OSPREYS 4, TOMCATS 1
Dan Kerr didn’t have grand plans for his final at-bat of the game. With runners on first and third, the North Fork Ospreys batter was merely looking to make good contact for a fly ball that would bring in a run.
The first two pitches from Riverhead Tomcats reliever Mike Trionfo were balls that weren’t close to the strike zone. It was a favorable hitter’s count.
The third pitch was more to Kerr’s liking, and he attacked it, driving the ball high into the cool night air. “It just kind of kept going,” he said.
And going, and going.
The ball landed over the right-center field fence for a three-run shot that broke a 1-1 tie in the eighth inning, lifting the Ospreys to a 4-1 victory in the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League game on Friday night.
The result at Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic left both teams with 2-2 records.
In a tight game like this, a three-run homer comes in might handy.
“Earl Weaver baseball,” North Fork coach Bill Ianniciello said in reference to the former Baltimore Orioles manager who preached winning by the long ball. “Dan got a good count, got a chance to drive the ball, and put a good swing on it.”
In a game that was razor close, Kerr’s first home run of the season was the difference. After Eric Romano doubled and Ryan Solberg drew a walk, Kerr connected on his blast.
“Our coach said in his postgame speech, ‘One pitch really lost us the game, that three-run home run,’ ” said the Tomcats’ speedy center fielder, Josh Smith, who went 3 for 6 with a double in the leadoff spot.
The Ospreys took a 1-0 lead in the third. Dillon Bryant led off with a double and advanced to third base on Romano’s flyout to right field. The next batter, Robert Paller, hit a bouncer to first baseman Colin McEnery, and Bryant broke for home plate. McEnery fired the ball to catcher Seby Zavala, but it was not in time to prevent the run from scoring.
The Tomcats drew even in the sixth. Zavala doubled off the left-field fence. One out later, Joe Smith singled him home.
Vaughn Hayward, the Ospreys’ starting pitcher, turned in a quality performance. He pitched five scoreless innings during which he allowed three hits.
It was a fine all-around game for the Ospreys, who did not make an error and flashed some fancy glove work. The flashiest play of all was provided by Ospreys shortstop Alex Perez in the second. With a runner on first base, Perez not only did well to hustle to his left and get his glove on a grounder by McEnery, but in almost the same motion he shoveled the ball with his glove hand to second baseman Vinny Citro for the forceout.
Citro himself turned in a fine defensive play an inning later. With a runner on third, Citro saved a run by diving to his right to snag a line drive hit by Alex Sole.
“Everybody, top to bottom, every position in the field, all the pitchers, everything was great today,” said Kerr.
Both teams produced seven hits apiece, but the Tomcats hit 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position, leaving 10 runners on base.
“We just didn’t capitalize on our opportunities,” Josh Smith said. “That’s how it goes.”
Still, the Tomcats cannot complain about the start to their season. In five games — the Tomcats and the Ospreys played the first 12 innings of a suspended game that remains to be completed — Riverhead has given up 15 runs, 10 of which were earned.
“Our pitching has been pretty good,” Riverhead coach Randy Caden said. “The bottom line is we’re in every game, which you can’t complain about, and the team that makes the fewest mistakes is going to win in this type of league.”
Ianniciello liked a number of things about the way the Ospreys played, not the least of which was their timely hitting. But there was one thing he liked best of all.
“The W at the end,” he said. “That’s what we’re looking for right now.”