The Riverhead Tomcats will have a new home for the 2014 season — Veterans Field at the Enterprise Park at Calverton complex. (more…)
The Riverhead Tomcats will have a new home for the 2014 season — Veterans Field at the Enterprise Park at Calverton complex. (more…)
At times during the 2013 season, it seemed almost unfair for any batter who stepped up to plate against Riverhead’s towering left-hander, Matt Crohan.
For two months, he mowed through one lineup after another. He posted a streak of 44 straight scoreless innings and threw a pair of no-hitters. His magnificent season earned him the Carl Yastrzemski Award as the top baseball player in Suffolk County.
He became the first Riverhead player to ever win the award. He was also the League IV Most Valuable Player and was Newsday’s Long Island Player of the Year.
Crohan now attends Winthrop University, where he’ll continue his baseball career this spring.
Editor’s note: We’re counting down the top 10 sports stories of 2013. Check back every day until Jan. 1 to follow along.
The Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League will expand to the east this season when it welcomes its newest franchise into the league — the Montauk Mustangs.
Montauk will join North Fork, Riverhead, Westhampton, Southampton, Sag Harbor and Shelter Island when the league continues play in 2014. The western most team, Center Moriches, will not return to the league.
“Establishing a team in Montauk has been on the league’s radar even from the very start, and we’re so pleased that it has come to fruition,” HCBL President Brett Mauser said in a press release. “We look forward to bringing free family entertainment to Montauk each summer in the form of high-caliber college baseball action, and thank those in the community and with the school district for pledging their support. In addition, none of this would be possible without our major sponsors – Hampton Jitney, Emil Norsic & Son, and Bridgehampton National Bank — all of whose backing is truly indispensable.”
The squad’s nickname is a salute to the hamlet’s prep school teams, according to the press release. The Mustangs will be headed by general manager Robert Aspenleiter, a Montauk resident, and will play their home games at the Montauk Public School.
The Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League is one of 12 summer leagues sanctioned by Major League Baseball, and since its inception in 2008, more than 60 alumni have continued their careers at the professional level. The 2014 season will feature 140 regular-season games across the region leading up to the playoffs, which culminate with the best-of-three HCBL championship series in the first week of August, the league said.
When the Boys of Summer League 18-and-under National Division championship game ended, the losing manager was smiling. And it wasn’t a feigned or a forced smile on John Tardif’s face. In light of all the positives associated with his Mattituck Ospreys, Tardif couldn’t help but smile.
“It was a genuine smile because of the way these kids battled all the way through,” he said.
Even if the Ospreys didn’t feel good about the result of the league final — a 5-3 defeat to the North Shore Cougars on Monday night at Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic — they had to appreciate all they accomplished this summer. Playing in the competitive 16-team league for the first time with one of the younger squads, the Ospreys finished the regular season in first place, won three of four playoff games, and reached the league final with a group of players who are all expected to return next summer.
Now that’s quite a lot to feel good about.
“The best summer I’ve had by far, with the best kids,” said Marcos Perivolaris, who played shortstop and provided some vital relief pitching for the Ospreys on Monday night. “We had a great time and we won, so that was definitely a positive. We’ve seen the competition and we played the best pretty much, and we’re just going to come back next year and do the same thing.”
In sharp contrast to the Ospreys, Monday night’s game marked the end of the road in more ways than one for the Cougars. Eleven of North Shore’s 13 players are moving on to play college baseball.
“This is kind of bittersweet,” said the team’s manager, Matt Piccolo.
Before heading off to college, though, the Cougars took care of some final business. Cougars pitcher Cody McPartland gave his side a 2-0 lead before he threw his first pitch; he lined a two-run single in the top of the first inning.
That lead expanded to 5-0 in the fifth. With two outs and the bases loaded, Tyler Piccolo, the manager’s son, cleared the bases by poking a double to right field. He was thrown out at third base, trying to stretch the hit into a triple.
“They came through,” Matt Piccolo said. “Top to bottom, anybody that comes to bat, I know somebody’s going to come up with a big hit. It’s that comfortable. And it goes for my defense, too. Anybody I throw on the mound, I know he’s going to get the job done.”
That includes McPartland, a right-hander who will play for Dowling College. He gave the Ospreys a tough time through the first five innings. The Ospreys did make more contact off McPartland’s pitches over the final two innings when they produced five of their eight hits.
