Big boppers: These five can really drive
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There are guys who step into the batter's box and command the attention of everyone in the park; the ones who can square up a baseball and drive it into the outfield and beyond. Meet Long Island's most feared high school hitters:
Bottari got his start with the varsity earlier than most. The righthanded slugger was brought up to Sal Mignano's varsity as a 13-year-old eighth-grader, becoming the first eighth-grader Mignano ever tapped for varsity.
"It was love at first sight with him and the team," Mignano said with a laugh. "His transition to the varsity was seamless. He was accepted immediately by the upperclassmen and fit right into a veteran team. They recognized that he was a special player."
Bottari, a well-muscled 6-2, 190-pound first baseman who will also play shortstop, has astounding career numbers heading into his junior season. He already has 12 home runs, 88 RBIs and 101 hits with a .448 average. Mignano raves about Bottari and this particular statement cannot be minimized:
"He's one of the best hitters we've had at the school," said Mignano, who has 552 career wins and has coached the likes of Keith Osik (Pirates), Eric Strovink, who played a season in the Texas Rangers' system, and Michael O'Reilly, winner of the 2012 Yastrzemski Award.
Bottari set school records as an eighth-grader. He batted .403 with a school-record 39 RBIs and set a Suffolk County record with nine RBIs in one game. He continued his assault on opposing pitchers in subsequent seasons, batting .500 as a freshman and .452 as a sophomore and earning All-Suffolk honors twice.
"He has extremely fast hands, like lightning through the zone," Mignano said. "And he's only struck out nine times in three years."
Bottari has committed to the University of Miami.
Eastport-South Manor, Jr.
Miami also courted Eastport-South Manor third baseman Annunziata, who blasted his way into the limelight as a freshman with tape-measure home runs for the Sharks. His two blasts off Kings Park ace Joe Guercio, who is headed to Stony Brook, caught everyone's attention.
"He went opposite field over the scoreboard and then drilled one to rightfield," former Eastport coach Todd Skala said. "He's got tremendous hand speed and raw power."
Annunziata, who is 6-1 and 200 pounds, is a naturally gifted lefthanded hitter. He's been crushing home runs for what seems like a lifetime. His first thrill came as a 6-year-old, winning the 8-year-old Connetquot Youth Association championship game with a walk-off homer for a 1-0 win.
"The home runs just come when you hit it good," Annunziata said. "I've been working on going the other way because coaches are throwing me outside all the time. And I've also tried to be patient and take the walks when they pitch around me."
Annunziata has 13 home runs and 70 RBIs in two years of varsity play. As a freshman, he had 19 extra-base hits and an .810 slugging percentage.
The two-time All-Long Island selection, who has committed to Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., went on a tear through the Class AA playoffs last year. He hammered three home runs in the postseason. His most memorable blast: a mammoth two-out, two-run, game-tying shot at Connetquot to keep Eastport's playoff hopes alive.
"I'll never forget that one," Annunziata said. "But Connetquot came back in the bottom of the inning and we lost anyway."
South Side, Sr.
Matarazzo is the most imposing of our five feared hitters. The 6-2, 215-pound righthanded hitter has been likened to a man-child for his herculean homers at Barasch Field, a town park in Rockville Centre.
"The field dimensions are ridiculous," South Side coach Tom Smith said. "It's 470 feet to centerfield and 380 down the lines. Maz is the only one with the manpower that even comes close to hitting them out."
Matarazzo, a first baseman who also can close games for the Cyclones, has striking career numbers. The three-year varsity starter has 27 extra-base hits, including seven triples and five home runs, with 51 RBIs and an .826 slugging percentage.
"He has the quickest hands and he's very disciplined at the plate," Smith said. "He's also a clutch hitter. And coaches respect him; he had 28 walks last year."
The Nassau Conference A-II MVP and runner-up for the Diamond Award, given to Nassau's top player, has worked on his speed and on cutting the corners of the bases more efficiently. That way, he'll be able to run out homers instead of triples at Barasch.
His signature moment came against Island Trees in his sophomore year when he hit two long home runs to keep the playoff game even.
"We eventually lost in extra innings," Smith said, "but it was definitely a statement game for Matarazzo."
Half Hollow Hills West, Sr.
Stampfl put his stamp on his junior season when he earned the Blue Chip Prospects Silver Slugger Award. Stampfl, a 6-3, 195-pound shortstop/pitcher, batted .461 with 28 RBIs and 16 extra-base hits, including five home runs. In his sophomore season, he hit .506 with 39 hits, 23 RBIs and three homers.
"He's the type of hitter that everyone thinks would bat third in the lineup because of his power," Hills West coach Tom Migliozzi said. "But because he's so gifted and gets on base so often, I bat him leadoff. He's the first player in my 18 years as head coach that batted over .500 in a season."
Stampfl has blossomed into a complete player for Migliozzi's Colts.
"He's an offensive catalyst," Migliozzi said. "He's consistent and rarely gets fooled at the plate. He's mechanically refined and highly repeatable at the plate -- a very tough out."
Holy Trinity, Sr.
Despite playing in the wooden-bat CHSAA, Madigan has put up impressive power numbers. The 6-2, 215-pound outfielder has 13 homers and 64 RBIs in his career. He hit .412 with 28 hits, 24 RBIs and a .758 slugging percentage as the Titans won the CHSAA title.
"Patrick doesn't say much but he's our captain and our leader," Holy Trinity coach Bob Malandro said. "When he talks, he has everyone's attention. He mashes fastballs and he's learned to hit the breaking ball. He's the most dangerous hitter in our league."
Madigan, a four-year varsity starter bound for Northeastern, has been in the middle of the Titans' order since he was a freshman. He led the league in home runs as a freshman and in RBIs as a sophomore. He'll face the same problem as the other boppers: Will the lineup around them hit enough to make coaches pitch to them?
Others to watch: Rocky Point's Brennan Strovink, Sachem East's Dan Hetzel, Longwood's Aaron Floyd, Connetquot's Casey Baker and Clarke's Joe Fusco.
All of them can swing it.