Mikulski, Cassese Lead Lakeland to Opening-Day Win

Patrick Morelli catches a pick-off attempt.

CARMEL, N.Y.— After a mid-March snowstorm that disrupted the plans of the Lakeland baseball team’s preparation for this upcoming season, as it did every other spring sports team, the Hornets were eager to get back on the diamond and start the season off with a big win.

Lakeland did just that as it defeated host Carmel 8-3 in its opener on April 3.

“It felt great to finally be on a field playing with my teammates,” Lakeland senior pitcher Matt Mikulski said, “and it was even better that all the hard work that we put in during the offseason showed up on the field.”

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Mikulski pitched well in leading the Hornets to the victory, hurling 5.1 innings, striking out eight Rams and allowing just two earned runs.

“I actually feel like I did not have my best stuff yesterday but I battled through it and put up a decent outing behind our great hitting,” Mikulski said.

Offensively, leading the Hornets was senior corner outfielder Austin Cassese, who was 2 for 3 with a home run, a double and three RBI.

“Austin is a great bat in our lineup—he has a lot of experience,” Mikulski said. “Austin is going to have a lot of big games for us this year and he really put a spark in our offense yesterday.”

Cassese said he hit as well as he did because of the preparation Lakeland head coach Bill Casey and staff did in getting the Hornets ready for their tough schedule along with the effort he and his teammates put into the offseason.

“Our team always wants to start off on the right foot and that’s what we did,” Cassese said. “We have a lot to prove and I feel we want to play our best every game and leave it all on the field. Our senior class doesn’t want to have any regrets this season so we are going to do our best to win and leave it out on the field. This win gives us momentum moving forward.”

Yorktown started its season with a 3-1 loss to visiting Mount Vernon on April 3 with Tyler McDonnell scoring and Jake Bichler recording a single for the Huskers.

“Getting back on the field after having the offseason we had felt amazing,” Yorktown senior pitcher Matt Pupczyk said. “I feel as a team we can all collectively appreciate getting back out there but, there is still more work that has to be done.”

The Huskers did get a strong effort on the mound, with Pupczyk throwing 5.2 innings, striking out nine with reliever Alby Ciufetelli striking out two in 1.1 shutout innings.

“Alby and I can dedicate our success this past Monday to our work we’ve done in this past offseason,” Pupczyk said. “Alby went to work out at Athletes Warehouse and as a team I can say we have seen great progress in him as he has gotten stronger and more confident as a pitcher. As for me I pitched with Mike Anderson over the winter and went to the gym to get stronger.”

Anderson, a former pitching standout at Walter Panas, is the founder of Just Pitch It.

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