After Mattituck’s Jon Dwyer lined a run-scoring single to make it a two-run game in the seventh, McPartland made way for Anthony Telesca, who recorded a strikeout for the game’s final out with two runners on base.
“It’s a great team,” said a happy McPartland, who struck out seven, walked one and allowed one earned run. “I love this team. I’d pick them over anyone.”
Perivolaris started the game at shortstop, but found himself on the pitching mound sooner than anyone could have expected. Five pitches into the game, after Ryan Finger hit the first batter, Travis Bell, and issued a four-pitch walk to Mike Donadio, Tardif made the pitching change, handing the ball over to Perivolaris.
“We have the arms,” Tardif said. “All of our pitchers understand and they don’t take it personal that somebody else can fill in. Not every night is going to be your night.”
Perivolaris did a commendable job, allowing three hits over four and a third innings. He was charged with two runs.
Like his pitching counterpart, Perivolaris also delivered a two-run hit, a two-out double to the left-center-field gap in the sixth.
Two Shoreham-Wading River High School players played for the Ospreys, Jack Massa and Chris Moran. Massa contributed an infield single and Moran socked a double.
“We’re going to keep going forward,” Perivolaris said. “They’re a very solid team. They have great hitters in that lineup, and great pitching, too, so it was nice to see that we definitely hung in there and had a chance to win.”
After the game, the happy Cougars, many of whom played together since they were in Little League, posed for team photos with the championship trophy on the pitcher’s mound. One last snapshot of a baseball summer to remember.
“As a coach, I consider these kids extended family,” Matt Piccolo said. “They’re my kids. I couldn’t be any prouder.”
On a night when a surreal, low-lying fog formed artful shapes over the outfield, the Ospreys’ dream summer reached an end. But it was a good summer for them. They posted an overall record of 18-5-2, outscoring their opponents by 90-44. Tardif, who was assisted by his son Brian, a former Mattituck High School and C. W. Post College pitcher, said the team achieved “much more” than he could have expected.
“The kids took a huge step forward,” he said. “These kids are now playing at a high level that they believe they can consistently play at.”
All the more reason to smile.
Joe Tardif’s glove, Matt Stepnoski’s bat and Cameron Burt’s right arm.
All three factored prominently Friday as the Mattituck Ospreys advanced to the Boys of Summer Baseball League 18-and-under National Division championship game with a thrilling 1-0 semifinal victory over the Massapequa Cyclones.
It was a defensive play more than anything else that this game will be remembered for. The Ospreys’ swift center fielder, Joe Tardif, may have saved the game — and the season — for his team with his tremendous running catch for the game’s penultimate out.
With the Cyclones trailing with one out in the top of the seventh inning at Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic, Matt Diesel drove a hard-struck fly toward the outfield. To some it may have looked like extra bases, but not to Tardif, who said he read the ball well off the bat before making the catch at full speed about a step away from the center-field fence.
“I’ve never seen anyone make a better catch in my entire life,” said Burt, the Ospreys’ pitcher, who went the full seven innings for a six-hit shutout and 10 strikeouts. He did not issue a walk, and hit one batter.
“We say that when the ball is smoked to center field, you can start coming in if there’s two outs because that’s what Joe does,” said Ospreys manager John Tardif, who is Joe’s father. “That’s why he’s out there.”
Joe Tardif, who rated the catch as “probably” the best he has ever made, said he felt sure he would get to the ball; his only concern was he wasn’t quite sure where the fence was. “I didn’t know where the fence was until I turned around and I hit it,” he said.
The next batter flied out, and the top-seeded Ospreys bought themselves a ticket to Monday’s championship game against either the North Shore Cougars or the Long Island Titans Gold in Peconic.
The Ospreys, who are in their first year in the league, finished the regular season in first place, and may have taken teams from larger towns by surprise. John Tardif called the league “the top high school prospect league on Long Island.”
With 10 players from Mattituck, Cutchogue and Southold, two from Shoreham-Wading River (Jack Massa and Chris Moran) and two from Westhampton, the Ospreys are what their manager referred to as a “true community team.”
And they sure can play.
Their semifinal opponent was hardly a slouch. The Cyclones, with players from Massapequa High School’s recent Nassau County Class AA champion team, were tough. A half-dozen or so of them are headed to college baseball in a couple of weeks.
