Marc Maturo’s official sports column
Spartans’ ride comes to close; Baerga wields big bat
Junior outfielder Rich Baerga of Pomona went 1-for-3 to finish as the leading hitter on the St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team, but the Spartans’ record season ended earlier this week with a 6-1 loss to Minnesota St. Mankato at the Division II National Finals in Cary, N.C.
“Tomorrow we get back on the bus and travel back to Sparkill, not with sad faces, but with our heads held high,” senior third baseman/pitcher T. J. Ferriggi of Bellmore wrote on a Tuesday blog following the loss. “We were the first team in school history to not only win the East Region, but also to be here in Cary. These memories are ones you can never forget and neither I, nor my teammates and coaches will ever forget that we were a part of the 2014 East Coast Conference Champion and NCAA Division II East Region Champion Spartan Baseball Team.”
Baerga, a steady presence thoughout the season, batted a robust .368 for STAC, which compiled a sparkling 38-18 record under the veteran leadership of manager Scott Muscat of West Haverstraw.
Freshman catcher Deven Del Priore of Point Pleasant, N.J., went 2-for-3 with an RBI in the season finale against St. Mankato, which elevated its record to 46-10.
Sophomore right-hander Matt Kostolos of Staten Island, who has been a stalwart for the Spartans with wins in the East Coast Conference Tournament and the NCAA East Regional, took the setback to finish with a 7-3 mark.
Baerga — who had 18 stolen bases in 26 attempts — finished second on the club with 36 RBI, a total topped only by the 41 runs driven in by Stanley Susana of the Bronx. Baerga also had seven triples, one more than Susana, to lead the team.
The Spartans and the Mavericks both faced elimination following tough opening-day losses in the tournament. Minnesota-Mankato gave up three first-inning runs before settling down, only to fall short in a 4-2 nail-biter to Seton Hill University of Greensburg, Pa.
STAC followed with perhaps the most exciting game of the tournament, battling from behind twice in the late innings before falling to Colorado Mesa University, 5-4, in 10 innings. In that game, Baerga went 1 for 3 and scored two runs.
DOUBLE DIP: The end came suddenly but only after season-long success for the women’s lacrosse team and the baseball team at SUNY Cortland.
The nationally fifth-ranked Red Dragons baseball team fell to third-ranked Wisconsin-Whitewater, 9-6, in a winner’s bracket game of the NCAA Division III World Series in Grand Chute, Wis.
Junior infielder Anthony Simon of Suffern, a graduate of Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J., made 20 starts for Cortland, finishing with a .396 batting average with 13 RBI. He also stole two bases in two attempts, and posted a .879 fielding percentage.
In Gettysburg, Pa., meanwhile, the nationally third-ranked Trinity College women’s lacrosse team held top-ranked Cortland scoreless for 29 minutes, 56 seconds spanning the first and second halves and held off a late Red Dragons rally to earn an 8-7 victory in the semifinals of the NCAA Division III Championships.
Sophomore midfielder Tara Monaghan of Stony Point finished with 54 points to rank third on the Red Dragons. The North Rockland HS alumna started every game as Cortland finished 22-1 on the season, setting a school-record winning streak, and tied for third nationally for the fourth consecutive year.
FORTUNE NOT FORGOTTEN: Bill Fortune, who was a longtime Pearl River resident, did not start running until he was 51 years old, but went to achieve several milestones before passing away in June 2010. Fortune gained national recognition in track and road-running events, ranging from 800 meters to the marathon. In his 60’s, Fortune set five national age-group records and posted personal-best times faster than runners half his age. At the age of 64 he was running 5-minute miles and at the age of 70 he continued to compete running 6-minute miles. His legacy lives on through the Rockland Road Runners, which sponsored the fourth Bill Fortune 10k run and 5k run/walk at Rockland Lake State Park in Congers. John Altieri of South Nyack won the men’s division and Kim Chalfin of Nanuet won the women’s division. Altieri, 35, ran the flat 6.2-mile course in 39:51 while Chalfin, 43, clocked 43:35. The races, sponsored by the Rockland Road Runners, had a record number of 331 finishers. Jamer Linares, 18, of Nyack won the 5k run in 18:20, with Sarah Callagy, 23,of New City winning the female division in 21:16. Pious Thomas, 56, of Nanuet won the 5k walk in 40:28, while Dawn Thurston, 31, of Tarrytown won the female division in 41:24. The races attracted a record number of 331 finishers and, helped by Meals on Wheels of Rockland, raised some $15,000 to support Meals on Wheels’ mission to serve the homebound, seniors, and others in Rockland County. Mary Scanlon, one of Bill Fortune’s four daughters, served her first year as race director. Other family survivors are Christine, Susan, Laura and Bill Jr., as well as numerous grandchildren.
WORLD CUP PUNDIT: With the celebrated World Cup set to open on June 12, soccer players young and old are asked to submit their predictions. Will Spain repeat? That is the question. Coming in with the first prediction is Luis M. Ruelas of Blauvelt, a gifted goal-scorer with Juventus, a U-12 boys team in the Orangetown Mighty Midgets Soccer Association. Ruelas, whose favorite player is Argentine great Lionel Messi and who also plays fall soccer, feels Spain will win again. Young Ruelas, who expects to play high school soccer and beyond, already has a seven-goal game to his resume for the Juventus side, which won three of its first four games. The World Cup quarterfinals are scheduled July 4-5 in Rio De Janeiro, Fortaleza, Brasilia and Salvador; the semifinals are slated July 8-9 in Belo Horizonte and Sao Paulo, the third-place game will be held July 12 in Brasilia, and the final is set July 13 in Rio De Janeiro. (Ed note: send predictions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your hometown, team or league affiliation, and a photo if possible.)
QUICK HITTERS: The girls all-state basketball honorees have been announced, with the following players, all seniors, and coaches representing Rockland County: Kristen McLaughlin, Tappan Zee, forward-Class A, Player of the Year and Coach Tom Cromer; Laura Castaldo, Clarkstown South, forward-Class AA, Coach Brian Metcalf; Kelly Guarino, Albertus Magnus, guard-Class A, Coach Pat Buckley; Ryan Doherty, Albertus Magnus, forward-Class A, Coach Pat Buckley. … Lauren Kahn of Nanuet, a senior midfielder on the University of Connecticut women’s lacrosse team, has been named to the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association Division I North Squad Senior All-Star roster. The IWLCA North-South game will take place at Cabrini College in Radnor, Pa., on June 7 at 11:30 a.m. … Rockland Boulders shortstop Steve Nyisztor, a product of Rutgers University, was named the Pointstreak Player of the Week, after hitting .667 in the first three games with one home run and two RBI. The Boulders, into their fourth season in the Can Am League, visit Quebec for a three-game series May 30-31 and June 1, and return to Provident Bank Park in Pomona on June 4-5 to meet New Jersey.