By Gavin Menu
The season will come to a close for the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League (HCBL) when a champion is crowned early next month. The Sag Harbor Whalers are expected to be in the mix for a title, but if they fall short, the season will still be remembered as a success for other reasons.
With 17 wins so far, some of the largest home crowds in the league and eight players who were selected to this past weekend’s All-Star game, the Whalers can now add the construction of a new pitching mound to their list of accomplishments.
Whalers head coach Danny Benedetti has a degree in landscape architecture and helped build a new mound at St. John’s University, where he coaches during the school year. With material donated by the league, Benedetti, a handful of players and assistant coaches Geno DeAngelis and Rob Delaney donated their time and put down a layer of clay bricks before covering them with Georgia red clay, which is more durable than the regular dirt from the infield. The result is a more sturdy and durable mound that will remain strong for years to come.
“That mound gets a lot of use because of the college team and the varsity team,” said Sandi Kruel, the co-general manager of the Whalers. “What happens is you constantly have to re-pack the mound and it becomes like a marshmallow. Now, no matter how much abuse there is, you have to get through the brick to break down the mound.”
While they have been giving back to the community, the Whalers also have been gaining ground in the standings, winning three straight games over the last week to improve to 17-13 as of Tuesday morning, which tied the team for first place with the North Fork Ospreys.
The Whalers christened their new mound in style over the weekend, shutting out visiting Southampton in both games of a doubleheader on Sunday. Ian Searles (Southern New Hampshire) did the honors in game one, going the distance and limiting the Breakers to just four hits in a 5-0 win. In the nightcap, Nick Leonard (Georgetown) blanked the Breakers over six innings, giving up four hits and striking out five, before handing the ball to Connor Stanley (Georgia State), who threw a scoreless seventh to close things out.
The Whalers clung to a 1-0 lead in game one, but scored four more in the bottom of the sixth to seal the win. Aaron Smith (Wake Forest) delivered the final two runs by doubling in both Zach Piazza (Wake Forest) and Joe Gellenbeck (Xavier).
In game two, all of Sag Harbor’s runs came in the third inning. Scott Hagan (Mercy) ripped a two-run triple and came around to score on an error. Ted Shaw (Sacred Heart) continued his strong summer, going 2 for 4 with a run scored to raise his average to .354.
The Whalers traveled to Westhampton on Monday and escaped with a 4-3 victory when Dan Rizzie (Xavier) drew a bases-loaded walk in the top of the ninth inning to bring home the winning run. Alex Person (Southern New Hampshire) pitched six strong innings, and Chris Hall (Elon) and Mitchell Kuebbing (Longwood) combined to pitch the final three to close out the game.
Kuebbing, Person, Rizzie, Piazza, Shaw, Hagan, Nolan Meadows (Long Beach State) and Sal Palumbo (Mercy) played in the HCBL’s second annual All-Star Game in Riverhead on Saturday. The South All-Stars, featuring players from Sag Harbor, Montauk, Southampton and Westhampton, lost 7-2 to the North All-Stars, featuring players from Shelter Island, Riverhead and the North Fork. Rizzie and Palumbo drove in the lone runs for the South side.
The Whalers will play at Southampton today, July 17, and at Riverhead Friday, July 18, with both games starting at 5 p.m. The Whalers will host Montauk on Sunday, July 20, again with a 5 p.m. start.