They were like little kids — well, big kids, actually — playing in a playground, Brooklyn’s playground.
Coney Island is just that, one big playground that includes MCU Park, the beautiful home of the Brooklyn Cyclones, the New York Mets’ minor-league affiliate.
With rides, neon lights and beachfront providing a scenic background, MCU Park was home to the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League All-Star Game on Monday night. Several stars shined under a nearly full moon, but perhaps none did so as much for the East as North Fork Ospreys first baseman Matt Carroll. Carroll drove in three runs from two hits to lead the East to a 5-4 comeback victory, avenging last year’s loss to the West. Carroll shared the game’s most valuable player honor with West second baseman Robert Bernardo, who reached base four times. Bernardo, a member of the Jersey Pilots, had two hits, stole three bases, walked and was hit by a pitch.
The result will give the Hampton Division representative the home-field advantage in the league championship game.
“Home-field advantage is a big deal when it gets to that part of the season,” Carroll said, “and hopefully it will work out for our team and we’ll be in that championship game with the home-field advantage.”
Brian Hansen, the Ospreys’ co-coach who managed the East team, seemed to enjoy the experience as much as any of his players. His 11-year-old son, Luke, got an up close and personal experience, handing the lineup card to the umpire before the game.
“That’s pretty good for a small-town guy, not bad,” Hansen, a big Mets fan, said after the game. “I’m on top of the world right now.”
Both the defending league champion Ospreys and the Riverhead Tomcats were well represented in the game. Among those in the East starting lineup were Ospreys second baseman Ryan Brockett, Ospreys left fielder Ryan Williams, Tomcats designated hitter Frank Schwindel, Tomcats third baseman Eric Schlitter and Carroll. Ospreys pitcher Milan Mantle and Tomcats pitcher Brett Schreiber worked an inning each. Two other Tomcats, left fielder Eric Romano and pinch hitter Zach Mathieu, also played.
“It was a good experience, all the best players … and it was a pretty good game,” said Schwindel.
The East twice bounced back from deficits, taking the lead for good in the seventh inning when it made a big move, striking for three runs and a 5-3 lead. Ryan Kresky and Stuart Turner led off with walks, and then both scored on Carroll’s single. Then three West fielders converged on Kevin Heller’s fly ball hit to shallow right field. The ball fell to the ground and Carroll scooted home.
The West pulled a run back later in the inning, courtesy of Ryan Quinn’s bloop single, which brought in Henry Knabe, who had led off with a single.
It was the West that struck first in the bottom half of the inning when a single by Bernardo and a double that Robert Fargnoli whacked off the left-field wall brought in the game’s first run.
The West doubled that lead in the second. Dan Johnson and Dan Klem both squeezed singles through the middle of the infield, the later scoring the run. An inning-ending 6-4-3 double play averted further damage, though.
But the East drew even at 2-2 in the third. Schlitter sprayed a single to center field and then scored on Ray Ortega’s double. Later, Ortega was brought home when Carroll took an inside 3-2 pitch to right field for a single. Both of Carroll’s hits came with two outs and two strikes on him.
“He’s a great clutch hitter,” said Hansen.
The West pulled ahead again, though, in the bottom of the third. Bernardo led off with a walk before stealing second base and then third. He tried to score on a bouncer hit by Fargnoli, but was thrown out at home by the shortstop. Fargnoli, however, later scored himself courtesy of Scott Glozzy’s lined single, making it 3-2.
The game doesn’t count in the standings, but both teams were playing to win.
“Every time you go out you want to try to win the game, so winning here against the best from the other [division], it felt good,” said Mathieu.
Hansen liked the way the East players, who are accustomed to playing against each other in regular-season games, pulled together for one night. He knew it wouldn’t last for long, though.
“We’re rivals tomorrow,” Hansen said. “That’s the way it goes.”