he is becoming more confident that he can do it in one of the two remaining meets in his high school career.

He has another goal in mind as well, and that is to annihilate his current school record for the discus. The mark, which already belongs to Smith, stands at 161-9, a distance he threw early this season.

The Division I discus championship was the first event for Smith on Friday. He had one good throw of the three he made, but, Gevinski said, it sailed wide of the vector lines and was not counted. Another left his hand at a disadvantageous angle and the third traveled 146-2, leaving him in 13th place and failing to qualify for the federation championships.

“I think it got him a little mad and gave him some motivation, like: ‘Hey, I’ve got to get it done in the shot after what happened in the discus,’ ” Gevinski said.

Not only did it motivate Smith in the shot put, it also has him set on 170 feet for the event. “I think I’m just going to have to work harder,” Smith said, “hit the weights harder, stretch longer and it’ll all come. I feel like in the end, it’ll all come into place.”

06/10/10 12:00am

ROBERT O

PORT JEFFERSON STATION — The only opponent, it seemed, that could have defeated Riverhead’s Mike Smith was Saturday afternoon’s humidity.

His first throw in the Section XI Individual Championships/state qualifying meet sailed 136 feet 4 inches. On the second throw, he fouled. Both times, he said, he was having trouble gripping the discus. It would slip out of his hands as he let go. That kept him from getting his full speed, strength and power behind it.

As Smith struggled to get a grip on the discus, some of his competition at Port Jefferson High School was outdistancing him. It got to the point that, as he stepped into the circle for his final throw, it was debatable as to whether Smith would advance to the finals. If Smith was wondering about what might happen, it did not show on his face, nor in his throw, which sailed 156-10.

“He doesn’t crack under pressure,” Riverhead’s throwing coach, Jeff Blum, said. “He accepts pressure and embraces it. I think it’s an exceptional athlete who takes that kind of advantage of things.”

Smith easily won the county discus title as his first throw in the finals sailed 157-4. It marked his second county title in as many days.

Riverhead Coach Steve Gevinski said he did not think another Riverheader had ever won county titles in both the shot put and discus.

“I don’t know what to say,” the usually loquacious Smith said of the accomplishment.

He added that he was not certain he would get the discus title. He thought Andrew Bylicki of Deer Park or Amityville’s Christopher Allen, who had the day’s second-best throw of 150-10 on his final preliminary throw, could catch him.

Smith’s stiffest competition, Shaun Blackman of North Babylon, who came within three feet of Smith at last week’s division championships, failed to qualify for the finals.

“Once I threw 157, I was like: ‘OK, now I feel like I’m good,’ ” Smith said. “Now I want to further that, but the last release wasn’t high enough.”

Smith’s third throw of the finals landed at 149-9.

Though he said that his coaches were pleased with his performance, Smith was not as happy, having thrown 157-4. He thinks he can throw the discus farther, just as he believes he can throw the shot put farther than the 57-10 1/4 that won him the county shot put title on Friday.

Smith wants the state shot put record, which he estimates would take a throw of 65 feet. That is his goal when he heads to the state meet in Vestal next weekend. That kind of accomplishment, Smith added, would shock people.

But it would not shock his coaches. As Smith warmed up before the event started on Friday, he launched a throw of 64 feet. On his last throw in the finals, he did it again. The only problem was he stepped over the kickboard.

“In the shot, I use a lot more power than speed,” Smith said. “That’s why it’s so hard for me to get those good throws and stay in instead of foul. I tend to put too much power and over jump the kickboard, and that’s not good.”

On Saturday afternoon, Smith stated that he knew what he needed to do to get the results he wants next weekend. And he is determined to get them.

Smith will be the only one headed to the state meet from the Riverhead boys track and field team. Gevinski had hoped pole vaulter Sasha Schafer would join him, but Schafer sprained his right ankle the day before the division championships started.

To protect his ankle, Schafer selected a different pole than he would normally use and took a shorter approach. That worked in clearing 12-6 on his final attempt. When it came time to attempt 13-0, Schafer brought out his regular pole and retreated to his accustomed spot on the runway. But three straight times he stopped himself short of the pit. After the final halt, he went back to his short approach. It did not work. The ankle, Gevinski said, brought Schafer’s high school track career to an end a week ahead of schedule.

“That’s the only thing that [stunk] about today,” Gevinski said after the pole vault ended on Friday.

Gevinski was also hoping that Ryan Budd and Treval Hatcher could find some luck and qualify for the state meet. But Budd’s 56.28 seconds in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles was only good enough for sixth place. Hatcher’s 45-7 1/2 was good enough for seventh place in the triple jump.

