Croton-Harmon Crushes It, Wins 1st Section 1 Title Since 1981

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Panas, Fox Lane Edged in Finals; Mahopac, P’Ville Edged in Semis

By Ray Gallagher, Examiner Sports Editor @Directrays
Croton-Harmon senior P Mehki Smithwick’s immediate reaction to his 5-3 Section 1 Class B title-clinching 5-3 win over Rye Neck Saturday at SUNY Purchase was a pretty epic moment in Tiger history.

PURCHASE – Charismatic Ronald Reagan was restoring order as a legendary president, and Raiders of the Lost Ark was all the rave the last time CROTON-HARMON won a Section 1 baseball title back in 1981. The current players might need to Google the Harrison Ford-featured film to understand just how long ago it was between the time the Tigers hoisted the hardware, but the only thing they cared about was getting back the the Section 1 finals they lost to Albertus Magnus in 2023 and turning the tables on Rye Neck, which they did in Saturday’s 5-3 come-from-behind Section 1 Class B title win at SUNY Purchase Saturday.

After looking like total garbage in a mid-May sweep by Putnam Valley, Croton heard the whispers (sometimes chants), “overrated!” “overhyped!” Croton looked very ‘meh’, let alone a championship-caliber team.

“Yeah, we did, yeah we did, you’re right, we heard it and we deserved it at that time,” Croton Coach Eric Rosen said when reminded of a brutal stretch of play the Tigers overcame.”That’s baseball, right? Every season I’ve coached, there’s always that lull. That was our lull. You just pray it doesn’t happen in the playoffs. Our kids fed off that (negativity) and we believed we were the team to beat.”

Indeed! From that point forward, Croton turned on a dime, rolling into the playoffs where the Tigers (18-5) eliminated No.6 Dobbs Ferry (9-1) in the quarters, then defending Section 1 champ Magnus (5-1) in the semis, before ousting top-seeded Rye Neck, which squandered a 3-0 sixth-inning lead they will rue for decades.

Croton-Harmon senior OF Aidan Callahan signals safe as he hustles out a clutch single in Tigers’ three-run, sixth-inning rally before winning Section 1 Class B title, 5-3, over Rye Neck Saturday at Purchase.

Tiger ace Andrew Kim, the horse Croton rode in, had given up six hits and three runs in the early going before yielding to reliever Mehki Smithwick (3.2 IP), the three-sport standout, who went the rest of the way for the win.

Football and wrestling, where he won a sectional title, had prepped Smithwick for this moment, one in which he etched his legacy in Croton lore. He’d be the first to admit the Tigers were toiling in mid-May,
“Honestly, those two games against Putnam Valley were our worst ever,” Smithwick said. “We knew that’s the worst we’ll ever be. Since those losses, we’ve gone 110% in everything we’ve done, games and practice. Everyone had counted us out immediately after that. Everyone thought we sucked, we’d lose in the first round. That made us work harder than everyone. We made it here last year, but lost to Magnus, so us seeing them in the semis was the best thing for us. That was our first step toward becoming the best we could be to step over the competition.”

From the minute he took over for Kim, Smithwick, a converted catcher in his junior season, trusted his stuff, which is primarily a fast ball that few could catch up with in Class B this season.

The Croton-Harmon Tigers proudly display the Section 1 championship hardware after No.3 Tigers defeated top-seeded Rye Neck, 5-3, Saturday at SUNY Purchase for Croton’s first title since 1981.

“My fastball was working and my teammates behind me trusted me and I trust them,” added Smithwick, who added an insurance run by drawing a bases-loaded walk in the sixth, before going back to the mound to retire the side in order for a win 43 years in the making. “We came here to work and that’s what we’re going to do the rest of the way. Aidan, Korey and Sam have done it all year at the top of the order. When they get on, those three always keep us in the game. Sam brought us back today.”

