The magic had to end sometime.
As the announcer for the Kutztown Rockies proclaimed the team back to back to back champions of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League, the Hampton Whalers, who lost the game, 8-2, strolled into the outfield of Briedegam Field for a post-game huddle.
When the huddle broke, not a single Whaler was hanging his head and neither was their coach, manager Julio Vega.
“I told to them to keep their heads up,” said the manager. “It was no fluke that we were there.”
The Whalers finished the summer season on a tear that landed in the league championship. They won the Kaiser Divison in a two game sweep over the New York Metro Cadets in dramatic fashion, and though they didn’t emerge victorious last Saturday night, they had an incredible season.
The game got off to a good start for Whalers. The jumped out in the top of the first inning with three straight hits, including and RBI-double by catcher Chris Walker. Third baseman Mark Houck came through with a beautiful sacrifice bunt to score Alan Parks and put the team ahead, 2-0. That however would be the last run of the night for the Whalers.
Right-hander Andrew Guarassi started on the mound for the Whalers and pitched five innings and gave up four runs on ten hits. The Whalers’ defense seemed a little tense and committed four early errors that ultimately gave the home team the lead. Vega said the score should have still been 2-0 in their favor going into the sixth.
“We gave up four runs that shouldn’t even have been runs,” he said. “ It was the first game all year where our defense let us down. It could have been nerves or just bad decisions on ground balls, and that costs you.”
The Rockies’ defense on the other hand was solid. Every time a Whaler managed to put a ball in play, the Rockies’ infield gobbled it up and made the throws.
Pat Holloway came in in the sixth inning for the Whalers and held the Rockies at bay. But in the eighth inning Matt Smith came in and gave up four more runs, giving the Rockies an 8-2 advantage going into the last inning and ultimately giving them their third straight championship.
Vega didn’t try and sugar-coat the loss.
“We didn’t play very well, it was one of those games where you have to come out and play really good to win,” he said. “You can’t come out and make mistakes. We got the lead and then just kind of sat back and waited for bad things to happen, and they did.”
A victory would have been sweet, but Vega said just the opportunity was a gift. For a first year team to make it all the way to the championship game, Vega said was definitely something to smile about. The most important thing however in his eyes, was that the players never gave up, not once, during the entire season, even after starting out 0-6.
“I was proud of these guys,” said Vega. “They battled back from nowhere. It was a great experience for them great experience for me. It’s really all about the players and making them better.”
As for next year, Vega said he would love to come back and coach, but he knows it’s not up to him. Hampton Whalers president Rusty Leaver has plan for three other teams and Vega hopes to be involved with one of them. If not, he said this summer in Sag Harbor would certainly be something he’d always remember.
“Everywhere you play you want to play to win and you want to play to win a championship,” he said. “But having it out here, in the community of Sag Harbor, it was amazing.”