Bishop McGann-Mercy sent its 4 x 800-meter relay team to Saturday’s event on the strength of a season-best time of 9:12.96 at last week’s division championships. Matthew Stetler, Patrick Derenze, Sean Cappiello and Matt Di Landro finished 17th out of 18 teams with a time of 9:22.65.

“They ran hard,” Monarchs Coach Matt Perry said. “It was a fast race. It will get them ready for next season.”

jwilliams@northshoresun.com

06/10/10 12:00am

PORT JEFFERSON STATION — The answer to Riverhead Coach Maria Dounelis’ question would leave high jumper Alexandra Budd with tears in her eyes no matter the answer. What, Dounelis asked, was the state qualifying standard for the high jump? Was it 5 feet 3 inches or 5-2?

Budd had cleared 5-2 on day two of the Section XI Individual Championships state qualifying meet Saturday at Port Jefferson High School, but grazed the bar on her last attempt at 5-3, just enough to knock it to the ground.

The meet director, Tony Toro, told Dounelis that the qualifying height was 5-2 and she could finally, officially and unequivocally, deliver the good news. So, despite finishing second to Smithtown East’s Cara Hallahan, who cleared 5-4, Budd will be joining her teammate, triple jumper Melodee Riley, on a bus to next weekend’s state meet in Vestal.

“This is the kind of kid that you want to see something like this happen to because she’s worked hard, and she’s had no luck, and she’s entitled to have a good day,” Dounelis said of Budd.

Budd had experienced nothing but bad luck and coming up short since failing to qualify for the winter track state meet in March, Dounelis said. It was time, she added, that Budd caught a break.

“I never imagined it,” Budd said. “My goal was to be all-county. I’m so thrilled.”

Budd entered the event seeded 11th, her best jump of the season being 5-1.

Joining her in Vestal will be Riley, who won the county championship in the triple jump, leaping 38-6 1/2. Riley set the standard on her first jump in the finals at 38-3 1/2. But her main competition, Bay Shore’s Imani McGhee, came back on her second jump with a leap of 38-4 3/4. Not to be outdone, Riley answered with a 38-6 1/2. And when McGhee fouled on her final attempt, the title was Riley’s.

“I think I could do better,” Riley said. “But I did what I could do today.”

She said her aim next week is to hit 40 feet. Dounelis said Riley has done that in practice, and could well accomplish the feat in a meet. Riley’s personal best came at last week’s division championships, when she hit 39-3.

“It’s exciting,” Dounelis said. “She’s got an opportunity. I know she’s got a big jump still left in her. We’ll see what happens.”

An opportunity is all one can ask for, said Bishop McGann-Mercy Coach Tricia Nunez.

“Anything can happen,” she said. “That’s the exciting part of the relay and the heartbreaking part as well.”

On Saturday, it was beyond excitement for the Monarchs’ 4 x 400-meter relay team. Sasha Vann, Tori Cataldo, Kayleigh Macchirole and Olivia Schumann were ecstatic. For the second straight year, they broke the school record. Last year, they qualified for the state meet with a time of 4 minutes 1.43 seconds. This year they broke their previous record, broke four minutes for the first time and with those accomplishments, will be headed to Vestal.

“I thought [the clock] said four minutes point something,” Schumann said.

She was the anchor, running her leg of the race in one minute flat. Then she turned to look back at the clock, as did her teammates. When they saw the result, a fourth-place finish overall, and first place in Division II, at 3:58.87, they hugged each other and howled with joy.

A day earlier they had run the sixth-best qualifying time, 4:06.43.

“I think we were scared [Bayport-Blue Point] was going to beat us,” said Vann, who ran the second leg in a team-best 58.43. The Phantoms finished more than 10 seconds behind the Monarchs.

On a day that started with a public-address announcement advising competitors to hydrate every 15 minutes, the Monarchs, Schumann said, embraced the heat and humidity.

So did Mattituck’s Emily Ianno, who won the Division II girls pentathlon, finishing with 2,147 points. After winning the title at last week’s division championships, Ianno said she thought she could do it again.

Ianno started the competition on Friday afternoon by turning in a personal best in the 100-meter high hurdles, 17.16. However, her main competition, Bailey Walker of Bayport-Blue Point, ran it in 16.98, and Ianno knew her work would be cut out for her.

“I was kind of nervous,” Ianno said. “This isn’t looking too good.”

But her coach, Jean Mahoney, was not as concerned. “She’s just a good all-around athlete,” Mahoney said on Friday.

And Ianno proved that to be true. By her count, she set personal bests in four of the pentathlon’s five events — the 100-meter high hurdles, high jump, long jump and shot put. That was more than enough to defeat Walker and send Ianno to Vestal.

