VSS secures 16 wins on diamond


Valley Stream South’s baseball team had a highly productive season under coach Rich Hess.

“Coming off of last year, we had two players not in the lineup that were All-League as sophomore in 2022,” Hess said, referring to Michael Hernandez and Nicholas Alvarez.

Hernandez was only able to play the first eight games last season before an injury placed him on the bench, and Alvarez missed the season entirely due to thumb surgery a week before opening day. So with them both back this year, things were looking up.

“Getting those two players back added to our total team production; I knew we were going to have a better season due to Hernandez and Alvarez being in the lineup,” Hess explained. “Last year we won nine games, this year we won 16. [Hernandez and Alvarez] had a big part of that.”

Hernandez alone had 12 extra-base hits: four home runs, three triples and five doubles. Alvarez had an easy time getting on base himself: eight doubles, worked 11 walks and 10 HBPs. There was also Zach Dyer, second on the Falcons in RBIs, seemingly getting them when needed most according to Hess.

Hess also credits Hernandez and Alvarez with providing stability in their defensive roles, at shortstop and catcher respectively, but most importantly, providing the proper leadership needed for the team to succeed in the coming years.

“Our program is built on that,” Hess said, citing how Hernandez, Alvarez, and teammate Ryan Rivera were taken under the wings of their senior class when they were freshmen. “As each season goes on, they just remember when they [were] young… how important it is to take the younger kids and look out for them. That’s what our program is about.”

The pitching staff consisted of last year’s catcher, Danny Casey on Mondays, someone who Hess categorized as an up-and-comer who gets his fair share of strikeouts, all while developing three pitches. The Tuesday hurler was Nick Simone, who’s also plugged into centerfield on the other days of the week. Lastly, there’s Peter Greif who started on Thursdays, patrolling third base Mondays and Tuesdays.

Overall, the entire rotation has progressed to Hess’ liking throughout the season.

“I think they’ve gotten stronger as the year has gone on,” he said. “Towards the end of the season there’s been a slight uptick in velocity, a slight increase in command with secondary pitches, with being able to get into the 110 pitch count area while still maintaining productivity.”

“Our philosophy with pitchers is to pound the strike zone, get ahead of hitters, try not to walk guys and I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that with our pitchers this year. Let’s pitch to location, let’s pitch to contact, let people get themselves out. We’re not looking to try to throw the ball by anybody, we don’t have those types of arms, we need to pitch,” Hess said, doubling down on the importance of limiting walks. “In the past we’ve walked way more guys than we’ve walked this season, so we’ve done a good job of eliminating the, what coaches call the ‘free 90.’”

To summarize, it’s best put in Hess’ own words: “We came to compete, we came to play.”