Green Dragons Shine On Diamond

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The 2023 Westbury varisty baseball team. (Photos by Frank Rizzo)

Baseball season highlighted by nine-game winning streak

In introducing his seniors before the last game of the season, coach Ryan Mulholland noted that the Westbury baseball squad had already accomplished something special this spring.

Its nine wins, he told parents, relatives and friends of the 12th graders playing their swan song, “were the most in 20 years—2003 was the last time they won that many games. And if we win today, it’s our first winning season in over 30 years. It’s a history making group that we have here and we’re really proud of them.”

Abhay Patel pitched several innings in relief of starting pitcher Ali Bolling against Valley Stream Central.

He spoke of his players’ dedication and commitment, their participation in off-season workouts in the cold winter months. And the seniors, he emphasized, led the way.

However, visiting Valley Stream Central upended Westbury’s aspiration with a 15-8 win on May 10, ending the Green Dragons’ season with a 9-9-1 record. Westbury also finished second in the Countywide II league with a 9-7-1 record.

Nonetheless, Mulholland considers the season a success, and in his second year has turned around the culture of a sport that has underperformed at the school. In 2021, the year before he took over, Westbury finished the season without a win.

Ali Bolling was one of Westbury’s top pitchers this season and an All-League player in 2022.

Aside from the loss to Valley Stream Central, the season ended on a high note for the Green Dragons. After back-to-back two-run losses to Conference II champ Elmont, Westbury reeled off nine straight wins, toppling Lawrence, Roosevelt and Hempstead successively in three-game series.

According to Westbury School District Athletic Director Doric Capsis, adding a batting cage last spring, after school construction projects reconfigured the baseball field, also aided the squad’s improvement.

Seniors Felipe Zeferino, Christian Hernandez, Hugo Morillo, Zain Sosa, Jonathan Ellis and Ali Bolling were recognized before the last game. Each received an 8×10 photo and a ball signed by all their teammates.

Mulholland made the following comments about the seniors:

Felipe Zeferino listens to coach Ryan Mulholland, right, as assistant coach Andy Sanchez watches.

Felipe Zeferino: What an incredible young man. We can say it about everybody, but everybody respects him. He’s mature. This is his first year playing varsity baseball. He’s the one that’s always getting everything ready for the game. He’s somebody who you can put wherever you ask him, and he’s gonna do a great job and never ever complaints. I wish we had him for four years, but we only had him for one.

 

Christian Hernandez missed part of the season with an injury.

Christian Hernandez (Mulholland noted that the senior had been injured in practice and had undergone surgery the day before): As you can see, this is not the spot Christian wanted to be. We had a number of injuries this year, unfortunately. [Christian] loved baseball. He never missed a practice, never missed a winter workout, even in 36-degree weather. He was here every single day. As a senior, it was his first year being a leader. Unfortunately, his season got cut short. I had him as a student a couple of years ago. We talked about baseball and I’m so happy that he was able to come out and play.

Hugo Murillo earned praise from his coach.

Hugo Murillo: He is our longest tenured varsity player, making the team as a sophomore in 2021. He’s a five-tool player, meaning he can run, throw, field, hit for average and hit for power. In three seasons his stats were: 36 games, .240 batting average, .500 on-base percentage, one home run, 10 runs batted in, 23 runs scored and 21 stolen bases.

 

Zain Sosa is joined by his family as one of the seniors recognized at the final game of the season.

 

Zain Sosa: He played baseball for the first time ever last year. Now he’s our cleanup batter, batting fourth and hitting [close to] .500. He’s an incredible leader with a great work ethic and somebody who everyone on the team respects. You put him everywhere on the field, and he’s going to make the play. We’ve been happy to have him the past two years.

Jonathan Ellis also saw his season shortened by injury.

 

Jonathan Ellis (also injured): Somebody who’s been playing since 10th grade. Last year and this year we saw [his potential]. [It shows] his incredible work ethic. He’s become a great pitcher for us. A great hitter for us. It’s quite a career he’s put together. Someone we never thought of as a pitcher and then all sudden [he turned] into one of our best.

Ali Bolling was recognized as an All-League by Nassau County coaches last year.

Ali Bolling: He’s a fielder, a pitcher, an All-League selection, honored by Nassau County last year. That was a huge honor for him and he deserved it. He played 33 games, leading off every single game, and never misses a game or practice. He’s an incredible leader and team captain and [had] a heck of a career. [Entering the game] he had a .372 [career] batting average, 27 RBI, 49 runs scored, 41 stolen bases, a 6-2 [pitching] record, 36⅓ innings pitched and 74 strikeouts. So it’s been a heck of a career (cheers and applause).

