While there were ups and downs, last season was generally a successful one for the Southampton baseball team. After missing out on the playoffs in 2011—one year removed from winning back-to-back Suffolk County and Long Island Class B Championships—the Mariners made a dramatic return to the postseason by sweeping Mattituck in their final three-game series of the regular season to get in. The season ended on a sour note, however, when Southampton squandered a three-run lead in the final inning against Babylon in the second game of a three-game set for the county championship.
Head coach Ike Birdsall said earlier this week that the painful postseason loss is in the rearview mirror, and he’s excited about what his team can accomplish this season.
The Mariners lost five starters to graduation—most notably its number one and two pitchers, John Donovan and Peter Barnaby, respectively—as well as starting outfielders Teague Florio and Nick Acquino, and utility player Justin Christensen.
On paper, it may appear that pitching could be a weakness for the Mariners after the loss of Donovan and Barnaby, but Birdsall believes his team has the potential to be improved on the mound, mainly thanks to increased depth at the position.
“I think we’re pretty solid at pitching,” Birdsall said. “We have some young kids that can all contribute.”
Birdsall wasn’t ready to name who his top starters will be, but said that at least seven players are certain to see time on the mound. Senior Wyatt Schmidt, who proved himself as a clutch relief pitcher last year, will certainly be called upon again, while sophomore Garrett Pike, juniors Eddie McLaughlin, Thomas Beckman, David Kirshy and Jake Marano, and senior Henry Egan could all step up as well.
A big problem last year for the Mariners was an inexperienced infield, and it showed as the team got off to a slow start. That shouldn’t be a problem this year, as the team returns all of its primary infielders.
Senior Alex Soyars and junior Kevin Edgar both have plenty of experience behind the plate, although Soyars got the majority of the starts at that position last year. Marano is seasoned at first base; Egan played most of the year at second; Pike saw most of his time at shortstop; and Edgar started primarily at third base. Additionally, Birdsall said he can rely on Beckman to play any number of positions, and noted that McLaughlin also has a good arm and glove and could see time in the infield.
“It definitely helps that we have so many kids with varsity experience playing the infield,” Birdsall said. “Last year we started out 0-5 and averaged probably about eight errors per game on the infield.”
The loss of Florio and Acquino means there will be some holes to fill in the outfield, and their departure also means that Southampton might not be quite as speedy on the base paths as it has been in the past. Birdsall is looking to Kirshy to help bolster the outfield, along with sophomore Kevin Dexter, senior Chris Cornacchio and Beckman. He added that Schmidt and junior John Wasserman could also see time in the outfield.
Southampton should be a potent team on offense with the meat of its lineup returning. Last season, Schmidt led off for the majority of the year, followed by Edgar, Soyars, Pike and Marano. Beckman, McLaughlin and Kirshy also can swing the bat.
“These kids are powerful hitters,” Birdsall said. “I really expect our hitting to be even better than it was last year.”
Birdsall said his expectations are high for the team, and it’s a mentality he tries to take into every season.
“I have high expectations. I do every year,” he said. “I go into every season thinking that we can make the playoffs and win counties and win Long Island, and then win states. I really think we’re very prolific on offense, defense and pitching. We might not have the speed we’ve had in recent years, but we do have quick guys. I definitely see us as more powerful hitting one through nine.”
Southampton will compete in League VIII again this year, a continuation of a new format that was started last year when the county added a ninth league, which moved most teams down one league but kept most opponents the same. Port Jefferson is joining League VIII this year, however, meaning that the teams in the league will now play each other three times each, as opposed to four times like they did last year.
Birdsall said he expects defending county champion Babylon to be strong again, although the Panthers did lose their top two pitchers to graduation. He expects Mattituck to be strong again as well.
Southampton will open the season with a three-game series against Port Jefferson, starting in Southampton on Monday, March 25, at 12:30 p.m.