When the Boys of Summer League 18-and-under National Division championship game ended, the losing manager was smiling. And it wasn’t a feigned or a forced smile on John Tardif’s face. In light of all the positives associated with his Mattituck Ospreys, Tardif couldn’t help but smile.
“It was a genuine smile because of the way these kids battled all the way through,” he said.
Even if the Ospreys didn’t feel good about the result of the league final — a 5-3 defeat to the North Shore Cougars on Monday night at Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic — they had to appreciate all they accomplished this summer. Playing in the competitive 16-team league for the first time with one of the younger squads, the Ospreys finished the regular season in first place, won three of four playoff games, and reached the league final with a group of players who are all expected to return next summer.
Now that’s quite a lot to feel good about.
“The best summer I’ve had by far, with the best kids,” said Marcos Perivolaris, who played shortstop and provided some vital relief pitching for the Ospreys on Monday night. “We had a great time and we won, so that was definitely a positive. We’ve seen the competition and we played the best pretty much, and we’re just going to come back next year and do the same thing.”
In sharp contrast to the Ospreys, Monday night’s game marked the end of the road in more ways than one for the Cougars. Eleven of North Shore’s 13 players are moving on to play college baseball.
“This is kind of bittersweet,” said the team’s manager, Matt Piccolo.
Before heading off to college, though, the Cougars took care of some final business. Cougars pitcher Cody McPartland gave his side a 2-0 lead before he threw his first pitch; he lined a two-run single in the top of the first inning.
That lead expanded to 5-0 in the fifth. With two outs and the bases loaded, Tyler Piccolo, the manager’s son, cleared the bases by poking a double to right field. He was thrown out at third base, trying to stretch the hit into a triple.
“They came through,” Matt Piccolo said. “Top to bottom, anybody that comes to bat, I know somebody’s going to come up with a big hit. It’s that comfortable. And it goes for my defense, too. Anybody I throw on the mound, I know he’s going to get the job done.”
That includes McPartland, a right-hander who will play for Dowling College. He gave the Ospreys a tough time through the first five innings. The Ospreys did make more contact off McPartland’s pitches over the final two innings when they produced five of their eight hits.
After Mattituck’s Jon Dwyer lined a run-scoring single to make it a two-run game in the seventh, McPartland made way for Anthony Telesca, who recorded a strikeout for the game’s final out with two runners on base.
“It’s a great team,” said a happy McPartland, who struck out seven, walked one and allowed one earned run. “I love this team. I’d pick them over anyone.”
Perivolaris started the game at shortstop, but found himself on the pitching mound sooner than anyone could have expected. Five pitches into the game, after Ryan Finger hit the first batter, Travis Bell, and issued a four-pitch walk to Mike Donadio, Tardif made the pitching change, handing the ball over to Perivolaris.
“We have the arms,” Tardif said. “All of our pitchers understand and they don’t take it personal that somebody else can fill in. Not every night is going to be your night.”
Perivolaris did a commendable job, allowing three hits over four and a third innings. He was charged with two runs.
Like his pitching counterpart, Perivolaris also delivered a two-run hit, a two-out double to the left-center-field gap in the sixth.
Two Shoreham-Wading River High School players played for the Ospreys, Jack Massa and Chris Moran. Massa contributed an infield single and Moran socked a double.
“We’re going to keep going forward,” Perivolaris said. “They’re a very solid team. They have great hitters in that lineup, and great pitching, too, so it was nice to see that we definitely hung in there and had a chance to win.”
After the game, the happy Cougars, many of whom played together since they were in Little League, posed for team photos with the championship trophy on the pitcher’s mound. One last snapshot of a baseball summer to remember.
“As a coach, I consider these kids extended family,” Matt Piccolo said. “They’re my kids. I couldn’t be any prouder.”
On a night when a surreal, low-lying fog formed artful shapes over the outfield, the Ospreys’ dream summer reached an end. But it was a good summer for them. They posted an overall record of 18-5-2, outscoring their opponents by 90-44. Tardif, who was assisted by his son Brian, a former Mattituck High School and C. W. Post College pitcher, said the team achieved “much more” than he could have expected.
“The kids took a huge step forward,” he said. “These kids are now playing at a high level that they believe they can consistently play at.”
All the more reason to smile.