Aviators Have Sights Set On HCBL Finals After Falling Short Last Season

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The Westhampton Aviators of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League endured plenty of ups and downs last summer. The team had to replace its manager halfway through the season, but eventually qualified for the postseason after winning a share of the regular-season title with the Sag Harbor Whalers. The Aviators, though, went on to lose a three-game series to the North Fork Ospreys and were eliminated from the playoffs.

A bright spot for the team was that Westhampton went 11-6 under Lou Bernardi, who replaced T.J. Baxter as manager in early July. Bernardi is back at the helm this summer.

“We want to be back in the playoffs and get one step further than we were last year,” he said.

The Aviators will have a much different look this time around, being that there is only one former player returning—catcher Dan Parisi (senior, Dowling). Bernardi said he is excited to have a familiar face back behind the plate.

“He contributed offensively and defensively last year for us and he’s had a great year at Dowling, so we’re hoping he can keep that going for us,” he said.

Joining Parisi on the Aviator roster this season will be Zander Anderson, a 6-foot-3-inch, 210-pound junior infielder from Dallas, Texas. Connor Hawthorne (sophomore, University of South Alabama) will also make up what should be a strong infield for Westhampton while Tanner Kichler of St. Mary’s College should slide in as the team’s top starting pitcher. Kichler was drafted in the 45th round by the Chicago Cubs back in 2011. Matt LaRocca will add some local flavor, being a 2011 graduate of Ward Melville High School.

“Our roster is very diverse. We have a good mix,” Bernardi said. “I’m excited to have the opportunity to work with some of the top Division I programs from across the country.

“I think we’ll be a well-rounded team,” he added. “Pitching and defense will always be mainstays and help us win the most games. Good pitching, good defense and timely hitting will lead us to our success.”

Westhampton will begin its season on Sunday, June 1, at Montauk. First pitch is slated for 5 p.m.

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