The Seaford Vikings varsity baseball team had an impressive 2019 season, finishing the year 14-8-1. It was an improvement from the year prior, when Seaford ended up 12-9.
Due to the success, Seaford won the Sportsmanship Award from the Nassau Approved Umpires Association. The Tribune spoke with head coach Michael Milano to discuss how this team won such a prestigious award for the first time.
Q: What did it take to have such a successful season?
A: Strong players and a consistent program top to bottom. We had a new team on the varsity level. We had one returning All-County player, Tim Saulpaugh, but pretty much all around the field were new players in their junior or sophomore year. We had strong players who learned a lot in 2019, won 14 total games, two playoff games and reached the final eight in the Class A baseball playoff tournament.
Q: In your mind, what was the moment you knew this team had what it takes to go deep into the playoffs?
A: After four weeks of preseason practices, scrimmages, non-league games, we swept three games versus Locust Valley. We took that momentum into a tough week in early April versus the eventual county champion Clarke Rams and played well enough to tie, lose and then win game three. It gave the coaching staff and the feeling that this team had maybe developed a little quicker than we originally anticipated. Our pitching was doing well, so we then really tried to amp up the development of our offense and fielding.
Q: What was missing from the team to make it to the county finals?
A: Timely hitting and strong infield play. Usually a strength of our team, our infield play was just not strong in the two losses at Levittown Division. They are a wonderful team who keeps the pressure on with contact through the lineup. We made a number of mental and physical errors inside a very tough environment. In big games, in high energy atmospheres, the team needs to stay calm, make the plays and allow the game to not become more difficult to win then it already is. In both Division losses, our offense seemed a bit too mental and tight. The swings were just not there consistently enough to keep pressure on a tough team. We had too many strikeouts with men on base. Strikeouts are too easy for an opposing defense and we need to put a lineup out there in 2020 that has a better mentality with their two strike approaches. We need a team approach to all aspects of the game. And if the team approach is first and foremost on the minds of every player and coach, we can do great things in 2020.
Q: What does it mean to be honored with the Sportsmanship Award from the Nassau Approved Umpires Association?
A: Being voted by the Nassau County Umpires Association as the high school team with the most sportsmanship in 2019 is a tremendous honor. I just finished my 16th season on the varsity level and I always heard about this prestigious award. To be recognized by umpires, who really only get to know you on a game day, is a wonderful testament to the type of players and coaches we have here in Seaford. When we play a game, we preach being accountable for your behavior. We really stay on top of our players to respect the adults and the other players sharing the field with them that day. Coach Corsini (JV), coach Menges (varsity assistant) and I watch everything that our players do. We watch every single interaction that they have with the umpires, other coaches and players during games. We hold them accountable for their behavior. Luckily for us, we have the types of kids raised in the types of families that makes this job easy. These are some great kids to be around.
Q: What can this team do to advance further in the playoffs next year?
A: Team first in every get-together, practice, scrimmage and game. We need to become a defensive infield that does not give other teams any help. We need to improve our two-strike approach in big at-bats throughout the season and come playoffs. Strikeouts must become something we fight harder to overcome. We have a tremendous opportunity in 2020 with close to 20 returning players. The players need to take weight training more seriously heading into their junior and senior years and play as much baseball as they can through the fall. We know how hard the towns around us play all year round.