The Boys of Summer is legendary in the annals of sport, writer Roger Kahn capturing the cool and fire of his beloved Brooklyn Dodgers. Last Sunday Sag Harbor was introduced to its boys of summer, a group of college players coming together as “the Whalers” in Mashashimuet Park to open a 40-game season in Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League action.
The setting was familiar for one Whaler, former Pierson standout and current Farmingdale State scholar-athlete Mike Labrozzi back on his “home” field. Labrozzi and his new teammates didn’t disappoint the 80 or so that turned out, taking both ends of a doubleheader, 2-1 and 10-2, from the highly regarded Riverhead Tomcats.
Labrozzi lit up the faces of many friends, starting at first base and hitting sixth in the first game. In his first at-bat, in the bottom of the second, Labrozzi stepped in with a runner on and lifted the first over-the-fence homer seen in Mashashimuet since the wood bat league started play here last year.
The 360-foot shot gave Whaler starter, East Hampton alumnus and current University of Rhode Island pitcher, Gardner Leaver a 2-0 lead. And those runs were all Leaver needed, the righty keeping the Tomcats quiet in allowing just one hit, walking one and striking out three in five innings of work.
Brian Russell, a righty from Davidson, relieved Leaver and held the lead for the next three and two-thirds, scattering four hits. But it was Jake Donze, a lefty from Murray State University (KY), who closed out the game, getting the last out on a force at second with the bases loaded, a run in and the Tomcats scratching to get the lead.
The Runs Pile Up
The Tomcats were unable to break through in the first inning of the second game, New York Tech lefty Steve Faulkner retiring the side easily. The Whalers, meanwhile, snapped their scoreless string, Rutgers sophomore Brandon Boykin singling in a run in the bottom of the first.
Labrozzi stepped in later in the frame with two away, runners at first and third and the home crowd eager for more. A delayed double steal and a low throw home, netted the Whalers another run before Labrozzi added to the Tomcats’ misery by roping a double to right center to make the score 3-0.
Faulkner yielded a run in the second, the Tomcats making the most of a pair of singles and a wild pitch. A Labrozzi infield single in the hole at short brought home another Whaler in the fourth, keeping the margin at three and giving the hometown player four RBIs on the day.
In all, Labrozzi went five-for-seven in his team’s debut, another single in the sixth contributing to a five-run rally that put the Whalers up 9-1. A Sag Harbor run in the eighth and a Riverhead run in the ninth closed the scoring at 10-2 Whalers, Anna Maria College (MA) lefty James McNamara and Farmingdale State righty Steve King keeping the Tomcats from sneaking back into the game.
What’s to Come
Whaler skipper Jason Lefkowitz, an assistant baseball coach at Brown University, was satisfied with his team’s play, saying “I thought our team played well-played games considering we have only been on a field as a team twice leading up to the games. It was a great team effort with many of the guys giving up their at bats to move runners over and get runners in. Mike Labrozzi came up clutch for us in both games, having a great at bat in the first game and hitting it out with two strikes.”
Seeing what needs work, Coach Lefkowitz pointed out, “I feel we need to work on our defense a little more as we made more errors than I would have liked, causing our pitchers to make more pitches. Also, we will be working on our hitting a little bit, but I don’t have any concerns for that part. If we were able to put up 10 runs on limited hits, we should be able to do well once we start playing everyday.”
Citing individual contributions, Coach Lefkowitz added, “I thought all our pitchers did a great job throwing strikes, letting our defense make the plays. Gardner Leaver did a great job throwing more innings than we expected him to throw with the limited pitch count we had our pitchers on. Brian Russell also threw the ball very well and Jake Donze got us a big out to get the save.”
“In game two, I was very happy with how James McNamara pitched; he was a strike-throwing machine, getting us deep in the game. Before the doubleheader, we were told we were playing two nine-inning games where I understood from the ACBL we were going to play two seven-inning games, so we were a little thin on pitching as a few of our pitchers had just got to Sag Harbor Saturday.”
The nine-inning format will be used in games from hereon in, the Whalers at North Fork (Mattituck) today at 5 p.m. and at Southampton (on the high school field) Thursday at 5 p.m. On Saturday, the Whalers will play the Breakers on the new baseball field at Stony Brook University’s Southampton campus at 5 p.m.
The boys are back in the park again this Sunday against Westhampton, games at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., with Sunday doubleheaders continuing each weekend this month and next.
The Sag Harbor Whaler Host Committee, which has housed the team’s players and made arrangements for local work while the boys are not playing ball, has scheduled a team fundraiser for June 19. The committee has negotiated the use of one of the South Ferry’s fleet for a sunset getaway cruise in and outside the harbor.
The ferry will launch from Long Wharf next Saturday, Whaler players meeting those that turn out at 5:45 p.m. Shortly after 6 p.m. beverages and appetizers will be made available. Tickets for the cruise can be purchased for $40 at B. Smith or from Rich Kudlak at Prudential Real Estate. The ferry is due to come in just before 8 p.