12/17/13 9:00am
12/17/2013 9:00 AM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | North Fork shortstop Eric Solberg tagging out Riverhead’s Josh Mason in a game last summer.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | North Fork shortstop Eric Solberg tagging out Riverhead’s Josh Mason in a game last summer.

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.

gparpan@timesreview.com

06/28/13 7:52pm
06/28/2013 7:52 PM

JOE WERKMEISTER PHOTO | Riverhead Tomcats outfielder Jerry Downs connects on a two-run home run in the first inning Friday against the North Fork Ospreys.

TOMCATS 12, OSPREYS 4

At the end of his freshman season this past spring at St. Thomas University in Miami, Jerry Downs’ coach sent him packing north.

“He told me, ‘You’re going to go play summer ball somewhere,’ ” Downs said.

The 6-foot, 205-pound outfielder landed with the Riverhead Tomcats in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League. One month into the season, it’s turned out to be a terrific pairing.

“I love it,” Downs said. “No regrets.”

The Tomcats have loved his bat in the middle of the lineup as well. Downs hit a two-run home run in the first inning of Friday afternoon’s 12-4 victory over the North Fork Ospreys at Cochran Park in Peconic.

It was his league-leading fourth home run of the season.

“I’m seeing good pitches and hitting the ball hard,” Downs said.

He nearly missed another home run when he rocketed a double to center field in the fourth inning. His double actually appeared to be a better struck ball than his home run, an opposite field shot to left field that was aided by a strong wind.

Downs said he was surprised the ball left the park on his home run.

“The wind helped me out there,” he said.

As Downs walked back to the dugout after touching home plate, a teammate joked with him saying, “Nice pop fly.”

A Miami native, Downs made his first ever trip to New York to play with the Tomcats. He’s gotten a chance to take in the sights all while working on improving his game before heading back to college.

“I’ve been in Times Square a few times, on the beach with the boys,” he said. “Having a good time. It’s summer.”

At St. Thomas, Downs batted .263 with a home run and 24 RBIs in 44 games during his freshman season.

In the summer league, Downs said he hopes to improve on several parts of his game.

“Try to work on my defensive skills, hit more offspeed, little fundamentals,” he said.

Riverhead coach Randy Caden said Downs has shown he can hit with a lot of power.

“You got to be careful with him,” Caden said.

The Tomcats have quickly developed a deep lineup that can produce runs from top to bottom. The Tomcats added two more home runs Friday when designated hitter Josh Mason and catcher Charley Gould hit back-to-back home runs in the eighth inning.

“This team, you can’t make too many mistakes with,” Caden said. “They’re staying focused and having fun.”

When Mason returned to the dugout following his two-run homer, his teammates gave him the silent treatment, pretending as if nothing had happened.

“That was his first one of the year so we decided to do it,” Downs said.

The Tomcats scored five runs in the third inning to take a 7-1 lead and the Ospreys never got any closer.

Joseph Kuzia, a 6-foot-4 righty from St. John’s University, started for the Tomcats and earned the win pitching 5 1/3 innings.

Kuzia made his first start and got his first extended pitching outing of the summer season.

Early in the game Caden made a trip to the mound to tell Kuzia to quit relying so much on his fastball.

“I said I don’t care if you give up 100 runs,” Caden said. “Work on your change-up and other pitches. Then you see how he pitched great.”

The summer league mostly is an opportunity for players to improve on their games. The only tricky part, sometimes the players aren’t quite sure what those specific things are, Caden said.

“You get some rookies and they’re not sure what they should be doing,” Caden said. “So you say, this is for you. The league is for you.”

North Fork center fielder Nick Heath had a big day at the plate against the Tomcats going 5-for-5. Hid second was one of the more peculiar hits in baseball. With runners on first and second, Heath bounced a ball back to Kuzia. Thinking he needed to turn a double play, Kuzia turned to throw toward third, then looked at second before simply holding onto the ball while Heath ran safely to first.

The Tomcats, only needing one out, got out of the inning unscathed, so they could laugh about it afterward.

“You’ll see something new in baseball every day,” Caden said.

joew@timesreview.com

03/23/13 10:00am
03/23/2013 10:00 AM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO  |  Riverhead Tomcats first baseman Jimmy Luppens went 4-for-5 in Game 1 Monday.

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Jimmy Luppens bats for Riverhead against Shelter Island last season.

