The goal ultimately is for Malverne baseball to leave the “Countywide’’ conference and return to Class B.
It’s been three years since Malverne demoted itself to the developmental league, forfeiting the right to enter the Nassau County playoffs.
Malverne reeled off a 13-4 record in 2022 – tied for the best record in that league with Jericho. While Jericho moved back up, the Mules opted to stay in Countywide after losing 12 seniors. Coach Joe Dunn felt the program was starting from scratch again.
However, Malverne is off to a 5-0 start, albeit facing the lower tier of Countywide squads. The Mules have beaten Lawrence, Elmont, Hempstead, Roosevelt and Westbury. The record gives the coach hope this might be the program’s last season in Countywide.
“If the young guys prove themselves this year, we’re definitely coming out of the Countywide next year,’’ Dunn said.
Of the dozen players lost to graduation, five of them hit .350 or better, including the big bats of Daniel Quaranto and Pat McKeon.
While hitting is an issue, Malverne’s best all-around player of 2022 is back in senior lefty Matt Merkel, the ace of the staff and centerfielder. He not only hit .480 at the plate but went 6-0 as a pitcher, throwing in the low 80's.
Only three seniors will receive playing time – Merkel, pitcher/catcher Yadier Tavarez and designated hitter Aaron Morgan. Merkel and Tavarez each hit homers in the team's win over Westbury April 5.
The Mules are such a young group their shortstop – a key leadership position – is manned by an 8th grader, Jason Miletic. So far, so good for the youngster. “He’s hitting OK,’’ Dunn said. “He fields well. He’s doing great - better than I expected.’’
The three-man pitching staff has Merkel, Tavarez and Alex Daly.
“It’s going come down to our hitting,’’ Dunn said. “We have good pitching and defense is better than I expected. We have to make solid contact at the plate with younger guys who are inexperienced and tend to strike out a lot as they learn the strike zone.
“If they get settled and make good contact and put the ball in play, we can do pretty well. I can see us finishing in the middle to the top. I don’t know if we’ll win the conference this year.’’
There will be a heavy reliance on sophomore left fielder Frankie Brienza, who plays left field, and third baseman Gennaro Izzo. Brienza is hitting .500 and Izzo is sizzling at .700, leading the team in hits with ten in the first five games. Izzo also has been clutch with multiple two-out RBI hits.
Malverne’s pitching and defense is the bread and butter. When Daly is not on the mound throwing fastballs clocked in the low 80’s, he’s their catcher with a big presence.
“He’s got a great pop time,’’ Dunn said, referring to the seconds it takes him to fire the ball to second base to catch a base stealer. “He throws runners out with his very good release.’’