South Side overcame an inauspicious 0-5 start to eventually reach .500 and qualify for the Nassau Class A baseball playoffs behind what coach Tom Smith described as a “special group of seniors.”
“Just about all of our seniors have been together since elementary school,” Smith said. “We had a tough start to the year. Our first six games were on the road because our field wasn’t playable after the four nor’easters we got in March. We batted as the home team in the games that were supposed to be home, but we still had to get on a bus.”
The Cyclones (8-10 in Conference A-I) earned their first win of 2018 on April 9 at Manhasset and went on to sweep the Indians to get some confidence going. “I felt all along we could climb out of it,” Smith said. “The kids stayed positive and started to believe in themselves after sweeping Manhasset. We had another little setback, but then we started putting the pieces together and won five in a row.”
Senior Bobby Frankini led the pitching staff for a second straight spring and recorded two wins and three no-decisions. He took the loss last Friday when South Side fell at Bethpage, 8-7, in a Class A outbracket playoff game, four days after a most memorable outing. On May 7, Frankini (3.20 ERA, 36 strikeouts in 26 innings) threw a no-hitter at Carey and struck out seven as the team clinched a postseason berth with a 2-0 victory.
“Bobby was our workhorse,” Smith said. “He pounds the zone and forces batters to hit his pitch. Some days we supported him and other days we didn’t. In the no-hitter, we played phenomenal defense behind him.”
Junior Tyler Costaro was the No. 2 starter and anchored the infield defense at shortstop on non-pitching days. He fanned 31 in 26 innings. Eight of those strikeouts came in a 6-1 win at New Hyde Park on May 1. “Tyler has quality stuff and the potential to dominate,” Smith said.
Sophomores Danny Kelleher and Sean Kelly both saw work and enjoyed success as the third starter, while junior Tim O’Brien was lights-out as the closer. O’Brien had two wins and three saves with a 1.20 ERA. Seniors Ryan Russell and Brendan Schmidt also provided strong relief.
The Cyclones hit .274 as a whole, led by senior tablesetters Chris Collins (.343 average, 18 runs scored from the leadoff spot) and Zach Leff (.347.) Collins also led an otherwise young outfield that included Kelleher, Kelly (eight hits in his first 10 at-bats) and fellow soph Anthony Pericolosi (11 runs.) Leff and senior Will Dragovich were keys to the defensive improvement, solidifying second and third base for the stretch run. Senior Pat Leach played every game behind the plate and drove in 15 runs while batting .280.
“We played our best ball down the stretch,” Smith said. “Reaching the playoffs definitely added to the kids’ high school experience and they had fun along the way. That’s what it’s all about.”