Baseball Preview: Wildcats can expect to continue their winning ways

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River senior Mike O'Reilly is an all-state player who is the team's pitching ace as well as an infielder.

Not many high school baseball teams can match what Shoreham-Wading River has done. No other Suffolk County team can equal the Wildcats in one area. Not only has Shoreham won seven county championships, but it has reached the playoffs 26 years in a row, a rather remarkable record.

“The kids take a lot of pride in that,” said coach Sal Mignano, whose 36-year career, all with Shoreham, has produced 535 wins. That ranks him fourth on New York State’s all-time win list, No. 1 among active coaches in Suffolk and No. 2 all-time in the county.

By all appearances, it looks as if Mignano and his Wildcats will add to their playoff run, and who knows beyond that?

Last year Shoreham went 19-6, losing to Levittown Division in the Long Island Class A final.

Headlining this year’s squad are two all-state players, senior pitcher/infielder Mike O’Reilly and sophomore first baseman Nick Bottari.

O’Reilly, who is expected to play in NCAA Division II for Flagler College (Fla.), is described as a complete pitcher with a fastball that flies between 86 and 89 miles per hour, a sharp breaking curveball and a changeup. He went 9-0 last season, posting a 1.97 earned run average and registering 93 strikeouts in 51 innings.

“He’s one of the premier pitchers on Long Island, if not the tri-state area,” Mignano said. “He’s one of those kids who’s always been very talented at a younger age, but in the last two years has blossomed through tremendous hard work.”

Despite his youth, Bottari has made quite a name for himself as well. The third-year varsity player was the only eighth-grader to ever play for Shoreham’s varsity team. Last year he hit .500 with three home runs and 25 runs batted in. For his career, he is batting .446 with seven homers and 64 RBI.

“He’s going to be a national recruit by the time he graduates,” Mignano said. “He’s already getting looks from Division I schools across the country.”

Shoreham has two other returning starters in senior catcher/first baseman Jono Criscito, a four-year varsity player, and senior outfielder Danny Luppens. Criscito has a .318 career batting average with six homers and 48 RBI. Luppens hit .329 with four homers and 18 RBI last year.

Five other seniors are also back: outfielder/pitcher Will Andrews, pitcher/third baseman Dan De Vito, pitcher/infielder Mike Di Santi, outfielder Steve Schneider and second baseman Pat Steinbrecher.

Tyler Osik, a sophomore third baseman who is the son of former Shoreham star and major league player Keith Osik, is an outstanding hitter who will start somewhere in the lineup, said Mignano.

After O’Reilly and De Vito, the third spot in the pitching rotation remains to be decided. Two juniors, Evan Kearney and Kevin Kelley, are in contention.

Among the new additions are outfielder Marc Frick, pitcher Brian Klemfuss, outfielder Sean Logan, catcher Jack Massa, outfielder Joe Montesano, second baseman Kyle Pendergast and outfielder Drew Sperruzzi.

“It might be a little deeper of a team than we had last year,” Mignano said. “We have multiple guys battling for spots in multiple positions. A lot of competition for spots.”

Shoreham did lose a lot in five three-year varsity players, but the team undoubtedly has the talent to go far again.

“I like the depth,” Mignano said. “I like their eagerness to learn. The veterans that we lost, those guys are irreplaceable, but this team brings new energy that is going to make them different and unique.”

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