The Sag Harbor Whalers played 23 innings with the Center Moriches Battlecats in two Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League playoff games last week and came out with nothing to show for it.
Sag Harbor, which won the regular season title, lost game one 3-0 at home after 13 innings on July 29, then went to Center Moriches the following day, when it lost 3-2 after 10 innings and was eliminated in the best-of-three series.
Center Moriches advanced to the HCBL Championship Series against the North Fork Ospreys, which defeated Westhampton in three games in the other semifinal series. The Ospreys wound up taking the league title after winning game three of the series 2-1 on Sunday night over the Battlecats.
“I think it was as good of baseball as it can get,” Whalers manager Brenden Monaghan said of his team’s series with Center Moriches. “Pitching obviously dominated the series. I thought it was exciting, great baseball. Some of the best I’ve seen all summer long. Just a matchup of two of the better teams in the league.”
In game one on July 29 at Mashashimuet Park, both teams didn’t have many opportunities to score. The game remained scoreless for 12 innings, until the Battlecats rallied for three runs in the top of the 13. Stefan Trosclair (LSU Eunice) broke the scoreless tie with a one-out single, then Zach Persky (Rollins) drove in two more insurance runs on a base hit.
The late-inning rally was against arguably the best reliever in the HCBL this summer, Jacob Bodner (Xavier), who not only set a new HCBL record in saves (14), but didn’t give up an earned run in 20 innings during the regular season. Teams batted just .111 against him.
Monaghan blamed the game-one loss on his team’s offense, though, which struck out 18 times and never drew a single walk.
The Whalers offensive struggles continued, somewhat, into game two at Center Moriches on July 30. Although they had their chances, the Whalers failed to score a run through the first five innings, which meant they went the first 18 innings of the playoffs without a run.
Finally, in the top of the sixth and down a run, Sag Harbor broke through. J.J. Franco (Brown) led off with a double down the third-base line, then James Clements (Georgia State) followed with a single up the middle, to put runners on first and third. Dan Rizzie (Xavier) doubled down the third-base line, which scored Franco easily to tie the game and put runners on second and third.
Justin Montemayor (Houston) followed with another base hit and Clements scored to put the Whalers up 2-1. That looked like it would be enough for Whalers starting pitcher Keenan Kolinsky (Vanderbilt), who wound up pitching nine innings and striking out six.
Center Moriches, though, found a break in the bottom of the sixth. With one out and Trosclair on second base, Nick Nunziato (New Haven), who homered earlier in the game, hit a grounder to Sag Harbor shortstop Joseph DeVito (Fordham). Trosclair tried advancing to third base, but DeVito threw the ball to the third baseman, Montemayor, who appeared to tag Trosclair out, but the umpire called him safe.
Montemayor and DeVito both had words with the umpire, then Monaghan came on to the field to get an explanation. “He said [Montemayor] tagged him too high,” Monaghan said. “It’s my opinion over his, but even the base runner thought he was out. Everyone knew he was out. Even if he did tag him too high, he shouldn’t have been going and it’s almost like he should have been out just for that. It came back to bite us.”
Trosclair scored the tying run when the next batter hit into a fielder’s choice.
The Battlecats had a good shot to win the game in the bottom of the ninth. With the bases loaded and one out, Dan Roland (St. John’s) hit a line drive to right field. John Palladino (Catholic) made the catch then made a one-hop throw to home plate, where catcher Adam Gauthier (Dartmouth) tagged out Nunziato trying to score the game-winning run on the sacrifice fly.
“It was one of those situations where we had the infield in and the outfield in,” Monaghan explained “We had them positioned well, and I think we were fortunate enough that the ball was hit on a line. The base runner didn’t have all that much time to get back to the bag. John caught the ball flat-footed because the ball was hit hard but he made the one-hop throw to get him, and they got him by two or three steps.”
Only Center Moriches would have the final word. The Battlecats loaded the bases against reliever Deilyn Guzman (Molloy), who was then replaced by Gino Basso (Georgetown). With the infield and outfield in, Persky singled through the left side of the infield, scoring Jacob Midkiff (Presbyterian) with the winning run.
Overall it was a successful season for the Whalers, who staved off the Westhampton Aviators for the regular-season title. Monaghan, who was in his second season managing the team, said it is unlikely he will return next season, since he just took a recruiting job at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. He said he enjoyed himself and his players this summer.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” Monaghan said. “I told [the players] after the game that I hold the regular season title in higher regard because it’s over a body of work of over 40 games and I think that holds more weight than a three-game set.
“To win a league title, that says a lot about our team,” he continued. “We had a group of guys coming in from different schools, different areas of the country, different levels, and they came together as good as possible.”