By Connor W. Vorhaus; photography by Gavin Menu
Less than two weeks ago, the Sag Harbor Whalers were fighting to just get a win. Now, after defeating the Shelter Island Bucks in extra innings on Sunday, the Whalers have sole possession of first place in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League.
After two extra innings of scoreless play, the Whalers opened the floodgates as the sun went down at Fiske Field on Shelter Island late Sunday, scoring four runs in the top of the 11th inning, to escape with a memorable 7-3 victory.
As a result, the Whalers improved to 13-9 and sit atop the league standings, just a half-game clear of second-place North Fork.
“Once we started working on just developing our game, these guys bought in to what we are doing here in Sag Harbor, and playing hard every single day,” said Whalers manager Danny Benedetti after Sunday’s win. “The biggest thing for us was just to have fun. In the beginning of the season we were worrying about wins and losses, and we got off track. Although in today’s game we started slow, we found a way to grind through and win.”
Next up for Sag Harbor is a rematch with Shelter Island tomorrow, July 4, at 10 a.m. in Mashashimuet Park. The teams play an annual Independence Day game to honor Army First Lieutenant Joseph Theinert, who was killed in Afghanistan in June of 2012, and U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter, who was killed in action in Iraq in 2008.
If Sunday’s game on Shelter Island was any indication of what will go down tomorrow, then fans will be in for a treat. With the Whalers fighting for first place, fans from Sag Harbor trekked to Shelter Island on Sunday and made their presence felt at Fiske Field, letting the Whalers know they had the support of Sag Harbor behind them.
What started out as a tumultuous first three innings for the Whalers, capped by overthrown balls and fielding errors, was righted when the team started to play sound defense. Trailing 3-0 after two innings, the Whalers scored their first run of the game in the top of the fifth when James Clements, a junior from Georgia State University, scored off a single by Scott Hagan (Mercy College). The Whalers didn’t wait long to score again, with Hagan coming home to put Sag Harbor within a run of Shelter Island.
The Whalers failed to tie the game in the fifth inning, leaving runners on first and third, and Shelter Island fans began to leave the stands early, possibly thinking the Bucks would cruise to victory on their home field. The Whalers proved them wrong.
With one out in the top of the seventh inning, Sacred Heart University sophomore Ted Shaw hit a double to put himself in scoring position. Dan Rizzie, a junior from Xavier University, got to play hero for the Whalers, lofting a beautiful single to the outfield that brought Shaw home to tie the game at three.
With the Whalers bullpen pitching strong all evening, Benedetti turned the ball over in the seventh inning to Southern New Hampshire University sophomore, Alex Person, who allowed only three hits over the three and a half innings to pick up the win.
Following tomorrow’s July 4th showdown against Shelter Island, the Whalers will play home again on Saturday against Southampton at 5 p.m. and on Sunday against Montauk, also at 5 p.m.