Tag Archive | "Hamptons Collegiate Baseball"

Sag Harbor Whalers in Mix for Regular Season Title

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Montauk's John Palladino beats Ted Shaw's tag at second base during the game between the Sag Harbor Whalers and the Montauk Mustangs at Mashashimuet Park on Sunday,

Montauk’s John Palladino beats Ted Shaw’s tag at second base during the game between the Sag Harbor Whalers and the Montauk Mustangs at Mashashimuet Park on Sunday.

By Gavin Menu; photography by Michael Heller

The final games of the regular season will played this weekend in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League, which as of Tuesday had five teams separated by just two-and-a-half games in the standings.

The Sag Harbor Whalers are one of the teams still in the mix for a regular season title, which they won last year before going on to lose in a playoff semifinal. The Whalers improved to 19-16 with a 9-1 win over Montauk at home on Sunday and as of Tuesday were tied with Riverhead for second place, just a half game behind the first-place North Fork Ospreys, who Sag Harbor hosted on Wednesday night after this edition’s deadline.

The Whalers’ final two regular-season games are at home against Shelter Island tomorrow, July 25, at 2 p.m. and at Montauk on Saturday at 5 p.m. The postseason will begin next week, with a champion being crowned on August 3.

It was Alex Person (Southern New Hampshire) who shined brightest on Sunday, tossing a complete-game four-hitter to shutdown the reeling Montauk Mustangs (14-23), who have been in last place for much of their first year in the league. Person was masterful on Sunday, especially late, as he retired the final 10 hitters to improve his league-best ERA to 1.34.

Person also received plenty of support from the Whalers offense, which compiled 14 hits in the game, including three each from Dan Rizzie (Xavier) and Nolan Meadows (Long Beach State). It was Meadows who opened the floodgates early with a solo home run in the fourth inning. He added a two-run double in the eighth that effectively put the game out of reach.

Outfielders Joe Gellenbeck (Xavier) and James Clements (Georgia State)  had two hits apiece and all but two of the Whalers who saw action picked up hits in the game.

Sunday’s win was made more important following an extra-innings 9-8 loss to Riverhead on Friday, July 18. Riverhead was in total control for most of the game and led 8-2 after seven innings. The Whalers scored one run in the eighth and closed to within 8-5 in the ninth on a sacrifice fly by Scott Hagan (Mercy). With two outs, Zach Piazza (Wake Forest) and Gellenbeck hit back-to-back doubles to score three more runs to even the score.

The excitement was short-lived, however, as Riverhead’s Cole Fabio (Bryant) hit an RBI single in the bottom of the 10th inning to plate the winning run.

Whalers Strike Out

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By Michael Pintauro

As the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball season nears its end, so do playoff hopes for the Sag Harbor Whalers. The team is 9.5 games back from first place North Fork Ospreys with only three games left to finish this week meaning there is no way for Sag Harbor to make it into the post season.

This week was particularly difficult for the Whalers. The two games the Whalers’ played happened to be against the Ospreys, who crushed Sag Harbor in two painful defeats.

On Saturday, July 21, the Whalers travelled to the North Fork to take on the Ospreys at home in Peconic’s Cochran Park, where ultimately they lost the game 10-1. The Ospreys took an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first, after Ospreys pitcher Vaughn Hayward made easy work of the Whalers with a one-two-three first inning. Hayward threw a solid eight strikeouts against the flailing Whalers, going six innings and giving up only three hits. The Whalers would strikeout 13 times in the game — almost half their at-bats.

Whalers starting pitcher Jim Duff had a game almost as good as his opponent, throwing five strong innings, striking out eight and recording two earned runs on six hits. After giving up two runs early in the first, Duff was solid on the mound. But as the relievers came in during the middle innings, the floodgates opened, and the Osprey runs began pouring in.

Reliever Kevin Korkate gave up four earned runs in one inning of pitching, striking out two, but walked away with a 36.00 Earned Run Average (ERA). Out of the 10 runs recorded by the Ospreys on the day, six were homers. Ospreys’ hitters Kyle Adie, Robert Paller, Ryan Burns, and Daniel Kerr each smacked homers. Paller hit two of them.

