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Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK looks to take next step

Mark Faello of Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK delivers against

Mark Faello of Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK delivers against Massapequa duringf the Nassau Class AA baseball finals on May 27, 2017. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK came within one victory of winning the Nassau Class AA baseball championship last year, and that it didn’t still swirls bitterly through pitcher Mark Faello’s mind.

“I think about it every time I pick up the ball for this team,” Faello said of last year’s 4-0 loss to eventual state runner-up Massapequa in the deciding game of the county final on May 30. “I want to repeat last year’s success, but the main goal is to win counties.”

Coach John Givargidze echoed the sentiment.

“We spoke about the Massapequa game in our first meeting this year and no one wants that feeling again,” Givargidze said. “Last year we took some teams by surprise. That won’t happen this year. We’ll have to be better than we were last year to get back to that spot.”

Faello will be key for the Hawks after a dominant 2017 season in which he went 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA and 74 strikeouts over 56 2/3 innings. The Hofstra commit’s efforts culminated in winning the Diamond Award as Nassau’s top pitcher.

Previously reliant on a quality fastball/curveball combination, Faello believes he’s “improved tremendously” after honing his changeup, adding a slider to his repertoire and increasing his fastball velocity into the 90-mile-per-hour range.

“With the way the changeup has looked in workouts, he’ll be even tougher to hit,” Givargidze said.

Faello also doubles as a force at the plate. He batted third last season, compiling a .372 average, .450 on-base percentage, two home runs, 23 RBIs and 22 runs scored for a Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK squad coming off a 21-5 campaign.

A supporting cast, highlighted by outfielder Ryan Saltzman, pitcher/outfielder Tyler Marinaccio and catcher Michael Cole, gives the Hawks a chance to make serious noise yet again in Conference AA-II.

Oceanside, which was swept by Massapequa in the county semifinals, is primed for a strong campaign in Conference AA-I behind the dynamic pitching duo of Brendan McFall and Matt Carey and catcher Dylan Judd.

McFall, a Tufts commit who finished 7-1 with a 0.93 ERA and 50 strikeouts last season as a Diamond Award finalist, has set an even higher standard for himself.

“I definitely want to do better in every way I can,” McFall said. “I want to go undefeated, get more strikeouts and lower my ERA.”

The NYIT-bound Carey (4-1. 1.30 ERA) also displayed his dominance, striking out 62.

“He has one of the best arms around,” said coach Mike Postilio. “Mid-80s, good curveball. He has electric stuff on the mound and good secondary pitches.”

As for Massapequa, the defending Long Island AA champion has its sights set on clinching its second consecutive trip to the state championship. The Chiefs fell to Liverpool in the Class AA state final last ‪June, 4-1.‬

With 16 players returning, including catcher Andy Primm and shortstop/third baseman Phil Cottone, Massapequa yearns for an opportunity at upstate redemption.

“Andy is the rock of our program,” coach Tom Sheedy said. “He’s our leader and we lean on him for a lot . . . We’re looking at Phil as our leadoff hitter. He has a beautiful swing and can hit both righties and lefties.”

Headlining Class A will be Wantagh after back-to-back appearances in the state final. The Warriors fell short to Vestal, 2-0, last season after capturing the state title in 2016, and feature pitcher/shortstop Anthony D’Onofrio and first baseman/pitcher Anthony Fontana.

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