Half Game Separates Whalers, Aviators For First Place

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The regular season title in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League is going to come down to the wire, with the Sag Harbor Whalers leading the Westhampton Aviators by just a half game as of Tuesday morning. If everything goes according to plan this week, the title could be decided on Friday, when Westhampton hosts Sag Harbor at 5 p.m. The Whalers do have one more game to be played than the Aviators this week, though, so Westhampton could need help from other teams around the league if it’s going to have a shot.

The playoffs, which are a best-of three format, are slated to begin on Monday, July 29. The top seed, or regular season champion, will host the fourth seed, while the second seed will host the third seed. The HCBL Championship Series is slated to begin Friday, August 2. All start times are to be determined.

Whalers Riding Winning Streak

Sag Harbor (22-13) was able to overtake first place from Westhampton last week thanks, in large part, to its current eight-game winning streak. The Whalers haven’t lost a game since July 7 against Southampton.

“All of these games have been different than one another,” Sag Harbor manager Brendan Monaghan said. “We won by a walk-off hit by pitch [Sunday night]. We blew out Shelter Island the other night, really because they were missing some arms.

“Seeing the transformation of a team over a season is something to see,” he added. “The fight that these guys have is great. We could be up, we could be down, but these guys keep playing till the end no matter what.”

On Sunday, Sag Harbor hosted Center Moriches and held a 1-0 lead until the sixth, when the Battlecats were able to scratch a run across to tie the game. The Whalers got things started in the bottom of the ninth, though, on a single by Adam Gauthier (Dartmouth). After a fielder’s choice put Gauthier on second base, Grant Shambley (Wake Forest) walked and then Adam Smith singled to load the bases. The next batter, Joseph DeVito (Fordham), was plunked by Center Moriches pitcher Nick Brass (Stony Brook) on the first pitch of the at-bat and Gauthier scored from third base to end the game in a 2-1 victory.

On Saturday night, the Whalers scored at least one run in every inning except the second, fourth and seventh innings in an 11-1 victory at Shelter Island. Sag Harbor belted out 16 hits and drew nine walks. J.J. Franco (Brown) and Smith each had three RBIs and Reed Bastie (Oklahoma State) threw eight strong innings in his start.

Aviators Are Playing Well

Westhampton (23-14) is slightly less hot than Sag Harbor, having won seven of its last nine games. The two losses in that stretch have both come against the North Fork Ospreys, who are battling for the fourth and final playoff spot.

“They made fewer mistakes than we did,” Westhampton manager Lou Bernardi said of North Fork. “I think they have one of the better offenses in the league. They played their ‘A’ game and swept us this week but I would still call it a very productive week on our part.”

The Aviators were able to come away with five wins last week, including two doubleheader sweeps against Shelter Island (July 15) and Center Moriches (Saturday). One of the victories included a 7-2 win at Center Moriches, which marked the eighth-straight road win for the Aviators. Kyle Raleigh (Ball State) threw seven innings and allowed two runs on seven hits to earn his third victory of the summer.

Darius Washington (Akron) has been riding a 13-game hitting streak since July 7 and has eight multiple hit games during that span. He had the game-winning hit in a 2-1 victory over Southampton on July 17.

While his team eyes a regular season title, Bernardi is hoping his team just takes it one game at a time. “We’re not looking ahead to Friday,” he said. “We just want to take it one game at a time, nine innings at a time. Whatever happens it’ll play out for itself.”

Bernardi said he’s glad that Westhampton has reached the playoffs again after missing out for the first time in team history last season. “They’ve definitely rebounded by putting together a pretty good year thus far,” he said. “Only time will tell what will happen, but if we play our type of baseball, which is to pitch well, things should be in our favor.”

Breakers End Losing Streak

Southampton (13-23) ended a five-game losing streak with a 4-0 win at home over Riverhead on Saturday. Max Almonte (Villanova) threw a five-hit shutout and needed just 103 pitches to finish the complete game. He struck out six and walked two and cut his earned run average to 1.98. Almonte has been Southampton’s most consistent starting pitcher this summer, having won three of his last four starts. Payton Cox (Texas State) sealed the win with a two-run double in the eighth inning. He finished the game 2 for 4 with three RBIs.

T.J. Pecoraro (Villanova), who joined the Breakers pitching rotation two weeks ago, pitched another great game on July 17 at Westhampton, but the Aviators spoiled his chance for a victory. On a 1-2 pitch, Cole Miller (Georgia Tech) smacked a home run to tie the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth. Mitch Montaldo (Penn) singled and was driven home with the game-winning run on a double by Darius Washington. Washington was 3 for 4. Pecoraro has allowed just three runs in 17 innings pitched since joining the team on July 10.

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