On Sunday, July 22 – the Whalers’ would returned to Mashashimuet Park to host the Ospreys at home, in hopes of at least defeating the first place team. However, victory was not in the cards for Sag Harbor. The Whalers struggled to get on offense, losing control of the game in the ninth inning with a final score of 10-3.

Most of the game unwound like a pitcher’s duel, with a score of 2-1 until the ninth inning. Whalers’ starting pitcher David Rowan pitched well through five innings, giving up four hits, striking out three with one earned run. Ospreys’ pitcher, David St. Lawrence, however, was a wrecking ball on the mound, mercilessly striking out 11 Whalers in eight innings, letting up only one earned run on two hits.

As both teams struggled to string together hits and form runs, the game appeared destined for extra innings, but North Fork had other plans when they stepped up to the plate in the top of the ninth.

After a tough play in right field cost John Hennessey an error, the Ospreys’ secured a man on second and third with no outs. With a hard hit ground ball to third base on the next play, Stuart Levy displayed great poise for the tag out at the plate. The Whalers’, looking at runners on second and third again with one out, decided to intentionally walk Ospreys power-hitter Dan Kerr. With bases loaded, the Whalers looked to force a ground ball to turn a double play, but instead, Whalers pitcher Thomas Cardona threw two wild pitches and walked a batter before getting the next out on a ground ball.

With two out, the Ospreys tacked on six more runs in the inning, most of them unearned due to playing errors by the Whalers infield. North Fork continued to be aggressive around the bases, forcing bad throws and capitalizing on whatever play they could as their runners advanced.

The Whalers’ attempted to fight back in the bottom of the ninth. Sure enough, they got runners on the corners with no outs. With slugger Dennis Mitchell at bat, it appeared a rally could be in the works.

Mitchell, however, smacked a hard hit ground ball, leading to the first out, scoring Grant Shambley from third. Hennessey, who would advance to second on the play, would later score off a playing error. Ultimately, the runs did not come, and the two scored by Shambley and Hennessey were all the Whalers could muster in the final inning of the game.


Pair of Pitchers Feel Right at Home

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Whalers Third Baseman John Hennessy runs down a Shelter Island runner caught in a pickle as the Sag Harbor Whalers played the Shelter Island Bucks at Mashashimuet Park on Sunday, 6/17/12

Whalers Third Baseman John Hennessy runs down a Shelter Island runner caught in a pickle as the Sag Harbor Whalers played the Shelter Island Bucks at Mashashimuet Park on Sunday, 6/17/12

The Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League is only five years young, but it exists as a division within a league that is 40 years older, the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League. Despite its youth, the HCBL sees the talent of young ball players from across the nation, from state school powerhouses to Ivy League schools, and is considered one of the top 10 collegiate leagues in the country.

Amongst the players in the league are two pitchers, Brandon Kruel and Kyle McGowin, both of whom play for the Sag Harbor Whalers, whose success this season is reflected in their statistics.

So far this season, McGowin has a team low 1.29 earned run average, recording a team-high 16 strikeouts through 14 innings pitched. Nine of those strikeouts came during a masterful 10-inning performance, which led to the Whalers’ first victory against the Westhampton Aviators on June 9. Kruel also has a low 2.45 earned run average, with 11 strikeouts in as many innings. In their recent game against the Southampton Breakers on Tuesday, June 19, Kruel struck out three batters in two innings pitched, holding off the Breakers long enough for the Whalers to clinch their third victory on the season.

As local Sag Harborites and Pierson High School graduates, Kruel and McGowin originated from a small school within a small class that competed within a small section of athletics. Regardless, the two pitchers are each having very strong seasons in the HCBL, and are proving to be some of the more dominant pitchers in the league.

Playing for the Sag Harbor Whalers at Mashashimuet Park is a unique experience for both Kruel and McGowin, who both pitched many years on the various fields within the park.

“I get to pitch at my home town field where I played throughout high school,” said Kruel. “It’s a great place, great atmosphere.”

Likewise, McGowin said he feels comfortable on the mound, he’s used to it. The two pitchers grew up watching the HCBL. According to Kruel, he has followed it since it first started.

“I love the league,” he said, “really enjoyable, and there are great people around me.”