This time, it was a sixth-inning rally started by spirited Aidan Callahan (hit, run), amiable Korey DeBerr (2 runs, 2B, 2 RBI) and tourney MVP Sam Levine (4 for 4, 3B, 2 RBI), who were cooking at the top of the order. Levine then snapped a 3-3 tie with a soul-crushing two-out single in the seventh, plating Andrew Sur, who doubled. Croton added another on a bases- loaded walk to Smithwick.

The top of the order was at it: Much like they were when the Tigers got a tie-breaking, two-run single, which sparked a four-run frame in the top of the fifth to help Croton defeat Magnus, 5-1.

Fox Lane second baseman Danny Spolansky slaps a tag on Eastchester’s Jaden Bruner in Saturday night’s 6-4 Fox loss to the Eagles in the Class AA championship game.

Rosen, the cool, calm and collected manager, and spirited assistant Coach Jay Tomasulo, a pair of Robinson-brother hybrids out of Lakeland, essentially ushered in a baseball revival few could have envisioned. Tomasulo wasn’t bashful before the preseason when he said the Tigers would get back to the finals.

“You know how hard it is to get here and lose, and get back here again?” Croton Rosen wondered when asked if this was his greatest accomplishment. “It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, and I have kids at home. This win is right up there with getting married and having kids. It’s right there, (and I can’t wait to share it with them).”

Kim (5IP, 3 K’s 0 runs), Callahan (2-3  2B RB) and DeBeer (2-4 2 RBI) came up strong in the win over Dobbs.

Croton will visit Section 9 champion Saugerties Thursday in the opening round of the NYSPHSAA tournament.

Kim was brilliant on the mound in a 5-1 semifinal win over Magnus, firing six innings for the win. Spencer Heath finished up for the Tigers in relief. Down 1-0, the Tigers tied things up in the top of the fourth as Max Fredman forced an errant throw and gave a Tiger base-runner time to score from second. DeBeer stroked a hit and knocked in two. Ryan Kim (2-4, RBI, run),  Max Fredman (1-for-3, RBI) and Owen Mintzer (1-for-2, diving stab in LF) were keys to victory.

Walter Panas SS Jacob Malfant slaps tag on Nanuet would-be base thieve in Panthers’ 1-0 Section 1 Class A title loss to Golden Knights Saturday at SUNY Purchase.

In other Class B action, No.4 PLEASANTVILLE walked off a 4-3, extra-inning quarterfinal win over No.5 Putnam Valley before the Panthers met their match in Rye Neck during a 3-2 semifinal setback. The Panther win over Put Valley was as epic as they come. Reed Supranowitz smacked a monstrous, game-tying, three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh to force extra frames before Jack Van Sise walked them off with a game-winning RBI single in the ninth to forge what was a soul-crushing loss for a Tiger club that went on the road and competed as well as they have in recent memory.


In other Section 1 championship action, reigning Class A champion WALTER PANAS was eliminated by Nanuet senior P Aidan Kempf for the second time in three years; this time a 1-0 setback, just a couple of hours after nearby Croton had won it all in the morning session of business. No.2 Nanuet scored a flukey first-inning run (a balk-aided, catcher’s interference nibble) off Panas junior P Nick DiMaso, who returned to the scene of last year’s crime where the then-fresh-faced soph twirled, perhaps, the gem of a lifetime, and delivered the first sectional title in Panas history.

Cris Smajlaj photo
Mahopac sophomore OF Nate Mascoll was one of the few Wolf Pac players to wreak any sort of havoc in their 1-0 Class AA semifinal loss to visiting Eastchester Wednesday.

DiMaso was equally brilliant on this day, coming away the hard-luck loser in a game where, uncharacteristically, the Panthers (17-7) failed to bunch their hits or lower the boom in one swing against Kempf. The crafty and Pace-bound slinger has established himself since dominating batters he overmatched in Little League as a fourth-grader mowing down sixth- and seventh-graders.