“I don’t do well in heat,” Ianno said. “But for some reason during the track season I haven’t been doing too bad in the heat.”

One athlete who saw her high school career come to an end on Saturday afternoon was Riverhead’s Katie Skinner, who finished fourth in Friday’s 3,000-meter event in 10:40.74. On Saturday, she finished fifth in the 1,500 at 4:58.23.

Dounelis said Skinner took a couple elbow shots to the ribs on Friday and was still feeling the effects on Saturday. Like she did in the 3,000, Skinner cramped up in the 1,500. As the race progressed, she fell further and further behind the lead pack.

“You could see it in her face,” Dounelis said. “She was grimacing. But you know what? Not many people could do what she did this season.”

Skinner underwent foot surgery shortly before the spring season started and missed the first half of the season. Though she was seeded high enough in both events to enter the state qualifiers, she came up just slightly short.

jwilliams@morthshoresun.com

06/03/10 12:00am

When he was inducted into the National Football Foundation’s Long Island High School Hall of Fame, Herb Goldsmith said that the reason why he wanted to coach the Southampton High School football team was because of how tough the Mariners were when they played his Greenport Porters.

Goldsmith, 87, grew up in Cutchogue and went to Greenport High School, where he graduated in 1942 with 15 varsity letters. He then enlisted in the Navy and did not make it back to Long Island for close to a decade.

After one-year pit stops coaching in Riverhead and then in Amityville, Goldsmith landed at Southampton in 1955. He did not leave until he decided to retire nearly 30 years ago. And while he has not spent much time in the building since the early 1980s, he is still a dominant presence.

“To the people who talk about him here, he’s an icon,” Southampton Athletic Director Darren Phillips said. “He’s a legend.”

The accomplishments for which he earned his Hall of Fame plaque came on the football field where, as the Mariners’ coach for 24 years, from 1955 to 1978, Goldsmith compiled a 130-50-8 record. That included 13 league titles and four undefeated seasons.

“I don’t think he ever got caught up in the winning and losing,” Phillips said. “I think he was more proud of getting some of the kids who were here who were disadvantaged, getting them scholarships or helping them out and making them outstanding young men.”

Goldsmith did plenty else during his years at Southampton. He started the school’s lacrosse program. He coached wrestling as well as baseball, winning two division championships in three years. Goldsmith also taught physical education and was the school’s athletic director for 15 years.

“The old-timers and guys who played for him talk about him in such high regard and how much they loved him and would do anything for him,” Phillips said. “That’s certainly the kind of person he is.”

Before the December Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Goldsmith made it clear he did not expect anyone to show up in support. The tickets cost $65, Phillips said, and Goldsmith thought that was asking too much.

“But a lot of former players showed up,” Phillips said. “He was excited to see them. He has really meant so much to the school and football program.”

Goldsmith gave his award to the school and asked Phillips to place an inscribed plaque next to it, which reads: “To all the Southampton players, coaches and fans, thank you. Herb Goldsmith.”

Phillips said the school board honored Goldsmith at a board meeting earlier this year, but that the administration wanted to do something more for him. Their idea was an evening spent as a tribute to, and roast of, Goldsmith on June 11 at Tim Burke’s in Southampton. Phillips said he liked the idea of bringing together for a night those Goldsmith coached and coached against and those who rooted for and against him.

“It’s amazing what he’s contributed,” Phillips said.

For further information about the tribute, call Darren Phillips in the Southampton athletic office at 631-591-4614.

06/03/10 12:00am

GARRET MEADE PHOTO
Bishop McGann-Mercy Coach Ed Meier offered congratulations after Rocco Pascale belted a grand slam in Game 2.

PORT JEFFERSON STATION — Port Jefferson matched Bishop McGann-Mercy’s first four-run rally, but could not overcome a second.

The Royals scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to tie the score. After the Monarchs scored four more in the eighth, the Royals answered with two runs and were threatening to tie the score again. With runners on second and third with two outs, a base hit would have tied it at 11, but it was not to be.

Chris Esposito’s fly ball settled into Pat Stepnoski’s glove in center field for the final out and, finally, the Monarchs could enjoy a sustained celebration without having to worry about what was coming next.

“I’ve been playing baseball since I was 5 to just right now,” Monarchs Coach Ed Meier said. “I’m not the oldest guy in the world, but I’ve never seen baseball like that.”

After checking to make sure his heart was still beating, Meier joined his players to bask in an 11-9, eight-inning victory at Port Jefferson High School, and with it a Suffolk County Class C championship.

