By Gavin Menu
Last Thursday’s game between the Sag Harbor Whalers and Shelter Island Bucks of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League (HCBL) was already special before Sag Harbor’s own Brandon Kruel picked up the win, pitching 2 and 2/3 innings while allowing just one unearned run.
The game was played in honor of 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. Haerter’s mother, JoAnn Lyles, and Theinert’s mother, Chrys Kestler, threw out the first pitch and set the stage for a somber few moments before the day turned celebratory with a huge crowd on hand at Shelter Island High School.
And Dan Shea, a sophomore from Monmouth College, provided the fireworks in the end. Trailing 4-3 heading into their final at-bat in the top of the ninth inning, the Whalers put three men on base to set the stage for Shea, who blasted a grand slam homerun to put Sag Harbor comfortably ahead.
“We were in a position to do that because our pitchers gave us a chance to stay in the game,” Brendan Monaghan, the Whalers manager, said.
Kruel, who will be a junior at C.W. Post in the fall, pitched a scoreless bottom of the ninth to end one of the most exciting games of the year.
“I came in and my arm felt pretty good,” said Kruel, a 2010 graduate of Pierson High School. “I’ve been working all season to get my arm position in the right place and I’m starting to get back to where I used to throw from.”
As a sophomore at Post last year, Kruel began pitching with a sidearm motion, something that worked at first but then started to result in too many hits allowed. This summer he has been working to return to his original motion, and the results are starting to show.
Kruel and East Hampton graduate Deilyn Guzman are the only local players on the Whalers this season.
“I like to take a leadership roll on the team, not just on the field, but also with taking the guys around and showing them around town,” Kruel said. “I’m taking a lot of pride in playing locally for this league.”
The Whalers split a doubleheader with Riverhead Saturday and as of Tuesday both teams were tied for third place, 2.5 games out of first, in the seven-team standings with identical 14-13 records.
It was another come-from-behind victory over Riverhead on Saturday, as the Whalers stunned the host Tomcats by scoring three runs with two outs in the top of the seventh inning for a 5-4 win in Game 1.
The rally started when Grant Shambley (Wake Forest) was hit by a pitch and Shea singled. Scott Hagan (Mercy) singled in a run and following a walk by Justin Montemayor (Houston), Adam Gauthier (Dartmouth) drove in two more runs, including the go-ahead run, with a base hit.
Jacob Bodner (Xavier) notched his ninth save of the summer with two strikeouts in the bottom of the seventh inning.
The Tomcats jumped out with an early 6-0 advantage and held on for a 7-3 win in Game 2.
The Whalers played at first-place Westhampton on Tuesday and were back home against Riverhead yesterday, July 10. This week’s schedule includes a game today at Cochran Park on the North Fork followed by a home game against Shelter Island on Sunday at 5 p.m. at Mashashimuet Park.