The Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League season got underway Sunday with its first games since becoming a separate league.
The Southampton Breakers, the defending league champions, defeated the Westhampton Aviators 5-4 at home while the host Sag Harbor Whalers downed the Shelter Island Bucks 7-3. The Riverhead Tomcats beat the North Fork Ospreys 5-4 in what was the only other game on the opening-day slate for the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League (HCBL), which is no longer affiliated with the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League, the league the HCBL had belonged to since 2009 as a separate division.
Additional games slated for Monday were postponed due to inclement weather.
Sag Harbor was trailing Shelter Island 3-0 heading into the seventh inning before plating five runs, as well as two in the eighth, to snag the victory. Justin Montemayor (University of Houston) hit a two-run single just inside the third-base bag to pad Sag Harbor’s lead in the eighth.
Dan Rizzie (Xavier) went 2 for 2 with a pair of walks while J.J. Franco (Brown) reached base four times on three walks and a hit by pitch. Pierson alum Brandon Kruel (C.W. Post) pitched two innings in relief and earned the victory.
“Offensively, we didn’t hit all that well, we had just three or four hits, but we capitalized on the errors that [Shelter Island] made,” Sag Harbor first-year head coach Brenden Monaghan said. “We had the opportunity to score early on, but we were struggling a little bit at the plate and our pitching really kept us in the game. The guys stuck with our approach at the plate of seeing pitches, though, and it worked out.”
Westhampton held a 3-0 lead after two innings of play, but the Breakers answered back in the bottom of the third. Jonathan Ramon (Evansville) hit an RBI double and later scored on a wild pitch to make it a 3-2 game.
Ramon struck again in the fourth with another double, which brought in two runs this time, to give Southampton a 4-3 lead. The Breakers held a 5-3 lead until the eighth when Aviator J.C. Brandmaier (Dowling) drove in a run on a single. Westhampton then had the tying run on second base in the ninth until Southampton’s Kyle Rovig (University of South Alabama) came in and struck out the side to end the game and earn the save.
Ryan McCormick (St. John’s University) settled down after the second inning for the Breakers and wound up going six innings. He struck out eight and walked three.
“It was an ugly game,” Southampton head coach Rob Cafiero said. “We had five errors, they had a bunch of errors. We were lucky to sneak that one out.”
T.J. Baxter, who is in his first year as head coach of the Aviators, was proud that his team never gave up.
“They fought the whole game,” he said. “Our bats were not exactly there after the second inning. We had a few hard-hit outs right at people. We rallied a little bit in the eighth and ninth innings, but we weren’t able to get the calls or the hits.
“Sometimes, in baseball, things don’t go your way,” he added.
Many of the teams throughout the HCBL are still incomplete, with some players still playing college ball, making flight arrangements to get to the East End, or battling injuries suffered during their college seasons. For the players who have arrived, some of them haven’t played in a few weeks and will need to take the first week of games to shake off the rust and adjust to the wooden bats and new surroundings.
“A lot of these kids that we have, a lot of them are redshirts who haven’t played since the fall, so it really is early for them,” Cafiero said. “They’re adjusting to the team, some of them are adjusting to a new part of the country, so nerves are still there, but we’ll be OK.”
Baxter said his team only snuck in two practices before Sunday, so he’s still learning a lot about his players. “The biggest thing is learning how to play together,” he said. “Really, for these kids, it’s a confidence thing.
“But I like our talent on our team,” Baxter added. “I like our attitude. Everyone is happy to be here, they want to be here and they all seem motivated, which is just great. It pumps up the coaches and it makes everyone get involved.
“When we had that rally, everyone was cheering each other on, getting up and high-fiving each other.”