With that, McGann-Mercy earned the right to face Friends Academy in a Southeast Region semifinal on June 6 at Farmingdale State College.

With the final out secured, Stepnoski said he told the winning pitcher, Joe Crosser: “‘Good job. You were killing me out there with all these [walks], driving me nuts.”

It was not the first time Stepnoski felt exasperated. With one out in the top of the seventh and the Monarchs trailing by 4-3, he skied a pop up toward right field. The ball bounced into and then out of the second baseman’s mitt and fell to the infield dirt.

“Once I got on base, I was like: ‘I’m scoring. I’ve got to get in,’ ” Stepnoski said. “Going down to first, before he dropped it, I was not very happy.”

After Tom Tenaglia singled for the Monarchs (14-6), Port Jefferson Coach Jesse Rosen pulled his starter, Sean McGivney.

Esposito came on in relief and threw six straight balls, including one that hit Chris Sachalk in the hip to load the bases for Rocco Pascale. Esposito got one strike past Pascale, but not a second. Pascale launched a 2-1 pitch over the right-center-field fence for a grand slam to give the Monarchs a 7-4 lead.

“When I hit it, I was so excited,” Pascale said. “Coming up with the bases loaded, I’m just looking to hit a fly ball because a sacrifice fly, that ties the game. Yesterday I had a good game hitting, so they were trying to pitch curveballs to me. But he got behind in the count and had to throw a fastball.”

The dugout emptied as the Monarchs greeted Pascale at home plate. It was their first slightly premature celebration.

In the bottom of the inning, reliever Al Yakabowski walked two of the first three batters he faced, bringing Billy Crowe to the plate for the Royals (9-11).

Crowe had hit one home run all season, but his second could not have come at a better time. It barely cleared the fence, but when it did, the Monarchs’ lead was gone.

“Obviously, that deflates us,” Meier said. “You’re thinking, ‘Oh my goodness.’ “

The situation worsened. Yakabowski followed the home run by issuing a walk to the last batter he faced. Meier replaced him with Crosser, who then had troubles of his own. He gave up a bunt single and another walk to load the bases with one out. But a strikeout and flyout ended the Royals’ first threat.

Crosser then came to bat to start the eighth and walked. He went to third on Keith Schroeher’s double and both scored on Connor Stepnoski’s single to center field.

Then Pat Stepnoski stepped to the plate. He lined an 0-2 fastball over the left-field fence to put the Monarchs ahead, 11-7.

“It turned out that we needed it,” Pat Stepnoski said.

After a pop out to start the bottom of the eighth, Crosser walked three of the next four batters. An error with two outs scored two of them and put the tying run at second base. That was as close as the Royals got, though.

“Their willingness to come back and believe in themselves is something that I think will transcend the baseball field,” Rosen said. “Obviously that’s not something that they’re going to realize in the immediate future. If you look in the dugout you can certainly see it. I think in time they’ll realize that they’re people capable of overcoming adversity and that’s what life’s about.”

Several Royals were still in the home dugout, some slumped over, some with their uniforms slightly unbuttoned, all trying to come to grips with the end of their season.

After starting their League VIII schedule with a 1-4 record, the Royals went 7-3, including two straight must-win victories against Southold to clinch a playoff berth on the regular season’s final day.

But there would not be another game-winning comeback in a must-win situation.

Said Meier, “There’s no better way to win than how it happened right here.”

jwilliams@northshoresun.com

06/03/10 12:00am

PORT JEFFERSON STATION — There could not have been another batter the Port Jefferson Royals would have less enjoyed seeing at the plate with the bases loaded and two outs than Bishop McGann-Mercy’s Rocco Pascale.

The Monarchs were trailing, 4-3, with one out in the top of the seventh inning last Thursday at Port Jefferson High School in a game they ultimately won to clinch the Suffolk County Class C championship.

A day and a victory earlier, Pascale was at the plate with two runners on and the Monarchs leading the Royals, 3-2, in the fifth inning. With one swing, Pascale doubled the Monarchs’ run count on the way to a 13-2 opening-game blowout. He finished last Wednesday going 3 for 4 with the home run and five runs batted in. Before his seventh inning at-bat last Thursday, Pascale had a single and a four-pitch walk in three trips to the plate.

With one out, he said, he was not looking for a grand slam. He just wanted to hit the ball into the outfield and score the tying run on a sacrifice fly. Royals pitcher Chris Esposito fell behind 2-0 in the count.

“I’m almost thinking if they walk him there what a shame that would be,” Monarchs Coach Ed Meier said. “Even though we would have tied the game on a walk, I would have been disappointed if they pitched around him there.”