Kempf tossed three-straight playoff shutouts, whiffing 46 and allowing just six hits over 21 innings while leading the club to the first sectional title for the Golden Knights (17-5-1)  since 1995 after not qualifying for the tournament last year.

Nanuet’s Charlie Moustakakis plated the game’s lone run on a first-inning sac fly.

Panas junior C Gianni Genovese, among the top catchers in Section 1, offered some perspective.

“It was a very well played game on both sides and we had an unfortunate catcher’s interference and a balk called on us, but nothing we can do about it now. Kempf was great all game and caused some very bad hitting on our part, but we learn from our mistakes and get ready to get back there next year when we have unfinished business we need to take care of.”

Panas Coach Anthony Fata was quick to praise Kempf, too, but gushed glowingly on his fourth-seeded Panthers and their run to the first back-to-back sectional title appearances in school history.

Fox Lane second baseman Danny Spolansky slaps a tag on Eastchester’s Jaden Bruner in Saturday night’s 6-4 Fox loss to the Eagles in the Class AA championship game.

“(Kempf) was like déjà vu; he did the same thing to us when he was a sophomore,” Fata said.

“He’s going to be good in college. Pace is very lucky to get him.

“The guys did a really good job this year creating a new identity for this team,” Fata added. “Everyone said they couldn’t do it with all that we graduated, but I’m proud that these kids had the season that they did. I wish they could’ve got that one today.”

Lefty Dean Sewall had both Panthers hits, including one in the seventh to spark a moment of hope, but Kempf continued his mastery to its conclusion before being mobbed by teammates at the mound.

Panas SS Jacob Malfant finished 3-4, with a double, three RBI and three runs scored in the Panthers’ 12-7 semifinal win over top-seeded Tappan Zee. Generoso went 1-3, that one hit being a massive grand slam. Jordan Fiore went 2-4 with an RBI and two runs scored for the Panthers while Randy Wiesner and Dean Sewall stroked a run-scoring hit. Josh Nachmann went 1-for-2 with a double and a run scored for additional support for Albany-bound winning P Alex Enea, who went five innings with three earned runs and six hits allowed, along with three strikeouts and three walks. Panas reliever Ryan Chenard was solid over the last two innings, allowing one run on one hit, whiffing four to get out of potential trouble.

Put Valley SS Jay Constantino makes a great try but comes up short as 3B Nick Mazzola backs up in visiting Tigers’ gut-wrenching 4-3 quarterfinal loss to host Pleasantville last Monday.

Nanuet also eliminated No.10 HEN HUD, 5-4, in the quarterfinals where Panas also eliminated No.5 Rye, 8-2, when Panas tallied five runs in the first to grab a lead it never relinquished. DiMaso (7 IP, 1 earned run, 5 hits, 5 K, 1 BB) was superb on the hill and went 2-3 with an RBI double. Enea (2-4, 2B, 2 RBI, run), Josh Nauchmann (2 RBI), Sewall (2-2, RBI, 2 runs) and Wiesner (RBI) all delivered.


FOX LANE had the OBI of all OBI’s when “One Bad Inning”, the game’s first, led to a 6-0 deficit and an eventual 6-4 Section 1 Class AA title setback for the second-seeded Foxes (16-8) against the fourth-seeded Eagles (16-8). Behind an MVP pitching performance from senior Jason Ugalde, the Eagles won their first sectional title since 2005.

The sectional trophy is named after the late Eastchester coach, Dom Cecere, who passed in 2017 after a pancreatic cancer battle while amassing a state-record 737 wins over 52 seasons at Eastchester.

Fox Lane MVP Tyler Renz clearly had his stuff in relief of starter Mark Schwartz. Renz went 6.2 innings, allowing no earned runs while fanning 12. He walked two and allowed a single hit.