Among the more impressive Cyclones was their pitcher, Rob Fitzpatrick. Over six innings, the left-handed sidearmer limited the Ospreys to three hits. He had seven strikeouts with one walk.
“Definitely a tough pitcher to hit,” Stepnoski said. “He’s coming in sidearmed with a low, tailing fastball. It was hard to see and hard to catch up to.”
But Stepnoski eventually did catch up to a two-out, two-strike fastball from Fitzpatrick in the sixth, socking a double to the center-field fence and scoring Tardif from second base. Tardif had reached base on the game’s only error.
“He had me on my heels and just put a fastball up there, tried to blow it past me, and I got it,” said Stepnoski, who has batted anywhere from ninth to fourth in the batting order this summer, but was in the cleanup spot on Friday.
The Cyclones had put runners on second and third in three innings, only to come away empty-handed each time as Burt got out of trouble. He escaped the first inning with a groundout that stranded two runners, was directly involved in a rare 1-1-5 double play to end the fourth, and produced a huge strikeout to finish the fifth with two runners in scoring position.
“You can’t forget Cameron Burt,” Stepnoski said. “He threw an amazing game.”
Defense has been the Ospreys’ strength, and that Tardif catch was a genuine web gem. But as his manager and father will tell you, more than speed was involved in that play.
“He’s fast, but he’s field fast,” John Tardif said. “Some guys are fast from point A to B, but he reads the ball instantly, and that’s the key. If you hesitate at all on that ball, I don’t care how fast you are, you’re not catching it. He’s been doing that all season long for us, as have all the rest of our players. This is a defensive team, the likes of which I haven’t seen. … For people who love defense, this is a fun team to watch.”
HCBL FINALS, GAME 3 | OSPREYS 2, BATTLECATS 1
The conclusion to the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League’s inaugural season was nothing less than fantastic for the North Fork Ospreys. At the same time, it was fantastic in another sense — as in remarkable.
Who would have believed that a team that started the season by losing eight of its first 10 games could rise to the top? Who would have believed that a team that spent some time in last place would pull itself above all the others?
Well, the Ospreys did.
While the Ospreys may have been true believers in themselves, the rest of the league received plenty of convincing Sunday night when the North Fork club captured the first HCBL championship in the decisive third game of the league finals. Gloves and caps flew in the air after Ospreys center fielder Nick Heath caught a fly ball for the final out in a thrilling 2-1 triumph over the Center Moriches Battlecats. Moments later, the Ospreys were piling on top of each other in front of the pitchers’ mound at Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic.
“I threw my glove in the air and I tackled [relief pitcher David] Deliz on the mound,” Ospreys third baseman Ryan Burns said. “The next thing I know is I was getting crushed on the mound and getting dirt rubbed in my face. I loved it. Dirt never tasted so sweet.”
It is the second league title in four years for the Ospreys, who were the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League champions in 2010.
It was high drama as the Ospreys snapped a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the eighth inning. With two outs, Heath came through with an infield single that second baseman Stefan Trosclair couldn’t barehand. After the fleet-footed Heath stole second base, Austin Miller rapped a double to left field, bringing Heath home with the go-ahead run.
For his efforts, Heath was named the championship series most valuable player. He had a .455 batting average, scored five runs, drove in two runs and stole three bases.
The Battlecats made the Ospreys uneasy in the ninth, though. Mike Roehrig drew a one-out walk before advancing to third base on a wild pitch and a passed ball. But Deliz struck out Trosclair and then got Zach Persky to fly out to Heath, ending the game and starting the celebrations as Queen’s “We Are the Champions” played over the sound system.
After the game, the league president, Brett Mauser, presented the championship trophy to Ospreys general manager Jeff Standish, who in turn passed it over to his jubilant players. They raised it high in the air for all to see.
“It’s just a great success,” Miller said. “… This is what we came here to do.”
That included winning two playoff series in six pressure-packed games.
“The pitchers really competed in the tough spots, and we made the key plays when we had to and got the critical hits we needed,” Ospreys manager Bill Ianniciello said. “It wasn’t one thing. It was a little bit of everything.”
The Ospreys, who finished the regular season in third place, came a long way. They played like champions over the past few weeks, winning 15 of their last 18 games.
“We were resilient,” Burns said. “We never gave up, and that is a great story, I guess. You can’t write that.”
The Ospreys wrote their own script, turning themselves into the league’s hottest team at the right time.
