Aviators Still In First Place At Season’s Halfway Point

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The Westhampton Aviators still sit atop the Hampton Division standings of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League at the halfway point of the season after going 5-2 last week, though their lead over North Fork only stands at one game following a 2-0 home loss to the Ospreys last Thursday, July 7.

After losing 9-2 at Southampton on July 4, Westhampton (17-12) rattled off three consecutive wins, which included a sweep of a doubleheader at Riverhead on July 5 and a 5-1 win at Sag Harbor the following day. After the loss to North Fork, the Aviators responded with a 2-0 victory over Sag Harbor at home on Saturday, July 9, and a 6-2 win over Southampton again at home the following day.

Westhampton head coach Jeff Quiros said he’s excited about how his team is playing in recent weeks and remains confident that his squad will distance itself from the rest of the pack in the second half of the season, which started on Tuesday.

“We’re starting to click,” he said. “The lineup is coming together and part of that is because of our leadoff guy Nick Camastro. He’s got a good approach at the plate right now and he’s letting guys know what’s coming. He’s our table-setter and he’s hitting the ball hard, even if it’s an out.”

Camastro (sophomore, Manhattan) had a two-run home run in the win over Southampton on Sunday.

Quiros said while his team’s offense has been coming around, the starting pitching has carried the team throughout the season. While he did give a lot of credit to starting pitchers Taylor Black (freshman, Texas State), Joe Lombardo (junior, Duquesne) and Blake Bagley (freshman, Texas State), Quiros said starting catcher Ray Ortega (sophomore, Manhattan) also deserves praise for keeping the hurlers focused on the mound.

“The stuff that he does for the team doesn’t necessarily show up in the box score, but he’s one of the best catcher’s I’ve ever coached,” he said. “Pitchers love throwing to him, umpires love working behind him and he’s just so talented. He’s one of the reasons why our pitching has been so successful this season.”

Quiros was hoping on Monday that his team would appear in Perfect Game’s collegiate summer rankings, which come out every Tuesday. He’ll have to wait at least another week as the Aviators did not make the top 25 or receive consideration. The Jersey Pilots—which play in the Wolff Division and are 15-10 this summer—were the only team from the ACBL to receive consideration. The Hyannis Harbor Hawks of the Cape Cod League were the top-ranked team.

“I truly believe we’re the best non-Cape League team out there,” he said.

As the second half of the season begins this week, Kevin Heller (junior, Amherst) is arguably the league’s best hitter; he leads the league in hits (36), runs scored (26), home runs (9) and is second in stolen bases (13). He also has 10 doubles and an impressive .721 slugging percentage.

Relief pitcher Kevin Lee (freshman, Rhode Island) leads the league in appearances (17) while fellow reliever Ray Angelucci (sophomore, Suffolk County Community College) leads the league in ERA (0.61). Westhampton closer Brandon Kuter (sophomore, George Mason) leads the league in saves with eight.

East All-Stars Defeat West

The East All-Stars squeaked past the West All-Stars 5-4 on Monday night at MCU Park—the home of the Brooklyn Cyclones, the New York Mets single-A minor league team.

The East All-Stars’ lineup included players from both the Hampton Division and the Long Island Collegians of the Kaiser Division. The West All-Stars featured players from the Wolff Division, plus players from the New York Atlantics and Staten Island Tide of the Kaiser Division.

Taylor Black, Brandon Kuter, Ray Ortega and Kevin Heller were the four Aviators chosen to the East team, while Nick Camastro made it as an alternate. Ortega drove in a run in the third inning with a double while Black pitched a one-two-three fourth inning. Kuter notched the save.

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