COLLEGE BASEBALL: Ospreys, Tomcats rosters released The newly formed Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League, which includes the North Fork Ospreys and the Riverhead Tomcats, recently released its rosters for the 2013 season.

The Ospreys have a player with strong local ties, SUNY/Oswego outfielder Yianni Rauseo of Mattituck (’11). Three other Suffolk County residents are on the team: Temple sophomore catcher Mike D’Acunti of Dix Hills, St. John’s sophomore pitcher Anthony Rosati of Copiague and Queens College senior pitcher/utility player Joe Salanitri of West Islip.

New York colleges are also represented on the roster by St. John’s sophomore pitcher Thomas Hackimer and Fordham sophomore pitcher Cody Johnson.

Bill Ianniciello will return for the second year as North Fork’s head coach.

The Tomcats have two Long Island products on their team, Connecticut sophomore pitcher Christian Colletti of Rockville Centre and Richmond sophomore infielder Doug Kraeger of Malverne. Two other new Tomcats, New York Tech sophomore pitcher John Axley and Wagner junior catcher Jason Gordon, play college ball in New York.

Randy Caden returns as the coach.

One hundred college programs are represented on the rosters in the seven-team league, which includes teams in Center Moriches, Sag Harbor, Shelter Island, Southampton and Westhampton.

Former Shoreham-Wading River High School standout Mike O’Reilly (’12), a pitcher for Flagler College (Fla.), will play for the Center Moriches Battlecats.

Hamptons Collegiate Baseball spent the past five years as a member of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League before pulling away to create its own league.

“We are looking forward to taking this next step and working toward becoming one of the elite summer baseball leagues in the country,” the HCBL president, Brett Mauser, said in a statement. “Through the efforts and support of many we have reached this point, and we are excited about what the future holds.”

The HCBL has applied to join the National Alliance of Collegiate Summer Baseball, which includes the prestigious Cape Cod League. In addition, the HCBL filed an application to become sanctioned by Major League Baseball.

“Major League Baseball and the Alliance are two organizations that you want to have in your corner,” Mauser said. “Their support and direction would help assure that we continue to provide a great platform for student-athletes to develop their skills as they strive toward their goal of playing professionally.”

The league will begin play in early June.
BOB LIEPA
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Powers is Pitcher of Week Junior pitcher James Powers of Jamesport recently earned Skyline Pitcher of the Week honors. Powers tossed three and two-third innings of scoreless relief to earn his second victory of the season as Farmingdale State edged Plattsburgh State, 1-0. He allowed just one hit and fanned three, not issuing a walk. This season Powers has allowed six hits in 12 innings, with 13 strikeouts.

David Zilnicki, a senior left fielder from Riverhead, collected his 38th career stolen base, which passed Luis Feliciano for the most all time in Farmingdale State history

AUTO RACING: Figure Eight champ to be honored The Suffolk Association of Figure Eight Racing will honor Riverhead Raceway’s 2012 champion, Mike Mujsce of Westhampton Beach, at its annual awards banquet on April 7. Mujsce’s championship was the first of his career.

11/25/12 7:00am
11/25/2012 7:00 AM

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Tomcats first baseman Jimmy Luppens crosses home plate after a home run in a game last summer.

For five summers, Hamptons Collegiate Baseball has provided baseball action to seven communities on the East End of Long Island. Another chapter will begin next summer as the organization becomes a league of its own, the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League (HCBL).

The organization said earlier this month it will continue its mission to provide free family entertainment for area baseball fans and inspire community youth while aiding in the development of collegiate athletes whose dream it is to make it to the major leagues.

“We are looking forward to taking this next step and working toward becoming one of the elite summer baseball leagues in the country,” said league president Brett Mauser. “Through the efforts and support of many we have reached this point, and we are excited about what the future holds.”

As Hamptons Collegiate Baseball, the organization had spent the last five seasons as a member of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League. In 2012, HCB hosted more than 175 players from over 100 universities to play for teams located in Center Moriches, Riverhead, Sag Harbor, Shelter Island, Southampton, Westhampton and the North Fork. Since its inception, more than 550 players from over 190 universities, including from every major collegiate conference, have played on the East End. Nineteen Hamptons alumni played in the professional ranks in 2012, and the organization has had 17 players selected in the Major League Baseball draft.

The HCBL has applied to join the National Alliance of Collegiate Summer Baseball, which features a number of the top summer leagues in the country, including the prestigious Cape Cod League. In addition, the HCBL has filed an application to become sanctioned by Major League Baseball.