Kruel , currently a sophomore at C.W. Post, has been pitching since he was nine, and says he has loved every minute of it. As he entered college, he stopped hitting to focus on pitching, and admits the transition was difficult.

“It’s tremendously different,” he said. “I didn’t realize how different, how competitive it would get, but I’ve achieved the next step, and I believe I’ve gotten a lot better.”

McGowin started pitching in 7th grade, and pitched all four years of high school.

Currently a sophomore at Savannah State University, he is thrilled to be pitching in the HCBL.

“I feel good so far, I’ve had a good year,” he said, “And last year I had a good year. That’s another reason I wanted to come back. I feel it’s a really good pitchers’ league.”

The HCBL is a pitchers’ league, both observed, because of the use of wood bats instead of metal bats, which are more commonly used in collegiate baseball. The Division I conference that McGowin pitches in at Savannah State uses metal bats, which both he and Kruel say behave very differently.

“With metal bats,” said McGowin, “you can jam someone and they can still get a little flare hit. If you jam someone with a wood bat, the bat is done.” The East Coast conference that Kruel pitches in at Post, however, uses wood bats, and he says it has gotten a lot easier as a pitcher to work.

“There’s going to be less pop from the bat,” said Kruel. “When I spot up it’s a lot easier to pitch, I don’t have to worry about the ball going as far.”

Brandon Kruel is majoring in physical education in his second year at C.W. Post. Kyle McGowin is majoring in criminal justice at Savannah State. Both say that they would like to pursue baseball professionally.

Sports Wrap 6/21/12

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Suffolk County All-League Dinner

The Suffolk County All-League Dinner took place at Villa Lombardi’s last Wednesday, June 13, to celebrate the athletic achievements of high school athletes. This year, the Pierson/Bridgehampton Varsity Baseball team received a number of awards. Suffolk County All-League awards were given to seniors Hunter Leyser, Sean Hartnett and Paul Dorego, juniors Jake Bennet and Colman Vila, and sophomore Aaron Schiavoni. Vila and Schiavoni were also awarded All-County. Senior Michael Heller was awarded Academic All-League. The “Al Desiderio” Small School Tournament MVP – Class C award was given to Colman Vila. Pierson/Bridgehampton also received several team awards, including the Walt Williams Award for Best League Winning Percentage, and the Robert A. Collotta Memorial/Newsday Cup, for the Class A, B, C, or D team that advances the furthest in the New York State Tournament.

Sag Harbor Whalers

The Sag Harbor Whalers are still currently in last place in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League, but improved their overall record this week to 3-9, now 4.5 games back from the North Fork Ospreys. After a tough loss to the Ospreys, the Whalers defeated the Center Moriches Battlecats 8-6 on Friday, June 15, but fell 7-3 against them the next day at Mashashimuet Park. An extra inning battle against the Shelter Island Bucks on June 17 was an amazing effort by the Whalers, but the Bucks capitalized on two playing errors in the bottom of the 10th inning to score two runs in their 7-6 victory over the Whalers. On Tuesday, June 19, the Whalers defeated the Southampton Breakers 6-4. The game was tied 4-4 going into the top of the 9th inning, until slugger Dennis Mitchell rocked a two run homerun straight over the center field wall. Whalers pitching held off the Breakers to seal the victory.

Hamptons Collegiate Baseball: League Expanding

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by Andrew Rudansky

It was announced last week that Hamptons Collegiate Baseball (HCB), a division of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League (ACBL), was to undergo an expansion, letting at least one new team join the five team division.

The Center Moriches Battlecats are the newest expansion team to join the HCB in this planned growth. The Battlecats will join the Sag Harbor Whalers, Southampton Breakers, Riverhead Tomcats, North Fork Ospreys and defending champs Westhampton Aviators in the upcoming 2012 season.

Formerly a member of the FABL College Wood Bat Division, the Battlecats officially announced the switch to the HCB on November 18 through an online press release. In the same press release it was announced that new team manager Bill Batewell will take the helm of the Battlecats in their first year.

According to Sag Harbor Whaler’s co-general manager Tom Gleeson the decision to add new expansion teams was made in early September by the new HCB President Brett Mauser and the league’s general managers.