“At the beginning of the year, everyone was like, ‘You guys are horrible,’ and I’m like, ‘No, we’re fine,’ ” shortstop Eric Solberg said. “We started winning games and everything clicked together.”
As they did Sunday.
The Ospreys had the first break of the game. Heath socked a double to lead off the first. A wild pitch and an errant throw on the same play allowed him to trot home for a 1-0 lead.
It wasn’t until the eighth when the Battlecats drew even. A Persky hit and walks by Nick Nunziato and Rob Moore loaded the bases for Matt Hinchy (3 for 4), who singled to tie it at 1-1.
The Battlecats were denied further runs thanks to a sensational play by Solberg. Charles Galiano ripped a grounder back up the middle, and Solberg made a great diving stop before stepping on second base and firing to first baseman Mike Hayden for a double play to end that half of the inning. Solberg said it was the greatest play he ever made in his baseball career.
“That’s a lifetime play for a kid like that,” Ianniciello said. “You can’t make a better play in a more important spot.”
The Ospreys had a tough task batting against Battlecats pitcher Mike O’Reilly, a former Shoreham-Wading River High School star who plays for Flagler College (Fla.). O’Reilly recorded eight strikeouts, giving up five hits and one walk over seven innings.
O’Reilly didn’t factor in the decision, and neither did the Ospreys’ starting pitcher, David Jesch. Jesch also went seven innings, with nine strikeouts and one walk. He scattered eight hits.
Deliz got the win, striking out three in one and two-third innings.
And so the great turnaround brought about the ending the Ospreys were looking for.
“We knew it was going to be a long summer and anything can happen, so we just never quit,” Heath said. “You never know what’s going to happen in baseball.”
A group of players who were strangers only two months ago managed to pull together for a memorable finish. It’s a team Ianniciello will not easily forget.
“I remember every team,” he said, “but a championship team and a team that came as far as this team came, that’s a special group, absolutely.”
Jake Farr is the type of baseball player that Teddy Roosevelt would have appreciated. He speaks softly and carries a big stick.
It wasn’t a surprise that Farr hit over .300 this summer for the Riverhead Tomcats. That was to be expected of the good-hitting second baseman from Strawberry Plains, Tenn. What wasn’t expected, however, was the slow start Farr made to the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League season.
“I didn’t get a hit like the first four or five games,” he said. “I was like 0 for 10 or something. Crazy.”
Tomcats manager Randy Caden noticed some things in Farr’s swing and worked with him for a couple of days at Caden’s Long Island Mariners Sports Facility in Bohemia. Farr said he began putting more weight on his front toe and that led to him feeling more balanced at the plate. It also helps that Farr, who throws right-handed but bats left-handed, is proficient at hitting to the opposite field.
The results speak for themselves. Farr finished the season with a .310 batting average, tying him with teammate Michael Brosseau for seventh in the league, which uses wood bats. He also drove in 18 runs, scored 25 runs, walked 21 times and stole three bases.
This was the first time Farr had played extensively with wood bats. Like many college players, he was swinging aluminum in his recent freshman season for Walters State Community College (Tenn.). Using wood to find hits is more difficult.
“The sweet spot’s a lot smaller with the wood,” Farr said. “I like it. At first I was a little bit intimidated because I didn’t know how I was going to do with it, but now, you know, it feels right. It makes you feel a lot better when you get a hit with a wood bat.”
Farr found that sweet spot often enough to help the Tomcats’ offense.
“He’s a tough out, good eye, and he’s been able to make contact with good pitchers, keep us in games,” said Caden.
Farr said hitting is his strength. In high school he was an all-state player in 2012 with an extraordinary .498 batting average. He led the state with 24 doubles.
Confidence is a big thing for a batter, and Farr should have no shortage of it after the way he performed against some tough pitchers in the HCBL.
“I’ve been really focusing on my timing a lot,” he said. “A lot of it is confidence. If you’re feeling good, you can hit them off the end and drop them in and stuff. When you’re feeling bad, man, it seems like nothing drops in.”
That confidence could come in handy for Farr, who wants to go far in baseball. He has one more year to go at Walters State. He hopes to receive an offer to play for an NCAA Division I school and be drafted by a major league club. His numbers should help draw the attention of some Division I teams.
“They always look for offense,” said Caden.
As a defensive player, Farr had to become accustomed to charging slow rollers off wood bats, something college players don’t have to worry about too often with aluminum bats.
