By Andrew Rudansky
The Hamptons Collegiate League playoffs took place this weekend and for the second year in a row the Sag Harbor Whalers were not invited to the dance. This year the Whalers went 16 and 25 in the 41-game regular season, putting them two games back from the fourth place Southampton Breakers. The team finished the year by dropping three straight games capping another disappointing summer.
On occasion the Whalers have been able to shine, such as their 17-4 victory over the third-place Riverhead Tomcats last month. The blowout was a Hamptons Collegiate League record for runs and hits. This wasn’t a fluke; the Whalers have scored in the double digits on five separate occasions this season, winning four of those games.
Offensively the Whalers were stacked; Stanley Fich, Kyle Prohovich, Calvin Sigelbaum and Kevin Grove were just a few of the team’s reliable bats. All of them had on base percentages in the high .300s and .400s. Prohovich had a batting average of .304. Sigelbaum had 30 hits this season, nine of them were doubles. Grove tied the Atlantic Collegiate League record of seven home runs.
Tom Cardona and Anthony Mannuccia led a solid bullpen, which had a combined earned run average of 3.69, with 248 strikeouts against 186 walks.
As a team the Whalers looked solid, and a playoff contender for most of the season. So why did the Whalers fail to scrape their way out of last place again, what happened?
For those who saw the Whalers final game last Saturday, June 31 against the Westhampton Aviators, they know exactly what went wrong with the team this year. Time and time again the team’s success came down to a matter of consistency. Whalers Manager Jim Buckley has said as much all season; he said that runners left on base, infield errors and an inability to string together runs have been a perennial problem for the Whalers.
During Saturday’s game, the Aviators gave up eight hits to the Whalers, who out-batted the Westhampton team. But not one of these hits led to a run, with the Whalers leaving 11 runners on base. Whalers starting pitcher Anthony Mannuccia had a great day, pitching seven innings with an ERA of 1.29.
But that wasn’t enough to stop the Aviators from scoring one run and ending the last game of the regular season with a 1-0 Whaler loss.
“[This season] was a bunch of tough losses,” said Whalers manager Jim Buckley, “we took a lot of losses that I think we could look back and say we should have won those games.”
Fifteen of the Whalers 25 defeats were decided by two or fewer runs.
Even worse news for a team whose main problem is consistency, the future of the team’s coaching staff remains in doubt. Buckley and pitching coach Dave Pahucki have both said that their future with the Whalers is far from secure.
“It’s hard to say [whether we are coming back next season],” said Buckley, “we would like to, we had a great time.”
The postseason for the league played out this week, with the first place North Fork Ospreys taking out the Breakers, and the Tomcats beat the Aviators in the Monday, August 2 single elimination semi-finals.
The next day the two winning teams started a best if three finals for the Hamptons Collegiate League championship. In the first game the league-dominating Ospreys crushed the Tomcats 10 to 3.
Despite the disappoint season, Buckley does have hope for the individual players. “I think there is a couple of guys that really stand out,” said Buckley, who refused to give out specific names of players who have a possible future in professional baseball.
For now, the Whalers have to sit on the sidelines, prepare for their college baseball seasons and wait for next summer.