Mauser recently replaced the former president and founder of the HCB, Rusty Leaver, and it was this changing at the executive level which allowed for the expansion. Gleeson said that Leaver was against the inclusion of any expansion teams into the HCB, and without the change the expansions would have been doubtful.

“Personally, we were big proponents of having the Battlecats enter the league,” said Gleeson on behalf of his co-general manager Sandi Kruel. “I think it is going to be very positive for the league.”

Last year the Whaler’s finished fourth in the division with a .500 record of 20-20, however they were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by the first seed Aviators. Now with the field even more crowded, the Whalers hopes for the HCB title become even slimmer. Gleeson said he was unconcerned with the increased competition.

“The whole idea of our league is great competition,” said Gleeson. “We are excited about the Battlecats joining because they are a very good baseball organization and frankly they make [the HCB] name better.”

The biggest hurdle for the Battlecats to deal with as an organization is the issue of player housing. As members of the FABL, the Battlecats previously only fielded local Long Island players; however a hallmark of the HCB is their ability to draw talent from top schools around the country. Their entrance into the HCB will force the Center Moriches team to now provide housing through host families in order to accommodate boarding players.

In an effort to bridge the teams on the north and south forks, plans are well underway on Shelter Island to create a seventh, completely new team to also compete in the HBC 2012 season.

The yet unnamed team is to be set up under general managers David Gurney and Mike Dunning. Currently the proposed Shelter Island team is seeking approval from the Shelter Island School District to use their baseball diamond as a home field.

“I think they already have a pretty good organization in place,” said Gleeson, who said once they get the okay from the district they will most likely be fast tracked into the league.

Gleeson reported that in addition to the inclusion of Center Moriches and Shelter Island there is plenty of support in the league to allow for a third expansion team for the 2012 season, bringing the total to eight teams.

“A community really has to reach out to us,” said Gleeson about the possibility of an eighth team.

Elsewhere in the ACBL other expansion teams have popped up for the 2012 season. The Kaiser Division has added the Long Island Storm this offseason, while the Wolff Division has added the Allentown Raiders and the Trenton Generals.

The 2012 HCB season, with however many teams that will be in contention, is slated to begin with player recruiting and selections in March. The games, free and open to the public, will begin in early June.

For more information about Hamptons Collegiate Baseball, visit their website at www.hamptonsbaseball.org.

Fourth Time Not a Charm

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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.”

All-Star 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.”

Whalers End Disappointing Season

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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.

Whalers are Due, Hopefully

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By Andrew Rudansky

The baseball idiom “he’s due” is used to describe a player in a slump that is bound to perform big. Before their 2004 World Series win the Boston Red Sox were due. In the search of Home Run number 600 Alex Rodriguez is due. The Sag Harbor Whalers are certainly in a slump, but in no ways can they be considered out.

With a largely disappointing season coming to a close the Whalers are still hanging onto hopes for a run in the Hampton Collegiate League playoffs. The Whalers record, after a three game win-streak, stands at 16 and 22. This record puts the team in fourth place and gives them, for now, the final spot in the post-season games. Their playoff berth is far from secure from the last place Southampton Breakers, who are only half a game behind the Whalers with a record of 14 and 21.

 Even Whalers General Manager Tom Gleeson was unsure about the team’s playoff hopes. “when are in, we are in,” said Gleeson, “It’s still up in the air…”

 To make matters even dicer for the Whalers their final three games on the regular season schedule will be against the Riverhead Tomcats and the Hamptons Collegiate League defending champions Westhampton Aviators, in third and second place respectively. If the whalers want to make it to the playoffs they will have to win these games or hope the Breakers stumble even further back.

Like last season, the Whalers have struggled all year, never stringing together a win-streak longer than their current one. Since July 14, the Whalers have only won four out of 11 games, and even if they win their next three games they won’t have an even .500 season. All of this is troubling news for Whalers fans, but that hasn’t stopped the team from recently striving for post-season glory in a late season push.

After going one and six last week, the Whalers looked like they were going to go home early, the only team not to make the playoffs for a second straight year. Things looked even more bleak when the Whalers dropped the first game of their double header against the Breakers on Saturday, July 24.

After the 9-4 defeat, one decided by a tie-breaking ninth inning, the Whalers bullpen struck back. Whalers’ righty pitcher Tom Cardona pitched all seven innings of the second game without allowing a single run. Cardona struck out ten batters in the shutout.  

