If one player epitomized the Southold baseball team last season, it was Jack Sepenoski. Both the team and the player were down and out — for different reasons. A frustrated Sepenoski was forced to sit out the entire campaign with a broken collarbone. “A huge loss for us,” head coach Greg Tulley said of his now senior shortstop.

After reaching the Suffolk County Class C final in 2022 with a 15-4 record, the Settlers stumbled to a 4-15 finish last year.

“When I broke my collarbone. I was upset,” Sepenoski said. “Sitting through the whole season was difficult because I’ve never been hurt before. It was difficult to just watch. I’m very happy to be back out there.”

A healthy Sepenoski is now primed to help the Settlers bounce back from last season and put together a winning record and a playoff run.

Sepenoski and his younger brother, sophomore Travis Sepenoski, a third baseman and pitcher, recently completed Southold’s successful basketball season. Two days after the county champ Settlers lost to Haldane in the New York State southeast regionals, the brothers were on the baseball diamond with 17 teammates for the first training session.

The quick transition from one sport to another wasn’t a bother.

“It’s nothing I haven’t been doing all my life,” said Jack Sepenoski, a three-sport athlete who played soccer in the fall.

The Settlers lost only two players to graduation last year. The returning players are a year older and wiser.

“Even though we struggled, we stayed together as a team,” Jack Sepenoski said. “I think we can pull it all together this year.

“We’ve got 10th- and 11th-graders on the team for a couple years now. Last year, when we did struggle, they got a lot of playing time, which is good. Everyone has game experience. They know how to act and respond.”

Jack Sepenoski isn’t the only player who feels Southold is ready to bounce back.

“We have a whole bunch of seniors returning that know what it takes to go all the way,” senior catcher Danny Cartselos said. “I feel that energy is going to move us forward.”

Teams have been known to reverse course in a single season. Perhaps vying for the Class C title might not be out of the question.

“That would mean a lot because we haven’t done it yet,” senior right-hander Luke Newman said.

Tulley said he would be counting on the senior trio’s “experience, leadership, sense of competitiveness.”

“Jack is just one of the most competitive kids that I’ve ever had on a team,” the coach added. “His brother is the same, but I’ve had Jack around for four years. Danny is a worker. He just wants to work and get better, wants to win. He sets the tone for everyone. He’s not necessarily the most vocal guy. Luke is the same. He’s just a competitor and we’re a different team when he’s on the mound. We know we’ve got a shot of winning.”

Newman, who has hopes of playing Division II college ball, is also optimistic.

“We’re a small school,” he said. “Everyone knows each other and has known each other for their whole life. That’s probably what makes us different than other schools.”

Other returning starters include senior center fielder and pitcher Alex Lopez, senior second baseman Max McCarthy, senior right fielder James Treharne and sophomore utility fielder and pitcher Noah Riddel.

Newman and the Settlers could not have asked for a better week to begin training as temperatures soared into the high 60s last Thursday.

“This might be the nicest first week we ever had,” Tulley said.

“This is a great way to start the season,” Cartselos added. “Beautiful weather.”

The first week of spring training wasn’t necessarily about having intra-squad scrimmages and taking batting practice. A good portion dealt with game situations. Tulley demonstrated how to take a safe lead at first base and read a pitcher on pickoff plays. There were also fielding drills on throwing to the right base and hitting the correct cut-off man.

“There is way more going on in baseball than anyone realizes,” Tulley said. “We go twice a week in the gymnasium, hitting and pitching, December until now. It’s hard to get all the fielding practice and situational practice. It’s definitely stuff we grab the first couple of weeks.”

The Settlers will start their season at Pierson on March 26, the first of five straight road games. Their home opener is the final contest of a three-game series against Amityville on Saturday, April 13, at 10 a.m.

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