Asked for his reflections, Mulholland replied:

I thought it was another successful season for us. More than anything else I was pleased with the commitment and dedication of our players and the fact that we had 36 players in our program between JV and varsity. We consistently had between 20 and 25 players for our winter workouts and have another 15 players participating on our summer team in the East Meadow Senior League. As for the season, we started off 0-8-1 but we didn’t quit and fought back with a nine-game winning streak late in the season to finish 9-9-1. That is the most victories for the varsity baseball team since 2003.

This banner celebrated the seniors.

Roster

Coach: Ryan Mulholland
Assistant Coach: Andy Sanchez

Name, Grade
Omar Ahmad Ventura, 11
Ryan Alvarez, 11
Ali Bolling, 12
Jonathan Cruz, 9
Jeffrey Cruz Rivas, 12
Jonathan Ellis, 12
Cristian Hernandez, 12
Alex Munguia, 11
Hugo Murillo, 12
Abhay Patel, 10
Derel Rayo Mendez, 9
Miguel Reyes, 11
Kevin Solorzano, 10
Zain Sosa, 12
Mark Tunnell, 11
Felipe Zeferino, 12

Top Hitters 2023*

Batting Average: Ahmad Ventura (.519), Cruz (.491), Sosa (.485), Alvarez (.414), Patel (.396), Bolling (.362)
On-Base Percentage: Sosa (.646), Cruz (.594), Bolling (.589), Alvarez (.585), Ahmad Ventura (,567), Patel (.517)
Slugging Average: Cruz (.745), Alvarez (.621), Ahmad Ventura (.556), Bolling (.532), Ellis (.485), Sosa (.485)
Hits: Cruz  and Patel (19), Bolling (17), Sosa (16), Ahmad Ventura (14), Alvarez (12)
Doubles: Cruz (5), Bolling (4), Patel, Ellis and Rayo Mendez (2)
Triples: Cruz and Alvarez (3), Bolling (2)
Home Runs: Cruz, Ellis, Rayo Mendez (1)
RBI: Cruz (33), Bolling (17), Sosa (15), Alvarez (11), Ellis (10)
Runs: Bolling (34), Cruz (24), Patel (19), Rayo Mendez (18), Sosa (16), Alvarez (15)
Stolen Bases: Bolling (23), Cruz (19), Sosa (17), Rayo Mendez (12), Alvarez (10)

*—At least 20 plate appearances

Top Pitchers 2023

Innings Pitched: Cruz (25.2), Bolling (23.2), Ellis (19.2), Rayo Mendez (15), Patel (13)
Wins: Cruz and Bolling (3), Ellis, Patel and Rayo Mendez (1)
Bases on Balls/Strikeouts: Cruz (14/63), Bolling (26/45), Rayo Mendez (22/37), Ellis (17/30), Patel (4/18)

Only a sophomore, Jonathan Solorzano played the difficult catcher’s position for the Green Dragons.
Third baseman Derel Rayo Mendez is ready to grab this grounder.
Zain Sosa slides home safely on a wild pitch as Valley Stream Central pitcher Andrew Cohen is late with the tag. Coach Ryan Mulholland watches the play from the third base coaching box.
Kevin Solorzano swings over this pitch.
Third baseman Derel Rayo Mendez follows a foul ball.
Shortstop Jonathan Cruz throws to first base.
Coach Ryan Mulholland takes the ball from a disappointed Ali Bolling after the starting pitcher was knocked out by Valley Stream Central. Shortstop Jonathan Cruz walks to the mound.
Omar Ahmad Ventura lined out to center field on this at bat.
Abhay Patel singled sharply to center in the third inning against Valley Stream Central.
Omar Ahmad Ventura scores on this wild pitch.
Jonathan Cruz came on to pitch in the seventh inning and struck out the side.
Ali Bolling stroked a triple on this at bat.
Omar Ahmad Ventura fouls a pitch off.
Ryan Alvarez swings over this offering.
Hugo Murillo looks at where the pitch wound up.
Felipe Zeferino drew a walk on this at bat.
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Frank Rizzo is a journalist at Anton Media Group. With decades of experience in the industry, he is exceptionally equipped to cover local politics, business and other topics that matter to readers.

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