“That’s the big adjustment for a lot of these guys,” Caden said. “I would say he’s an average second baseman. He’s not bad, but he’s average.”
Caden raved about Farr as a person.
“Great kid, a great team ballplayer,” the manager said. “I think he’s said seven words the whole year, that’s just cheering for his team. [He] works hard. A coach wants this type of kid on a team.”
Having grown up outside of Knoxville, Tenn., in a state that doesn’t have beaches, Farr took the opportunity this summer to visit Long Island beaches in his free time.
“I’ve had a great time,” he said. “Too bad we didn’t make the playoffs, though. I was hoping to stay a little bit longer.”
AVIATORS 6, TOMCATS 4
Consider the meaning of “meaningless,” as in “meaningless game.”
What would happen if two baseball teams were assembled to play a meaningless game? Well, for one thing, a debate about the terminology might ensue, and one could conclude that “meaningless” is in the eye of the beholder.
While some observers may have attached little to no importance to the Riverhead Tomcats-Westhampton Aviators game on Saturday, it didn’t appear that any players or managers were among them. Because the game didn’t have any affect on the Hampton Collegiate Baseball League’s final standings or the playoffs, some may have regarded the final regular-season game between the two teams as meaningless, but “meaningless” is apparently not in the vocabulary of either club.
Although there was a light mood surrounding the contest, neither side played as if it was meaningless. The Aviators produced a meaningful five-run burst in the seventh inning and walked away with a 6-4 win at Aviator Field in Westhampton. The rally featured a leadoff home run by Joey Havrilak and a two-run, pinch-hit single by Dan Parisi.
“I don’t think the game was meaningless,” John Melville, the Tomcats’ starting pitcher, said. “Like I said, you’re out here just trying to make yourself better. Guys are getting at-bats, guys are getting innings. You play the game to win.”
By virtue of their 4-2 loss to the Sag Harbor Whalers on the same field earlier in the day, the Aviators (24-16) were locked into second place. The Whalers clinched first place with that win, leaving them with a 24-15 record heading into their final regular-season game Saturday night against the North Fork Ospreys.
Earlier in the day in Riverhead, the Tomcats had dropped a 4-3 loss to the playoff-bound Ospreys. A win by the Center Moriches Battlecats the night before had already eliminated the Tomcats (18-22) from playoff contention, though. (Ironically, it was a loss by the Battlecats in their final regular-season game last year that brought the Tomcats a playoff spot.) That took an awful lot of meaning out of Riverhead’s final two games on Saturday.
Regardless, Tomcats Randy Caden dismissed the notion of that meaningless thing. “The kids that come here, they’re competitive,” he said. “There’s no meaningless game.”
The 2013 season had started so promisingly for the Tomcats, who can pinpoint their downfall. After starting the season with a 13-8 record, they lost two of possibly their best players, catcher Charley Gould and shortstop Mike Brosseau, to injuries. The impact was immediate. With those two players out, the Tomcats dropped 13 of their next 15 games.
“Other teams got hot at the right time,” Caden said. “There were a lot of games that we should have won but didn’t, but that’s life, that’s baseball.”
And so the Tomcats finished in fifth place while the top four teams in the seven-team league move on to the postseason.
“It was the end of a short but long season, I guess,” Tomcats center fielder Jack Sundberg said. “It’s always sad, the last game, a lot of good guys on the team, but I guess it’s got to come to an end sometime.”
Against the Aviators, the Tomcats received three hits from their leadoff hitter, Sundberg, and a two-run homer by Jason Gordon. But it wasn’t enough as the Aviators cranked out 12 hits, including two apiece by J. C. Brandmaier, Mitch Montaldo and Brian Lee.
Both starting pitchers did well. Each gave up one run over five innings. Melville was touched for five hits and one walk, with no strikeouts. Westhampton’s starter, Nick Garcia, allowed three hits. He did not issue a walk and struck out three.
“It wasn’t any different really,” Melville said of his final outing of the summer. “It was another game, I guess.”
Another “meaningless game”?
The participants might take issue with that characterization. Whenever they are wearing uniforms, the score is being kept and statistics are being recorded, they are inclined to compete. That’s their nature.
After the game, Caden was still coming to grips with the finality of a season that had just ended.
“It goes by real quick,” he said. “I don’t believe it’s over already.”