North Shore’s baseball team is proving an old sports adage true: it’s not how you start; it’s how you finish.
After dropping three of their first four Conference A-IV games, the Vikings closed the regular season winning 9 of 12 to finish runners-up to Lynbrook and earned the No. 10 seed in the highly competitive Nassau Class A double-elimination playoff tournament.
“We came into the season hoping to continue our success with only two seniors and a young group around them,” coach Scott Lineman said after No. 10 North Shore’s 3-0 loss at seventh-seeded Clarke on Monday in the opening round of the Nassau Class A double-elimination playoff tournament. “To win 10 conference games against teams with a lot more experience was a nice accomplishment,” he added.
Clarke’s Matt Boyko threw a complete-game shutout with eight strikeouts and one walk. He allowed three hits and got all the offensive support he needed in the bottom of the first when Kemal Deljannin and Vinny Trovato had back-to-back RBI doubles with two outs. “Their pitcher kept us off balance,” Lineman said. “We got runners on base but were unable to get the big hit.”
Sophomore Danny Livoti, who has three wins this spring, went five innings on the bump for the Vikings (12-6 overall), who hadn’t been blanked since April 10. “Danny didn’t pitch poorly,” Lineman said. “Clarke’s a very talented and well-coached team and hit a couple of two-strike pitches that hurt us early.”
North Shore’s bats were kept quiet, but its defense was stellar, Lineman said. Sophomore Matt Lewin made two highlight-reel plays in center field, while junior catcher Anthony Carleo caught a pair of runners trying to steal. “We played exceptional defense,” Lineman said. “That was a bright spot.”
The Vikings were turning to senior southpaw Kenny Belanger to keep the season alive against No. 2 Carey in the second round. Belanger, who missed a start early in the campaign, threw gems in each of his last two starts including a 7-2 win over conference champion Lynbrook on April 24. He allowed no earned runs over 5 1/3 and scattered five hits and fanned four. “Kenny’s tough when he’s hitting spots,” said Lineman, who noted Belanger is having a nice season at the plate as well.
If Belanger can get North Shore into the third round, sophomore David Aufiero will get the starting nod. He’s earned a few wins and plays shortstop on non-pitching days.
Carleo has been strong behind the plate once a week, at third base, and especially at the dish. He leads the Vikings with 4 homers, 16 RBIs, 18 runs scored and 4 saves. “He’s had a huge year,” Lineman said.
Junior Jake Walton has been a key piece to the puzzle as well. He has three victories and slides between third base and shortstop depending on the day of the week. Senior Joe Livoti has been rock-solid at second base.
“We have to find a way to score runs to keep our season going,” Lineman said.