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Former Met Harnisch among 8 named to Suffolk Hall

Pete Harnisch, a 14-year major-league pitcher who played 21/2 seasons with the Mets, headlined a group of eight honorees announced Tuesday as this year's class in the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame in Patchogue. They will be inducted at a dinner May 7.

Harnisch, who went 111-103 in the big leagues, is a Commack High and Fordham University alum.

"On behalf of the Harnisch family, his dad particularly who helped me with the crafting of the portfolio we submitted, we want to thank the Hall of Fame for this honor," said Chuck Heppeler, the principal of the Burr Intermediate School in Commack who nominated Harnisch, before noting that the pitcher was "one of Commack's finest."

Also among the 2009 class are Comsewogue's Kevin Cassese, a three-time lacrosse All-American at Duke, and Rich Castellano, who won his 500th career game as coach of the Northport girls basketball team on Jan. 20.

"It's really been a collaborative effort," Castellano said. "The night that I got my 500th win, one of the most touching things was when asked all the kids to come out of the stands who had played for me -- and I was overwhelmed because about 50 young ladies came ."

John Nitti, a Dix Hills resident who captained the Yale football team in 1980 before playing three pro seasons -- two with the Jets and another with the Giants -- was also honored. Nitti volunteers as a coach in the local NFL Youth League and the Half Hollow Hills Little League, so he found Alex Rodriguez's revelation of steroid use particularly troubling.

"The important thing is that they don't think they have to do those things to excel on the field," he said of the youngsters he coaches. "There's a lot more people you can point to that have performed extremely well without using steroids. Personally, I wanted it to be my performance out on the field, not some induced performance."

2009 Suffolk Hall of Fame Honorees

Jerry Brown -- Three-sport athlete at Babylon High who pitched for St. John's in the 1949 College World Series.

Kevin Cassese -- Three-time All-American at Duke played five seasons in Major League Lacrosse and is the men's lacrosse coach at Lehigh.

Rich Castellano -- Earned his 500th win at the helm of the Northport girls basketball team on Jan. 20. He is in his 29th season with the team.

Melvin Fowler, Jr. -- Played seven seasons in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills and is currently a free agent. He was a three-sport standout at Half Hollow Hills West before starting on Maryland's offensive line all four years of college.

Patricia Habers -- Officiated field hockey for 30 years across Long Island and served as president of the State Field Hockey Association for five seasons.

Pete Harnisch -- Pitched 14 seasons in the major leagues for the Baltimore Orioles, Houston Astros, Mets, Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds, compiling 111 career wins.

Joe Maniaci -- Coached men's basketball at Dowling, St. Francis (N.Y.), C.W. Post and St. Joseph's (L.I.) before retiring in 2001. He also taught Social Studies in Connetquot until 2007.

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