Uniondale makes best of road work


Road trips will be commonplace for Uniondale’s baseball team this spring as its home field at the high school undergoes a facelift, but the Knights will try to make the most of it following a 9-9 finish last spring.

They’ll play a pair of home games at Turtle Hook Middle School this week, sparing a couple of bus rides to Great Neck North, and will host Hicksville and Malverne at SUNY-Old Westbury and Eisenhower Park, respectively, to ease some of the travel.

“We have a committed group of kids and they just want to practice as much as they can and play games,” coach Ciro Gentile said. “We knew in February we weren’t going to be playing at the high school. The plan is to have a new field next year and that’ll be great. These kids would be on the field all day and all night if they could.”

Any game the Knights are scheduled to be the home team, they’ll bat last. That was the case last week when their entire series at Valley Stream South was played on the Falcons’ home turf.

“Even though we’re not at home we’re getting great support from parents and the community,” Gentile said. “They’re traveling to watch us play and it’s awesome to see. We have a pretty young roster and some growing pains are expected, but the kids are dedicated and have excellent work ethics.”

Uniondale’s roster features only three starting seniors: leadoff batter and center fielder/pitcher Jadon Pineda, first baseman/outfielder Jaden Acosta and catcher/pitcher Jesther Lara.

Pineda is a three-year starter who makes contact at the plate and can create havoc on the bases with his speed, Gentile said. “He hits and runs well and has a strong arm,” the coach said. “He can be aggressive at the plate but also knows it’s important for us that he gets on base any way he can.”

Acosta also brings speed to the lineup along with some pop from the clean-up spot. A lefty hitter who sprays the ball to all fields, he had a productive 2023 campaign and Gentile is expecting much of the same.

Lara is a starting pitcher and splits catching duties with junior Anthony Perez, who also handles third base and gets work as a relief pitcher. Lara is a third-year member of the varsity whilst Perez steps into a bigger role.

The middle infield is extremely young. Freshman Oscarlin Pouriet-Paulino has made the jump from middle school baseball to varsity and has a smooth glove at shortstop and bats second. Sophomore Vaner Guerrero-Espinal starts at second base and has strong fundamentals from his experience playing in his native Dominican Republic.

Sophomore Carlos Vasquez pitches and bats third. He has excellent knowledge of the game, Gentile said, and is the No. 1 arm on the staff. “He’s improved his velocity and mixes pitches well,” the coach noted.

Juniors Xzavier White and Aitor Leonardo-Nunez are handling the bulk of innings in left and right field, respectively, and epitomize the entire team’s work ethic.