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Baseball: Turning Wildcats into Tomcats

The players were ready. The managers were ready. The coaches were ready.

Everything was in place for Monday’s Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League game between the Sag Harbor Whalers and Riverhead Tomcats. Everything, that is, except the umpires.

Not only weren’t the umpires ready, they weren’t even there.

No umpires showed up for the game at Veterans Memorial Park in Calverton. No umpires meant no game.

The resulting postponement shortened an already short season for Nick Manesis. Manesis is part of a Tomcats team that has a Shoreham-Wading River High School flavor. Both he and another former SWR player, Gabe Romano, have been playing for the Tomcats. A third ex-SWR Wildcat, catcher/first baseman Ryan Mullahey, isn’t on the Tomcats’ roster, but he has been rehabbing an arm injury and working out with the team.

Manesis’ time with the Tomcats is nearing an end. A sophomore at the United States Military Academy, Manesis said he will spend his last day with the Tomcats Wednesday before heading back to West Point for cadet field training.

With only one month off for the summer, Manesis said he wanted to stay close to home and get more baseball experience. Like the other former Wildcats, he lives a short drive from the Tomcats’ home field.

At-bats don’t come easily to freshmen, and Manesis had only 19 of them (two for hits) for the Black Knights. He was slotted to bat ninth in the batting order as the designated hitter Monday.

Manesis, who the Tomcats (9-6-1) have used mostly as a leftfielder, has a .158 (3-for-19) batting average through eight games using the HCBL’s wood bats.

“I started off a little slow, just because I haven’t gotten too many at-bats this year,” he said. “It was a little transition period, but now I’m getting used to it swinging every day. I like wood. It’s not too bad. It’s harder to barrel up balls. I mean, you got to hit it perfectly … I broke like two or three bats this year already.”

In his previous game, an 8-5 loss to Westhampton last Thursday, Manesis saw encouraging signs, going 2-for-3.

The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Manesis looks the part of an Army baseball player.

“We ran him out,” Tomcats manager Bill Ianniciello said. “He competed. He’s an athlete. He struggled a little with the bat. It would have been nice to have a little more time to get him on track.”

“It’s tough on these guys that don’t get a lot of at-bats at school,” he continued. “Sometimes it makes it a little harder to get on track. Unfortunately for him, he was just starting to swing a little bit and now he has to do his service, but it’s part of what he’s doing and it’s part of a bigger, more important thing.”

Meanwhile, Romano has been doing his thing as a pitcher.

Jeffrey Taylor was Riverhead’s scheduled starter Monday, but he completed his warmup before the game time was pushed back an hour to 6 p.m. “Taylor was all loose and ready to go so we weren’t going to put him through a second warmup,” said Ianniciello.

That positioned Romano to make his first start of the summer — until the game was postponed.

The postponement, following postponements from a rainy week before, have made the Tomcats’ congested schedule even more congested, creating two doubleheaders this week to go with a twinbill on June 28.

“It’s a lot of games and it’s a challenge with the arms,” Ianniciello said. “Everybody’s going to get work because we have a ton of games this week and we’re short arms, so getting them work is not the issue.”

Romano, a sophomore at Quinnipiac, has pitched four innings in three relief appearances for the Tomcats and has a 6.75 ERA. Ianniciello likes what he sees in the 6-5 righthander.

“He’s got a good mix of pitches,” the manager said. “He’s got a live arm. He’s got good size. He had an awkward injury at school. He got hurt during a popup drill. He hurt his pitching thumb. He only got a limited number of innings at school. He’s got good stuff. He’s got pretty good velo and he’s got several secondary pitches, so he’s interesting.”

What does Romano want to get out of the league this year?

“Just more innings,” he said. “It’s good to get more innings. In your freshman year, it’s hard to find innings, so come down here and get more innings before sophomore year.”

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Photo caption: Former Shoreham-Wading River High School players Gabe Romano, left, and Nick Manesis have been working on their games with the Riverhead Tomcats. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)