The baseball program at East Rockaway High has enjoyed a multitude of success throughout its history. In fact, just a year ago the Rocks captured county, Long Island, and regional titles, and advanced to the state semifinals.
However, the last time East Rockaway won a conference championship, Nixon was in the White House and the country was still at war in Vietnam. Well, the wait is over. Junior Aidan O’Connor struck out 13, and senior shortstop Stefano Cilluffo knocked in a pair of runs to lead the visiting Rocks to a 5-2 victory over Oyster Bay.
The win, coupled with Carle Place beating second place Cold Spring Harbor, enabled East Rockaway to clinch its first conference title since 1971 and secure the top seed in the Class B playoffs. At 15-3 (14-1 in Conference B), the Rocks enter the playoffs with the best record in program history.
East Rockaway will play No. 4 Carle Place in a three-game series with the winner advancing to the Class B finals. Results of the semifinal round were unavailable at press time.
“The guys were a game away from winning the division last season, and I think it opened their eyes,” coach James Hickey said. “We knew it would be a challenge. The league is bigger and most of the teams have improved. It’s a nice accomplishment.”
The Rocks, who enter the playoffs having won their past eight games, saw their pitching go to another level during the final three weeks of the regular season. The staff let up an average of just over two runs per game in series sweeps of Malverne and Oyster Bay. Brian Morganthaler and Chris Perri earned shutouts in back-to-back victories over Malverne.
Morganthaler, the team’s second baseman and leadoff hitter, has been stellar out of the bullpen. The senior right hander comes on in tight spots, pounds the zone, and puts games away. In 12 innings pitched, Morganthaler has an earned run average of under 1.00.
While O’Connor and Cilluffo have pitched in the top two spots of the rotation all season long, Perri, the team’s number three starter, could easily have been given the ball each Monday. The junior southpaw finished with a record of 5-0 in league play. In his gem against Malverne, Perri went the distance, striking out 11.
Depth has been a big plus for the Rocks. In a spot start in the regular season finale, junior Tom Kelly tripled down the line with two outs in the top of the second to knock in a pair to get the Rocks started in a 10-4 win at Oyster Bay.
“Having a deep roster has been key for us,” Hickey said. “We’ve faced a lot of different situations and have found ways to win. We get contributions from everyone. They’re a confident bunch, but they’re not overconfident. It’s a new season, but it’s still just baseball. We have to stick to the plan and draw off the experience we gained last season.”