Ryan Kresky went three for three at the plate, driving in one runner, in the Whalers 3-0 victory.   

The next day the Whalers took on the first place North Fork Ospreys and came out on top, 6-4. The away-team Whalers had to dig deep in their bullpen to beat the league leaders, using six different pitchers. Relief pitcher Kyle Prohovich was given the win. Slugger Kevin Grove secured his place as the cream of the Whalers batting crop by hitting his sixth home run of the season in the win.

Tuesday, July 27 the Whalers went to Riverhead to face the Tomcats, a team that has beaten the Whalers in their previous two matchups. After remaining silent in the first three innings, the Sag Harbor team exploded with an incredible offensive showing. The Whalers run in 12 runs, three of them home runs from Stanley Fich, Ryan Kresky and Grove. Fich’s home run was a grand slam, contributing to his six RBIs during the game. Grove’s home run was his seventh, tying Aviator Alex Williams for the entire Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League season record. The final score of the game was 12-5.

If the Whalers do make it into the playoffs they will face the Ospreys, who already clinched the first seed in the post season, for a single elimination game on Monday, August 1. If they make it past the first round there will be a three game series between the two top teams to decide the champions.

Being a Whalers fan has been tough, but it’s clear to just about everybody that the Whalers are due.

Comeback Win Closes Season for Hamptons Collegiate Baseball

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It didn’t look good for the home team on Hite Field last Friday, the Westhampton Aviators finding themselves behind the Jersey Pilots 3-0 in the first and 4-2 in the third in the 2009 Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League title game. A four-run rally in the bottom of the fourth fired up the Kaiser (Long Island) Division champs and helped them hold off the Wolff (New Jersey/Pennsylvania) Division winners, 7-5, setting off a championship celebration.

The Aviators had earned their way into the game by beating the Southampton Breakers 16-0 in a single-elimination playoff game and then out-dueling the North Fork Ospreys for the Kaiser Division crown. Against the Ospreys, the Aviators dropped game one, 7-6, but came back to win games two and three, 7-1 and 9-2, to take the best-of-three series. The Pilots meanwhile had earned their spot in getting past the Lehigh Valley Catz, 6-5, in game three of the Wolff Division series.

The ACBL’s most local entry, the Sag Harbor Whalers, the 2008 Kaiser Division winners, finished in fifth place this season, two games short of the playoffs. But not all the Whalers are heading back to school just yet, Brandon Boykin (Rutgers) earning a tryout with the Philadelphia Phillies this week.

In adding five clubs this season, and making the Kaiser Division a Long Island-only, the ACBL has found welcoming communities in Sag Harbor, Southampton, Westhampton, Mattituck, Riverhead and Center Moriches. Local league organizer Rusty Leaver expects to field six teams again next summer with play starting the first week of June and the Whalers continuing their tradition of Sunday afternoon doubleheaders in Mashashimuet Park.

In talking about the future of summertime college baseball on the East End earlier this season, Leaver was optimistic, noting, “We’re in this for the long haul. We took an unusual business step in adding five teams at once this season but it’s working. The fan-base has come along in each of our towns and we’re attracting baseball talent, on and off the field, that’s making it even more interesting for everyone involved.”

Whalers Head Home: Summer Ball Memories Give Way to College

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By Benito Vila

Good things always end too soon. And so it was with the Sag Harbor Whalers’ season in the 2009 Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League. A strong start came undone, injuries leading the team to limp into an 18-22 finish. That record left the team in fifth place, four games out of the final playoff spot.

The Whalers completed their season last Thursday, splitting a two-site doubleheader, dropping a noontime game in Riverhead to the Tomcats, 7-3, and taking the afternoon match-up in Westhampton, 5-0, over the Aviators. The afternoon game saw Whaler coach Scott June bring position players in to pitch, the regular pitching staff worn down by the make-up schedule and their availability limited by their college coaches.

Right fielder Kyle Zarotney (Central Connecticut) started and went four innings, allowing just two hits and striking out seven. Outfielder J.T. Tomes (Harvard) came on to strike out a batter in the fifth before first baseman Mike Labrozzi (Farmingdale State and Sag Harbor’s Pierson High School) relieved him.

