Following a 5-4 loss in the second game of a doubleheader on June 18 at Riverhead—a game in which they were leading 4-0 at one point—Westhampton Aviators manager T.J. Baxter met with his team, which was 4-8 at the time, and told his players they could either pack it in for the season or start to win games.
The Aviators chose the latter, and have since won four consecutive games.
“They continue to play hard, and now we’re getting the breaks that we hadn’t been getting earlier,” Baxter said. “I think the talk we had woke everyone up, and I think the loss we had to Riverhead was a good loss—you’ll very rarely hear me say that a loss was a good loss, but it was good, because it showed the players that we’re not just going to roll through this league and win every game. The day after, we started rattling off four wins in a row.”
All four of the victories, oddly enough, were by scores of 3-2. Westhampton (8-8) defeated Southampton at home on Thursday, June 20, then swept nationally ranked Shelter Island, which was in first place, in a doubleheader at home on Saturday. The Aviators kept things rolling with a victory at Sag Harbor on Sunday.
Fueling the team’s recent string of victories, Baxter said, has been solid starting pitching and an even better relief corps out of the bullpen. Westhampton has also hit better with runners in scoring position.
In the second game of the doubleheader, with Shelter Island on Saturday, the Aviators eked out just two hits throughout the entire game but still found a way to win. With the game tied at 1-1 with one out in the bottom of the sixth, J.C. Brandmaier (Dowling) hit a solo home run to put the Aviators up, 2-1. Jim Ploeger (Arkansas-Pine Bluff) got the final five outs of the game to earn the victory out of the bullpen.
“We were disciplined enough where if we weren’t going to get a hit, we can still draw a walk or lay down a bunt,” Baxter said. “We’ve also gotten better in our situational hitting. But there’s a little bit of luck involved as well.
“But I think we’re going to continue to roll. We’ve been playing hard since day one, and we’re just going to take it game by game and not get ahead of ourselves.”
Sag Harbor Whalers/ Southampton BreakersBoth the Whalers and Breakers went 2-3 last week to stay close to .500. The Breakers are 8-7, while the Whalers are 8-9.
Southampton swept a doubleheader at Center Moriches on Saturday. Both games were final scores of 5-3. The Breakers scored three runs to take the lead in the bottom of the sixth in game one. Geraldo Gonzalez (Lousiana State-Eunice) pitched four innings of shutout ball in relief of starter Ryan Spahr (Wagner) to get the victory.
In game two of the doubleheader, Southampton held a lead the entire game. The Battlecats scored two runs in the fifth to make things interesting, but Southampton answered right back with two runs of their own in the sixth.
David Leiderman (Hofstra) went 4 for 4 with an RBI and two runs scored to lead the Breakers. Kyle Rovig (South Alabama) pitched five strong innings to get the win.