By Benito Vila
A season that began with so much promise turned into a bit of a soaker for this summer’s Sag Harbor Whalers. After earning the Kaiser Division championship and finishing as the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League runner-up last summer in their inaugural season, a quick start this June led many to believe more acclaim was coming the Whalers’ way.
But baseball’s a funny game and things don’t often go the way they seem destined. A seven-game losing streak earlier this month took the Whalers out of the top half of the division and out of post-season play. Although a 5-1 final week put the boys back on course, they went into last night’s match-up with the North Fork Ospreys in Mattituck at 17-20, four games out of a playoff spot.
Today the Whalers close out their schedule with a day/night doubleheader on the road, taking the field against the Tomcats (21-16) in Riverhead at noon and then against the Aviators (24-15) in Westhampton at 5 p.m. Given the wet weather the past two months, it is a testament to the league’s planning and perseverance that the teams even came close to completing their 42-game schedules.
In the second game of last Sunday’s fog-enveloped doubleheader in Mashashimuet Park, Whaler public address announcer Kevin Major acknowledged Kaiser Division organizer Rusty Leaver and his wife Diane and thanked Whaler general manager Sandi Kruel. A wet crowd of fifty, a little smaller turnout than usual, applauded, grateful for the chance to see such a high level of baseball close-up.
Among the current ACBL players in the major leagues are Jamie Moyer with the Philadephia Phillies, John Lannan with the Washington Nationals and Drew Sutton with the Cincinnati Reds. Whaler players Brandon Boykin (Rutgers), Ed Squeri (Dowling), Kyle Crean (Albany), Kyle Zarotney (Central Connecticut) and Stanley Fich (Stanford) drew the most interest from scouts this summer, with other scouts set to watch their progress as they return to school.
The Last Home Games
After the first game last Sunday, an 8-6 loss to the last place Long Island Mustangs, there was little to be said in the dugout. Holding a 5-4 advantage with two outs in the visitor sixth, the Whalers saw a pair of singles give the Mustangs an 8-5 lead. Though the boys brought home a run in the home half of the sixth, it was not enough to rein in a win.
The second game saw no lingering effects from the loss, two errors and two hits putting the Whalers up 2-0 in the first. Though the Mustangs tied the score with a run in the second and another in the third, a five-run fourth put the Whalers up 7-2.
The big hits in the go-ahead rally were a double by Zarotney and a bases-clearing triple by Lou Volpe. Five-innings of one-hit pitching by Nick Lettas (High Point) gave the Whalers the time they needed to get the bats going and two innings of one-run relief by Steve King (Farmingdale State) closed out the win.
After the game, Whaler coach Scott June praised the pitching and timely hitting he saw in game two. In looking back over his last two weeks with the team (professional commitments called away the Whalers’ original coaches), Coach June said, “These boys know how to play. They play hard and there’s not a lot of instruction involved. I find myself pointing out the little things they can do [to get an advantage] more than telling them how to do it.”
A partner and instructor at All-Pro Baseball Academy in Bellport, Coach June worked with “five or six” of the Whalers while they were in high school. He said, “It’s been satisfying for me to see them playing at this level. I had Crean and [Sag Harbor’s Mike] Labrozzi when they were 14 and they’ve kept working at the game and they’ve gotten a whole lot better.”
When asked about the league, Coach June suggested that it, too, should continue to improve. “I’ve seen every team. The talent on the field is there and the fans have come out to watch in every town. Knowing what Rusty and all the people behind the teams are putting into this, it will only get better in the future.”
Coach June and the All-Pro coaches will be back in the park for their annual youth summer camp the week of August 10. They are also in Montauk the week of August 17.