Mix of youth and veterans makes for championship

Suffolk Cement’s Kurt Maas was out on a fielder’s choice at second base. Digger’s/Wedel Signs shortstop Andrew Garcia covered the bag on the play.

The Digger’s/Wedel Signs men’s softball team didn’t exactly find the fountain of youth, but the addition of young, 20-something players undoubtedly helped the club capture the Riverhead Men’s Softball League postseason tournament championship.

Digger’s/Wedel Signs wrapped up the title on Monday night with a 23-13 victory over Suffolk Cement. Mark Miloski knocked in six runs and Mike Mowdy went 5 for 5 with three runs batted in for the winners in the game at Stotzky Memorial Park’s Wesley Brown Sr. Memorial Field. Had Suffolk Cement won, the teams would have played again for the title last night, but Monday’s result made that unnecessary.

“We have guys that never won it before,” said Mowdy, who played as the designated hitter. “They all feel good.”

The presence this season of young players such as Rob Allen, Andrew Garcia, Billy Torre, Bieber, Miloski and brothers Charlie and David Zilnicki made a difference. They proved to be part of a winning mix with the team’s veterans.

“They invigorate us,” one of those veterans, Mowdy, said of the younger players. “Fresh legs and high energy, the two things I struggle with on a daily basis.”

Digger’s/Wedel Signs second baseman Mike Delia said: “We have a lot of young kids. We didn’t know how they were going to do in the playoffs, how they were going to handle the pressure, and they did great. They were great additions.”

The way second-seeded Suffolk Cement had been playing and putting up big numbers on the scoreboard, one might have wondered if it was the team of destiny. Suffolk Cement, which had ousted defending champion Revco Electrical earlier in the double-elimination tournament, defeated the En4cers, 25-8, in the first game of Monday night’s doubleheader. That game was stopped after four and a half innings because of the league’s 15-run mercy rule.

But No. 3 seed Digger’s/Wedel Signs was on a roll, beating Suffolk Cement for the second time in the playoffs. The first time Digger’s/Wedel Signs overcame a 13-5 deficit to win, 19-15, and remain in the winners’ bracket. Its win on Monday night was Digger’s/Wedel Signs’ 11th in 12 games. The team went 20-8 this summer.

“We were the team of destiny,” said Mowdy.

Three of Miloski’s RBI came on a home run. Delia (three RBI), Jim Zappulla and Mowdy also slugged home runs for Digger’s/Wedel Signs, which played errorless defense and turned a double play.

Suffolk Cement was led by Sean McGuire’s four RBI. He hit a home run as did teammates Jeremy Wilcoxen, Casey Klossner and Ken Liebert.

Digger’s/Wedel Signs twice overcame early deficits, taking the lead for good when Miloski’s three-run blast made it 9-8 in the third inning. Later, a five-run rally in the fifth made it 15-9. But Digger’s/Wedel Signs all but sealed it in the sixth when it posted eight runs from eight hits and an error for a 23-11 cushion.

“We’re a team of battlers; we hang in there,” said Garcia, the shortstop. “We hit small ball, we play station to station and we play good fundamental [softball].”

Just how much of a help the younger players have been to Digger’s/Wedel Signs was illustrated by the regular-season statistics. In addition to a .634 batting average, Bieber led the team in both home runs (13) and RBI (54). David Zilnicki (.553, one home run, 24 RBI), Miloski (.534, three home runs, 23 RBI) and Torre (.526, one home run, nine RBI) were big parts of the offense as well.

“This year we have five or six [young] guys and it’s a totally different atmosphere,” Charlie Zilnicki said. “We play loose.”

That might have had something to do with a playoff run that included wins over Loose Caboose and the En4cers.

“We have a great team,” Miloski said. “We got hot at the right time.”

After Miloski caught a fly ball in left-center field for the game’s final out, the happy Digger’s/Wedel Signs players celebrated before posing for photos with their championship trophy.

“It’s been one hell of a year,” Bieber said, “and what better way to end the year than raising the trophy.”

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THREE 7-RUN RALLIES HELP Suffolk Cement, bolstered by five RBI and a home run from Rocky Schwamborn, eliminated the En4cers from the tournament with a 25-8 result in a mercy-rule-shortened game that went four and a half innings on Monday evening.

Sean McGuire added four RBI and a homer, with Jeremy Wilcoxen contributing three RBI. Casey Klossner (three RBI) and Kurt Maas also homered for Suffolk Cement, which outhit the En4cers, 24-11.

Donnie Law had a big game for the En4cers, homering in each of his three at-bats for six RBI. Rich Kulesa also drove a ball over the fence for the En4cers, who have lost three of the four games they played against Suffolk Cement this summer.

Another En4cers player, Steve Jones, made two outstanding sliding catches in right field to deny Joe Roth and McGuire of hits.

After pulling ahead, 4-2, in the first inning, Suffolk Cement rang up seven-run rallies in the second, third and fourth innings.