Matt Hesselbirg for Newfield delivers a pitch during a Suffolk...

Matt Hesselbirg for Newfield delivers a pitch during a Suffolk County League 3 Baseball game at Middle Country Park on Friday, May 10, 2024 Credit: David Meisenholder

There is nothing like playing an intradistrict, crosstown rivalry game with something on the line.

Middle Country District high schools Centereach and Newfield played a meaningful regular-season baseball finale under the lights and in between raindrops on Friday night. Centereach was looking for the program’s first league championship in 14 years and Newfield was looking to play spoiler.

“This was our last game as seniors and we wanted to go out winners,” Newfield starting pitcher Matt Hesselbirg said. “There’s nothing better than beating a real good team that was at the top of our league and is a crosstown rival.”

Hesselbirg fired six shutout innings and Albert Morel recorded the save with a scoreless seventh as Newfield edged Centereach, 1-0, in a Suffolk League III game played at the brand-new Middle Country Regional Park Complex in Selden.

“This game meant a lot to the team,” Newfield coach Mike Prisco said. “We executed on the offense, played great defense and Matt pitched another gem.”

Hesselbirg allowed five hits, walked two and struck out five for his third scoreless outing this season.

Centereach needed a win to claim sole possession of the League III title. The loss made the Cougars co-champions with Smithtown East at 12-6.

“It’s a primer for the playoffs,” Centereach coach Pete Cammarata said. “This felt like playoff pressure with a great, enthusiastic crowd and I thought both teams performed well.”

The Wolverines (8-10, 8-12) scored the lone run off Centereach starter Angelo Gagliardi in the fifth inning. Jared Sitler led off with a walk and moved to second on Josh Ricchetti’s sacrifice bunt. Gagliardi got off the mound quickly to field the wet baseball, but his throw sailed into centerfield.

Matt Rothar sacrificed the runners to second and third as first baseman Rocco Panara Jr. fielded the bunt and fired to second baseman Nick Scraper — covering first base — for the first out.

Gagliardi struck out leadoff man Brandon Seddio with a 1-and-2 breaking ball for the second out but couldn’t escape the jam unscathed. When Kevin Brown bounced a chopper up the middle, Gagliardi leaped to get his glove on it but couldn’t hold it, and the RBI single gave Newfield a 1-0 lead.

Gagliardi struck out five and allowed three hits and three walks in his third start of the season.

“He hit his spots and showed a lot of character and resilience out there,” Cammarata said.

The Cougars threatened in the bottom of the third inning when Tom Doyle II drew a one-out walk and was sacrificed to second by leadoff man Sal Gangi. With Doyle, the go-ahead run, at second base, Prisco intentionally walked Logan Norman, one of Suffolk’s top hitters. The decision worked out as Hesselbirg induced an inning-ending groundout.

“Matt and I have played together since we were 5 years old,” Newfield catcher Tom Barone said. “This is the way to end our high school careers.”


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