Southampton’s bats are surely heating up.
James Malone, who went 3-for-4 from the plate with four RBI and two steals, Andrew Smith, who went 3-for-3 with two walks, two RBI, and a steal, and a 3-for-4 appearance with a walk and two RBI from Thomas Gabriele helped muscle the Mariners to an 18-6 nonleague win over Westhampton Beach April 4.
“The biggest thing for me is we put the ball in play and got some base hits today,” head coach Scott Johnson said. “We’ve struggled scoring runs in the past five years, so for us to get 18 on the board, we’ll certainly take that.”
Junior Samuel Schneider pitched a scoreless first three innings, and threw four strikeouts over four. The righty went 1-for-4 with three RBI from the plate.
“As long as he’s throwing his strikes and mixing his pitches he’s fine,” Johnson said. “I need him to come through for us.”
Schneider did just that, relaxed on the mound because his Mariners made short work of the Hurricanes by hitting early and often.
“This is a good way to start the season at home,” Schneider said. “We had a pretty good student-section today, which was nice despite the weather. It gave me a lot of confidence, and so did the run support. I just wanted to throw strikes, hit my spots, get the curveball down, which came along.”
Gabriele got Southampton on the board when a dribbler down the third baseline brought home Alex Petty (3-for-5 with an RBI). He stole a base before Andrew Smith’s base hit between first and second brought him home.
“I knew we had potential — we’re a bunch of new players — and we’re starting to put it together,” said Petty, who made several defensive stops at second after being a designated hitter all last season. “I wasn’t hitting too well, but we took it easy, didn’t try to go for the long ball, and got a lot of base hits because of that. The younger kids really helped us out. This is a good sign.”
Ethan Walker’s double two batters later plated Smith, and Malone’s single with the bases loaded brought home Anthony De La Santos (2-for-3 with an RBI and a walk) and Walker to put Southampton up 5-0. Leadoff batter Schneider, at the plate for the second time in the inning, drove in two runs with a double for a 7-0 lead after one inning. Smith’s RBI-double and Gabe Camacho’s hit to the second baseman that brought Smith home gave the Mariners a 9-0 advantage after two.
“I had some kids that hit well today, they really did, Andrew, and Thomas, but I also need those guys to pitch well,” Johnson said. “In a small school everybody’s gotta pitch. We have to piece some things together — we’re a work in progress — but with a combination of this hitting and some decent pitching we’ll be fine; we’ll compete.”
Westhampton countered with a two-run fourth and four-run fifth. An RBI-single after three walks started the fifth before a walk with the bases loaded. Another hit brought home two to give the Hurricanes their final tally.
“We’re going to see some better pitching, some better playing, some better hitting, so we’ve got work to do for sure,” Johnson said.
Southampton graduated nine seniors off last year’s 17-man Class B team, but currently has nine seniors on a smaller roster of 13. The Mariners lost Jem Sisco, whom Johnson regarded as the best pitcher and hitter in the league.
Class A’s Westhampton Beach boasts an almost entirely new team, including first-year middle school teacher and head coach Asa Grunenwald. After playing for St. John’s University as a catcher from 2000-03, Grunenwald was an assistant coach at Hofstra University and later for Bayport-Blue Point’s varsity team that won two state championships.
“We’ve got to be flexible, versatile,” Johnson said. “Last year we didn’t start strong, but finished strong, and that’s what I’m looking to do this year.”
Schneider said Smith said they’re looking forward to facing League VII competitors Mattituck and Babylon, two of the team’s biggest rivals. Johnson is hoping his team can become more vocal, earn some road wins and have a few good bus rides to build up the camaraderie.
If Southampton’s 12-0 shutout of Smithtown Christian April 8, and 18-4 nonleague win over Class A’s East Hampton back in March are any indication, the team is just starting to raise the temperature.