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.”