Labrozzi, who had not pitched since the second game of the Suffolk County Class C finals in 2005, completed the shutout, setting down 14 of the 19 batters he faced. Four hits and a walk were all the Aviators could muster against Labrozzi, who used a combination of fastballs and sliders to strike out four, inducing seven fly ball outs and three groundouts.

Afterwards, Labrozzi said, “Surprisingly, I threw a lot of strikes. My slider had decent movement for not throwing one for four years. I didn’t always know exactly where it was going. I just kept throwing it and it worked out.”

Asked about the highlights of his season, Labrozzi answered, “Pitching. That and my first at-bat of the season, hitting a home run over the fence in my first at-bat in the park since high school. That was great.”

The Season As It Was

Whaler general manager Sandi Kruel, who arranged for team housing, transportation, trainers, meals and more, shared that same sentiment about that first Labrozzi at-bat. She said, “being able to watch Mike as a nine-year old, follow him through the years and know how bad he had wanted to have a fence at the park and watch his first at bat was worth a million dollars.”

In coordinating everything from workouts to haircuts and communicating with college coaches and professional scouts, Kruel describes her summer as a learning experience, noting, “Spending days with major league scouts and learning what they want and what they look for and the reality of what it takes to get to that level was very educational.”

She added, “Spending hours with this group of young men and watching them grow as players and young men was amazing. They played hard through way-too-many injuries. They made me laugh. They called me ‘mom’ and they we like my sons for eight weeks. They were a good group of kids who played hard and showed a work ethic that will help them get to the next level.”

Coach June came away from the season with a similar feeling. He felt that “Not one moment will stay with me as much as getting to know the young men. I had a great time with the players and know they all have bright futures both on and off the field.”

When pressed on who might have come away from the season high-up with the scouts, Coach June said, “Brandon Boykin (Rutgers) has the rare combination of power and speed. Stanley Fich (Stanford) has a tremendous amount of potential and it will be fun to see how he develops. Kyle Crean (Albany) is a great hitter and Ed Squeri (Dowling) can play short with anybody and the more you see him play the more you appreciate him. Kyle Zarotney has size and power. He needs more experience but he may have a future on the mound.”

For the record, Squeri led the team in hitting at .349, second in the Kaiser Division and tenth overall. Crean was third in the division at .345. Fich hit .305 and Labrozzi an even .300. Boykin batted .287 and was 14-for-14 in stolen bases. Crean led the team in RBIs with 20. Labrozzi and Fich each had 19 RBIs and also tied for the team lead in home runs at three apiece.

East Hampton grad Gardner Leaver (Rhode Island) started the season as the team’s top pitcher, but an injury limited him to a 2-0 record, 18 strikeouts and a miniscule 0.84 ERA in 21 innings. James McNamara (Anna Maria) came on to throw 41 innings, most on the club, posting a 1-3 mark despite a 1.98 ERA. Steve King (Farmingdale State, 3-2, 3.06 ERA) and Steve Faulkner (New York Tech, 3-3, 4.91 ERA) also pitched over 32 innings apiece. Patrick Shanahan (Fisher) showed some life in his pitches, striking out 36 in 28 innings, but saw things go south when he was on the mound in posting a 4.50 ERA and an 0-3 mark.

More Kruel & Playoff News

In summarizing what went into making the season a success for the players, Kruel acknowledged, “It takes a lot of work to get this off the ground and without all the local help from our host families and our local businesses, we couldn’t do it. The volunteerism that it takes is something most couldn’t imagine. Without the people that helped out like Espresso, Conca D’Oro, Dr. Petrocelli, Joe Burns and everyone who got involved, it wouldn’t happen.”

 “These kids leave their hometowns from all over the country and we as a community host them and we do it like no other. The level of baseball they play is something to see and to know that there is a real possibility that one day some of these kids are going to be in the Major Leagues is a neat thing to have witnessed.”

The Aviators took the Kaiser Division crown this week, with a 7-1 win over the North Fork Ospreys on Tuesday. Tonight they host the Wolff Division winner at 5 p.m. on Hite Field in Westhampton. The Jersey Pilots and the Lehigh Valley Catz were playing a doubleheader last night to settle who would be coming east to start the best-of-three finals.