Baxter, Monaghan Bond Leads To Competitve Rivlary Between Two Teams

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Sag Harbor Whalers manager Brenden Monaghan and Westhampton Aviators manager T.J. Baxter have quite a bit in common. They’re both from New Jersey and both played throughout the Baltimore Orioles minor league system from 2008-2010.

Baxter, after being hired to be the Aviators skipper in January, found out just a few weeks later that Monaghan would be leading the Whalers. “I called him up and told him it was going to be a tough summer,” Baxter said, with a chuckle.

All joking aside, when the Aviators and Whalers meet up this season, it’s quite a show. After last week’s games, Westhampton leads the season series, 3-2, with three of the five games being decided by just a run. The other two games were decided by three runs.

Most recently, Westhampton won, 4-3, at home on Thursday, June 27, but Sag Harbor bounced back with a 6-3 victory at home on Sunday. Both teams are 10-10 on the season, as of Monday morning.

“Every time we’ve played each other, it’s back and forth,” Monaghan said about facing his good friend Baxter. “We’re getting our managerial skills down pat against one another. We had some more competitive games against each other this past week. It’s been fun for sure.”

In the earlier game of the week on June 27, the Whalers took a 3-2 lead in the fifth inning, but the Aviators responded in the sixth. After Ryan Spaulding (Ball State) doubled, J.C. Brandmeier (Dowling) belted a two-run home run to give Westhampton the 4-3 lead and eventual win.

Westhampton used its crafty bullpen in the victory. Chas Lacko (Long Island University) started the game and pitched five strong innings, allowing just one earned run. Then four pitchers came in from the pen and allowed just one hit in four innings. Preston Brown (Mississippi State) pitched a scoreless ninth inning to earn the save.

“Obviously, our bullpen kept us in it and we had some timely situational hitting,” Baxter said.

In the latest matchup between the Aviators and Whalers on Sunday, Westhampton starting pitcher Kyle Raleigh (Ball State) struggled with his location, allowing four walks and also hit a batter in the opening inning. Sag Harbor took advantage scoring four runs right out of the gates.

The Aviators got within two runs of the Whalers in the third and six innings, but Sag Harbor held on for the win. Scott Hagan went for 2 for 5 with a home run, his second of the week, and two RBIs for the Whalers while Nick Collucci (Boston College) went 1 for 4 with three RBIs.

“It wasn’t our best day offensively,” Monaghan said. “We drew some walks, though, and had some competitive at bats, which I’ll take any time. And our pitching staff did an outstanding job.”

Injuries Lead To Losses For BreakersTwo key starting pitchers—Max Almonte (Villanova) and Ryan McCormick (St. John’s)—both went down with injuries early last week and it led to a rough string of games for the Southampton Breakers, who went 1-5 last week. McCormick, who is 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA this summer, has some shoulder tendinitis and Breakers head coach Rob Cafiero is unsure when or if McCormick will take to the mound again this season.

Southampton’s tough week came to a head on Friday when it was swept in a doubleheader at Shelter Island. Almonte returned on Saturday though and pitched the first game of a doubleheader at North Fork. He hurled a complete game, allowing just three runs in seven innings in an 8-4 victory for the Breakers.

Although his team is currently struggling at 9-12, Cafiero said it’s a long season and he isn’t worried about his team not returning to the playoffs. “The way that the season has gone, it seems everything is going to be close come the last week or two,” he said. “I don’t think last week hurt our chances of making the playoffs.”

For more information on the HCBL, visit hamptonsbaseball.org.

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