“Major League Baseball and the Alliance are two organizations that you want to have in your corner,” Mauser said. “Their support and direction would help assure that we continue to provide a great platform for student-athletes to develop their skills as they strive toward their goal of playing professionally.”

The first pitch for the 2013 HCBL season is scheduled for early June.

08/22/12 10:00pm
08/22/2012 10:00 PM

BASEBALL: ACBL MVP award shared Center Moriches Battlecats catcher Joe Solomeno (Pace) and Shelter Island Bucks infielder Thomas Roulis (Dartmouth) were named co-winners of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League Most Valuable Player Award. Solomeno also collected the league’s Hitting Award, awarded to the player with the highest batting average. Staten Island catcher Gabby Molina (Keystone) earned the slugging award with a .726 slugging percentage.

Southampton lefthander Paul Paez (Rio Hondo Junior College) reeled in the Most Valuable Pitcher Award after leading the league in wins and strikeouts.

Voting was done by a panel of the 17 field managers in the ACBL. The co-MVP honors were the first since 2009 when Jersey’s Ken Gregory and Riverhead’s Peter Greskoff split the award.

Solomeno had one of the best years in the league’s history, leading all hitters in average (.421), hits (61), doubles (14), runs batted in (53) and total bases (96). His year included a five-hit effort on opening night, a 10-9 triumph over Westhampton, and a stretch of 11 straight games in which he had at least one RBI. He was the starting catcher for the Hampton Division All-Star Team on July 19 at MCU Park in Brooklyn.

All Roulis did in his summer on Shelter Island was lead the league in runs scored (41) and stolen bases (24) while hitting at a .399 clip and finishing second behind Solomeno in hits with 59. He sparked a Bucks offense that led the league in runs scored with 281, leading the first-year squad to the Hampton Division regular-season crown. Roulis enjoyed a mid-season stretch in which he had a hit in 14 consecutive games.

Paez, an 18th-round pick of the New York Mets this year, dominated from day one in Southampton, striking out 12 over five innings in his debut against Shelter Island on June 4. He fanned a season-best 13 in Southampton’s victory over Riverhead on July 14, and Paez tied former Riverhead right-hander Nick Tropeano for single-season wins by recording his seventh in the Breakers’ 9-4 triumph over Center Moriches on July 22.

He finished his season with 82 strikeouts, breaking Tropeano’s Hamptons mark of 77 in 2009. It also put Paez just outside the top five in ACBL history. Paez, who was named the starting pitcher for the Hampton Division All-Stars, limited hitters to 35 hits in 60 regular-season innings.

Molina was a mainstay behind the plate for Staten Island, but he also wielded a mighty bat. Of the senior’s 27 hits this season, 16 went for extra bases, including 11 doubles and five home runs.

08/01/12 4:00pm
08/01/2012 4:00 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Tomcats first baseman Jimmy Luppens, a Shoreham-Wading River graduate.

The Riverhead Tomcats dropped Game One of their best-of-three series with the Southampton Breakers 6-2 Wednesday.

The series will decide who wins the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball Division championship.

You can read a recap on the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball Division’s GameChanger page.

07/30/12 10:45pm
07/30/2012 10:45 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead Tomcats first baseman Jimmy Luppens went 4-for-5 in Game 1 Monday.

In unison, the fans lining the field at Shelter Island High School rose to a crescendo, clapping and cheering their Bucks as they began the bottom of the ninth inning Monday.

Trailing by three runs, their season on the line, the Bucks needed a miraculous inning to extend their inaugural season. As much as the players wanted to keep their season alive, so to did the fans who passionately supported them all summer.

As the bottom of the ninth began, the fans could sense the end was near. No one wanted to see it come.

Except for the Riverhead Tomcats.

The No. 4 seed in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball playoffs, the Tomcats knocked off the top-seeded Bucks by sweeping a doubleheader in front of a big crowd on Shelter Island. The Tomcats won the first game 8-6 and clinched the first-round playoff series with a 5-3 victory in Game 2.

After more than six hours of baseball, the Tomcats punched their ticket to the finals of the HCB playoffs, where they’ll face either North Fork or Southampton. The teams split a doubleheader Monday. North Fork, after losing the first game, won with a walk-off home run in extra innings of Game 2.

“We battle,” said Riverhead coach Randy Caden. “These guys don’t give up. They battle. We don’t hit much, but we hit when we’re supposed to.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead Tomcats pitcher Matt Facendo won Game 1 by throwing the final 4 2/3 innings.