Foxes Peter Portugues, Will Rudolph, Bradley Patterson and PJ Stonsby each knocked in a run as Fox Lane tried in vein to continue an exceptional postseason run that included an extra-inning 3-2 first-round win over Carmel, a late rally to defeat Clarkstown South, 7-6, in the quarterfinals before eliminating Clarkstown North, 10-5, in the semis. Renz got the win in relief against South behind Rudolph (2-run single), Logan Provost (RBI 2B), Stonsby (RBI 1B) and C Logan Mammola (solo bomb, RBI).

Fox Lane junior Logan Provost blasts a pitch to left field during the Foxes’ 6-4 loss to Eastchester in Saturday night’s Class AA championship game at Purchase College.

“We were a small, in some cases scrawny, group of mostly sophomores and juniors (a few key seniors) who had to learn to play and compete on the varsity level last year,” Fox Lane Coach Matt Hillis admitted. “That team committed themselves and made a magical postseason run. This year, now mostly juniors and seniors, they committed to the weight room and intense practices and we ended up knocking on the door. It was a great year, but these dedicated kids will tell you ‘it wasn’t great enough’!  I love them all, seven of those juniors started this year. They will be seniors next year. To be continued.”

Without a doubt, as seven juniors starters will return hungry in 2025, but replacing the St. John’s-bound Renz will be the obstacle the Foxes must contend with; the loss of a bulldog ace is never easy to replace.

In Fox Lane’s win over No.3 North, the Foxes scored six runs in the fifth inning to secure the win for Renz, who allowed one earned run in relief yet again, fanning batters while Cooper Furst (3-3, RBI), Rudolph, Provost and Schwartz added a pair of RBI apiece. Portugues (2 hits, RBI) and Mammola (RBI) were clutch as well.

No.1 MAHOPAC defeated No.8 Suffern in the quarterfinals, 4-3, before meeting its match in a grueling 1-0 loss to Eastchester.

Against Suffern, Mahopac senior P Tyler Castrataro earned the win and notched the 100th strikeout of his career while senior 1B/C DJ DeMatteo plated the game-winning run.

Against Eastchester, Mahopac was one of three playoff teams that failed to score a run on Eagle pitchers.
“We just couldn’t get the one run we needed,” Mahopac Coach Anthony Nappi said of the Wolf Pac, which will lose several key starting pitchers in Castrataro and Tyler DeBrocky (1 run, 2 hits allowed, 13 K, 4 BB), who suffered the hard-luck, one-run loss to Eastchester despite a dominant effort.

Mahopac sophomores Drew Lichtenberger (1-3, 2B), Nate Mascoll (1B, steal) and Vince Cataldo (1B) were the lone threats to reach base but were stranded by Eagle P Jake Warnock, who also allowed a walk but sent a season-high 16 Pac hitters down on strikes.

No.6 YORKTOWN was eliminated in a 7-6 quarterfinal loss to No.3 Clarkstown North in walk-off fashion. The Huskers miraculously rallied from a 5-0 deficit in the seventh inning, taking a 6-5 lead behind a pair of dingers from Derek Patrissi and Joe Carucci.

In all, Examiner-area Class AA teams represented very well this spring.


No.5 Mamaroneck ended an otherwise strong season from No.12 OSSINING (11-8-1) which lost 12-6 in the quarters despite strong efforts from Michael Lebenson (1-for-3, two runs), Thomas Jennings (2 RBI), Luke Casey (RBI) and Brian Hoffman (RBI) and Paxton Gearity (RBI). The Pride made great strides this season, but Class AAA runs through Dutchess County where RCK repeated as section champs defeating John Jay EF, 5-2.


No.3 HALDANE knocked off No. 2 Leffell School, 4-0, in the semis behind P Hunter Erickson one-hit shutout. His 18 strikeouts is believed to be a school record, against just one walk. Jake Hotaling (2-4, RBI, run) and Trajan McCarthy (3-4, double) provided all Erickson would need in one of the more dominant efforts in Blue Devils history. Unfortunately, Haldane could not topple rival Tuckahoe in the finals where the Tigers held firm for a three-peat in a 12-3 win over Haldane.



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