Esposito did not, coming in with a fastball that Pascale watched for strike one. Esposito tried a second fastball, but Pascale was not going to be satisfied just watching it.

“I just put my head down, didn’t try to do too much,” Pascale said after the game. “Just a sweet swing.”

The ball started for right center field, and as the ball and the outfielders drifted back, Meier thought it might do more than tie the score.

“Bases loaded, that’s a tough jam for anyone,” Meier said. “[Pascale] put a good cut on the outside ball. I was just hoping it was going out. That’s as big a hit as you can get in baseball. High school, college, whatever, you can’t get bigger than that.”

Pascale has hit home runs in four of the Monarchs’ last five games. Meier said Pascale has been able to have such success because he is confident at the plate, and he does not waste any motion in his swing. Pascale hit four home runs and another four doubles during a regular season in which he led the team with a .440 batting average and walked 10 times in 18 games. In two postseason games, Pascale is batting .750 with two home runs and nine RBI.

“It’s tough because other teams don’t know how to pitch him,” Meier said. “Trying off-speed, trying away, trying inside and it really hasn’t affected his rhythm up there.”

Over the course of the season, Pascale has acquired a flair for hitting home runs in key situations. The first came on the season’s opening day against S.S. Seward Institute. Pascale came to bat in the bottom of the seventh inning with the Monarchs trailing by 2-1. His home run tied the score, and later in the inning Keith Schroeher singled home Ian Traynor to win the game.

Pascale started his current tear in the opening game of the Monarchs’ final regular-season series against Center Moriches. With one out, Pascale homered to right field to ignite the first of three consecutive six-run innings for the Monarchs in their 21-7 win.

“He’s been so hot,” Meier said. “There’s no place to pitch him.”

There certainly was no safe place for Esposito to spot a pitch last Thursday, especially after falling behind in the count.

“That has to be such a moment for Rocco,” Meier said. “I’m so happy for him, such a good person for that to happen to.”

jwilliams@northshoresun.com

06/03/10 12:00am

PORT JEFFERSON STATION — From the vantage point of the bleachers at Port Jefferson High School, the play could not have been any closer.

Ask a fan in the bleachers, along the field’s first-base line, who touched third base first, Bishop McGann-Mercy’s Ian Traynor or Port Jefferson’s Sean McGivney. The answer would differ by rooting interest.

With two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the second inning of the Monarchs’ Suffolk County Class C-clinching victory last Thursday, Keith Schroeher hit a slow roller toward the hole between the shortstop and third base. Royals third baseman Billy Crowe started to his left to cut the ball off, but McGivney, coming off the mound, got to it first. With his momentum carrying him toward the third-base line, McGivney would not have been able to stop, spin and throw to first to get Schroeher out. Instead, he made a beeline for third base, and to the umpire’s vantage point, beat Traynor by a split second.

Monarchs Coach Ed Meier put his hands to his head in disbelief. He squatted down so far that he was nearly sitting on the ground, and it took him a moment to stand up again.

Some jawing at the umpire might have been expected, but a different atmosphere ruled at Port Jefferson. No fans were allowed at the Royals’ last home game of the regular season against Southold for fear of potential trouble. There was no noise this time. Meier trotted back to the dugout. And, in the stands, fans, regardless of their rooting interest, turned to each other.

“Heads-up play,” one said.

“That was close,” another commented.

Hearing that, yet another agreed that while it was close, it would be tough to tell from the bleachers.

Nobody booed or made a negative comment, and the play seemed all but forgotten by the time the Royals stepped to the plate in the bottom of the inning.

When McGann-Mercy’s Rocco Pascale hit a grand slam in the seventh to give the Monarchs a 7-4 lead, a Royals fan turned to Pascale’s father and congratulated him, saying, “He’ll remember that one for a long time.”

And when Crowe tied the score with a three-run blast in the bottom of the inning, the same fan said, “I’m getting too old for this.”

It was not the last time he said that, either.

By the top of the eighth inning, rally caps were on full display, and the crowd seemed to rise and fall as one with each crack of the bat.

And with each swing, the noise from the bleachers got louder, the din more deafening. When the Royals’ Chris Esposito stepped to the plate representing the possible winning run with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, there were alternating yells of, “Let’s go, Espo!” and “Let’s go, J. C.!” for Monarchs pitcher Joe Crosser.

And when Crosser got Esposito to fly out to end the game, the fans stopped to marvel at the game they had just witnessed. It did not matter if they were talking to a fan of the other team, they just wanted to share the experience before the Monarchs’ fans went to congratulate their team and Royals fans to console theirs.

jwilliams@northshoresun.com