Nassau drops Grand Slam Challenge


Great pitching silenced great hitting when some of the top high school senior baseball players from Nassau and Suffolk Counties got together for the Ryan T. Caufield Grand Slam Challenge last Monday evening at Farmingdale State College.

Pitchers on both sides combined for 29 strikeouts and only two walks in the eighth annual charity game won by the Suffolk all-stars, 3-1. Matt Vogel (Patchogue-Medford), who was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Major League Baseball Draft earlier in the month, used his 95-mph fastball to record two of the strikeouts and went 2-for-3 with one RBI and a stolen base on the way to earning MVP honors for Suffolk. Nassau MVP Bryce Keller (Port Washington) struck out the side in the ninth.

“This is the fourth time I’ve coached in this game, and I’ve never seen such an outstanding collection of pitchers on both sides,” Clarke’s Tom Abruscato said. “There were some hits scattered around, but it was mainly about the pitching. We made a few mistakes in the last inning that cost us.”

The game is played in memory of Caufield, a former Nassau Diamond Award winning catcher who starred at Bethpage and New York Tech. Caufield died in 2000 at the age of 22 from complications from lupus. All proceeds from the event support lupus research. The game was postponed by rain twice this month. An extra inning was added to accommodate additional players originally unable to participate do to their high school teams’ competing in the state championships. 

“It’s a special game to be a part of, and a lot of fun,” Abruscato said. “I coached in the first one at the Long Island Ducks stadium in 2002, and it’s grown every year. It’s for a great cause.”

Abruscato had the opportunity to coach three of his players one last time. John Fogarty, Joe Fusco and Matt Seelinger, who led the Rams to the Nassau Class A title this spring, all participated. Fogarty had three putouts in center field, Fusco played second base and singled in the third inning, and Seelinger pitched a perfect inning with two strikeouts including one of Vogel. “I’ve spent a lot of time with these three kids over the years,” Abruscato said. “They’re all hard-working athletes and were honored to be chosen to play in this game.”

The 2013 Nassau Diamond Award winner, Valley Stream North’s Anthony Martelli, started at shortstop and roped a single to left in his first at-bat. “It definitely felt like an all-star game,” he said.

South Side’s David Hawley and Louis Matarazzo, who led the Cyclones to a conference title this spring, played roles in Nassau’s lone run. It came in the bottom of the fourth off Greg Egan (St. John The Baptist.) After Dan Hopkins (St. Dominic) opened with a single, Abruscato called on Hawley to pinch-run. Hawley promptly stole second and advanced to third with two outs when Matarazzo was retired on a hard-hit ball to first. A single by Louis Mele (Island Trees) brought home Hawley.

In addition to Seelinger, Oceanside’s James Long (two strikeouts), Mepham’s Jason Foley (two), Chaminade’s Joe Romero (one) and Elmont’s Dan Aguillo (one) saw action on the mound. Andrew Hess (Valley Stream South) made an appearance at the plate. Suffolk had a least one hit in each of the first four innings before Seelinger got Ryan Dollop (Bayport-Blue Point), Tyler Piccolo (Rocky Point) and Vogel in order in the fifth.

Nassau’s bats managed just two hits over the final six innings. Suffolk got all three of its runs in its last turn at-bat and Steve Woods (Half Hollow Hills East) had three strikeouts for the save. Mark Donadio (Mt. Sinai) started the winning rally with a single, and an error followed to put runners on second and third. Dollop drove home Donadio with the tying run, and the go-ahead run scored on an error when Dollop swiped second. Vogel’s single plated Dollop with an insurance run.