The South Side baseball team has not won a conference title since 2013. With the way this year’s team is playing so far, the six-year drought could come to an end.
The Cyclones are off to a torrid start by winning nine of their first ten games, including an all-important 5-1 mark in the conference, and held a half-game lead over Hewlett in Conference A-3 at press time. That includes non-conference victories over county powerhouses Oceanside and MacArthur and a recent three-game sweep against division-foe Plainedge, which won 15 games in 2018.
The wins over Oceanside on the road and MacArthur were especially satisfying for coach Tom Smith, who admitted to being surprised with his team’s performance after going 8-12 last year.
“Beating Oceanside and MacArthur, yeah,” Smith said. “In later non-leagues, I really went for two top-tier programs year in and year out [and] let’s see what we got.”
The Cyclones were also competitive in their only loss of the season against Glen Cove on April 9, surrendering a 2-1 lead in the third inning before falling 5-2 in a rain-shortened, five-inning contest. South Side responded with an emphatic 6-0 win over the Big Red in the rubber game of the series two days later, with Tyler Costaro yielding just one hit and striking out five over six innings.
That momentum carried over into the opener of the three-game series against Plainedge on April 15, when South Side scored the only run of the contest on a first-inning passed ball and Dan Kelleher tossing a complete-game two-hitter. The Cyclones completed the sweep with a pair of one-run wins, culminating with Jason Schwartz’s walkoff single on April 17.
“[The loss] really was a great teaching moment,” Smith said. “The kids bounced right back.”
Kelleher, a junior who was called up to the varsity last year, has been a stud on the mound for the Cyclones with a team-leading four wins, including a 14-strikeout performance in the season opener against Valley Stream South on March 23. He fanned 11 in his next start against a powerful Oceanside lineup and 12 more against Glen Cove on April 8.
“Danny has continued to work very hard,” Smith said. “He’s stronger, he’s bigger and he’s really mastered locating his spots.”
Tyler Costaro has two wins this season, with Sean Kelly, Grant Goodland and star reliever Tim O’Brien (three saves) picking up the others.
Another key to South Side’s start is different players coming up with key hits on offense. Patrick Ranieri went 3-for-3 with three RBIs against Glen Cove on April 11 and Ryan Riccio has a home run and nine RBIs. Anthony Pericolosi is hitting .360 to go with a whopping on-base plus slugging percentage of 1.120 and catcher John LaCava is also batting .360.
“Pericolosi is hitting missles all over the place,” Smith said.
The next two series will prove critical for South Side’s conference-title hopes as it faces Bethpage, which was one game out in the conference at press time, and Hewlett.