The Tomcats, despite some sloppiness early in the first game, outplayed Shelter Island throughout both games. They picked up clutch hits, got strong pitching and withstood the loss of their starting catcher midway through the first game.

Shelter Island finished its season with a 23-19 overall record.

“It was a good run,” said Shelter Island coach Joe Burke. “We didn’t play well in the playoffs. Hopefully we have another shot at it next year and we play a little better.”

The Tomcats (23-19) jumped ahead early in both games. They scored five runs in the first two innings of Game 1 and four runs through the first three innings of Game 2.

“Once you get runs the first inning, they’re always trying to get back at you,” said Riverhead shortstop Alec Sole, who’s often greeted before his at-bats with a chant of “hip-hip! Sole!.” “It’s a lot harder for them.”

Sole had a big day at the plate in both games. In Game 2 he was 3-for-4 with two doubles and a walk. He hit an RBI single in the second inning that made it 3-1 Riverhead.

One of the tricky parts about playing in the league, Sole said, is adjusting to different bats. The wooden bats often break, and with the season near the end, the inventory is shrinking. He began the day using a 33-ounce bat, only to switch to a 32-ounce bat later in the day after his first bat broke. He said he’s still not sure which bat he really prefers.

“I’ve been hitting really good with the 32,” he said. “I’m trying to figure that out.”

Either way, it worked out nicely for Sole. He was 1-for-3 with two runs in the first game and he walked twice.

The Tomcats lost catcher Jordan Parris in the first game when he got hit in the throat with a ball that bounced up off the ground in front of him. Parris was taken by ambulance to the hospital for precautionary reasons.

Caden said that Parris was doing OK.

Eric Weiner, who only joined the team a few weeks ago, came in to play catcher and did a superb job behind the plate. He walked and scored a run in Game 2 and also had a single. Behind the plate, he threw out two runners attempting to steal. The Tomcats will need him going forward, because Monday was set to be Parris’ last day with the team, even before he got injured.

“He’s a good hustler,” Caden said of Weiner. “He made some great plays today.”

Jonathan Cohen started Game 2 for Riverhead and threw six innings to earn the victory. He gave up two runs (one earned) on four hits and struck out four.

Collin McEnery pitched the final three innings, giving up just one unearned run in the ninth.

“They did a phenomenal job,” Sole said. “Couldn’t have asked for more.”

Cohen got into trouble in the fifth inning with the Tomcats leading 4-2. The Bucks loaded the bases with one out. But Cohen struck out Vin Guglietti on three pitches and then got Scott Donaghue to fly out to deep center to end the inning.

Caden said Cohen was at 104 pitches after six innings when he decided to take him out.

“I’ve been going with my gut lately with pitching,” Caden said. “I’ve been lucky going with gut.”

Zack Hopf started Game 1 and threw 4 1/3 innings, giving up five runs (three earned). He struck out seven.

“I took out Hopf before he could win the game because he had thrown a lot the last outing,” Caden said. “He was at 98 pitches and these guys are too valuable to hurt.”

Caden called on Matt Facendo to close out the game and he pitched the final 4 2/3 to earn the win. Facendo gave up one run and struck out four.

The Bucks, meanwhile, couldn’t match Riverhead on the mound.

“We did not pitch well,” Burke said. “We gave up 14 runs in two games. We didn’t have the starting pitching and defense.”

joew@timesreview.com

07/29/12 8:00pm
07/29/2012 8:00 PM

GRANT PARPAN FILE PHOTO | The Shelter Island Bucks host the Riverhead Tomcats at Fiske Memorial FIeld when the playoffs begin at 1 p.m. Monday.

The Shelter Island Bucks will host a semifinals doubleheader against the Riverhead Tomcats as the postseason opens in the Hampton Collegiate Baseball Division Monday.

First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Fiske Memorial Field.

The Bucks enter the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in just their first year. They finished the regular season with a 23-17 record.

Riverhead, the No. 4 seed, went 21-19, just two games back in the tight division. The Tomcats won four of seven games against the Bucks during the regular season.

Monday’s doubleheader is part of a best-of-three series. If the two teams split on Monday they play in Riverhead Tuesday.

The North Fork Ospreys (22-17) host the Southampton Breakers (21-18) in the other semifinals doubleheader Monday. First pitch in that series is set for 4:30 p.m. at Cochran Park in Peconic.

gparpan@timesreview.com