by Andrew Rudansky
It wasn’t that long ago that the Sag Harbor Whalers were the first seed in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League. Sure they were only on that high perch for little more than a day, falling after they lost to the North Fork Ospreys on Tuesday, July 5, but at the time they looked to be the world-beaters of the division.
In the ten games that led to them garnering that number one seed, the Whalers had a record of 8-2, beating every other team in the division at least once and outscoring their opponents 40 to 20.
The Whalers were cashing in on the stellar success to their bullpen, still the best in the division with an Earned Run Average (ERA) of 2.54.
With more than half of the season over, it looked to be the Whalers’ year — a welcome thought for fans that haven’t seen the team in a playoff game since 2008.
But a lot has changed since that July 5 loss to the Ospreys.
The Whalers have struggled this week; they dropped two games to the Westhampton Aviators and split a two game series with the Riverhead Tomcats, sending them down to fourth place. These recent struggles have fans scratching their heads and wondering what happened.
The first loss against the Aviators on Wednesday, July 6 was a 5-1 shellacking at Mashashimuet Park. The Whalers couldn’t touch righty pitcher Ray Angelucci, who held the Whalers to just four hits and one run through seven and half innings.
The next game on Saturday, July 9, this time an away game for the Whalers, was another disappointing loss against Westhampton. This time the Whalers were held scoreless at 2-0. Again the story was the Aviators bullpen, through six-and-a-half innings Aviators righty Ryan Doran threw eight strikeouts and only two walks.
After the two back-to-back losses against Westhampton, the Whalers showed signs of life when they hosted the Riverhead Tomcats on Sunday, July 10. The home team came out roaring in the first inning, with two singles and an RBI double that sent second baseman J.J. Franco home before the Tomcats made their first out.
The Tomcats looked in disarray. With a number of unforced fielding errors and substandard pitching, the visitors dug themselves into a 5-0 hole in the first inning of the game.
While the Whalers piled on runs at the plate, Whalers tall righty, Kyle McGowin, a Sag Harbor native, dominated on the mound. McGowin pitched five innings, allowing only two hits and no runs in his best performance this season.
The Whalers put on a clinic on Sunday’s game, tallying 11 hits and 7 RBIs in an impressive 9-3 victory.
“[The Tomcats] helped us out a little bit,” said Whalers manager Jim Buckley of the victory. “Obviously they had some defensive issues in the first [inning], they really gave us that five run lead.”
The game was stopped briefly in the seventh inning when Whalers J.J. Franco was taken off the field with a knee injury. A collision with Tomcat runner Eric Schlitter laid Franco out. Franco, eventually walked off the field, and later said of the injury that it was probably only a muscle strain.
“I think a day off tomorrow [for Monday, July 11 ACBL All Star game] is good timing,” said Franco after the game. He has already missed one game due to the injury but is expected to return to the starting lineup soon.
On Tuesday, July 12, the Whalers took on the Tomcats again but lost after a back-and-forth barnburner. The game was tied at 4-4 until the bottom of the seventh inning when Tomcat Frank Schwindel was hit by a pitch from reliever Paul Mittura. The HBP came at the worst possible moment for the Whalers, who were dealing with a bases loaded, two outs situation. Holding on to their 5-4 lead, the last-place Tomcats waltzed out with a much needed victory.
Currently the Whalers are 12-14 on the season, but luckily for them this sub .500 record is only three-and-a-half games out of first place. Currently a fourth seed, they still have a spot in the playoffs; but they can still slip out of contention if they don’t start winning. Despite this Buckley is unconcerned with the Whalers recent struggles.
“With our pitching staff, I don’t think you should count us out at all,” said Buckley, “our pitching is going to keep us in every single game.”
This past Monday, July 11, the best of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League met at Brooklyn MCU Park to compete in the East-West 2011 ACBL All-Star Game. In a close game, the East Division, of which the Sag Harbor Whalers and the entire Hamptons Division is a part, came out on top with a 5-4 victory.
Four Whalers, three of them pitchers, were selected to represent the East in the game. Third Baseman Ryan Kreskey, who leads the Whalers in hits, runs and on base percentage (OBS), helped push the East to victory with one run.
The three Whalers pitchers, Adam Brown (L), Kevin McCarthy (R), Kurt Marut (R), made up one-third of the entire East All-Star team bullpen. Each of the pitchers pitched for one inning.
“These are guys who have stood out this year,” said Whalers Manager Jim Buckley of the four all-stars, “we have talked to them and told them to go out and do what they have been doing all year.”