07/27/13 8:08pm
07/27/2013 8:08 PM

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.

Ouch!

“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.”

bliepa@timesreview.com

06/17/13 8:33pm
06/17/2013 8:33 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | North Fork shortstop Eric Solberg tagging out Riverhead's Josh Mason, who tried to steal second base in the second inning.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | North Fork shortstop Eric Solberg tagging out Riverhead’s Josh Mason, who tried to steal second base in the second inning.

OSPREYS 6, TOMCATS 5

Baseball is a quirky game. One can never be sure what play will spark a win or what result can turn a season around.

For their part, the North Fork Ospreys hope they found the spark they were looking for on Monday.

The last-place Ospreys fizzled late in several Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League games this season, and one couldn’t help but wonder if another late-game meltdown was in the making on Monday against the Riverhead Tomcats.

Ironically, relief pitching, which had been the team’s Achilles’ heel, saved the day. Specifically, it was the relief pitching of Joe Salanitri that came through down the stretch as the Ospreys held on for a 6-5 victory that had to feel good for them. It was their first road win of the season and the Tomcats’ first home loss.

How big was the win?

“They’re all the same, but you want to win one every day,” Ospreys manager Bill Ianniciello said. “We’re in a little bit of a hole with some losses. They’re all big for us right now.”

Speaking of big, Mike Hayden came up big for the Ospreys (4-8) with a three-hit day. It was Hayden’s double in the seventh inning that scored Jim Pjura for a 6-4 Ospreys lead.

That run proved to be an important one, as the Tomcats (5-5) made things uncomfortable for the visitors in the ninth. Jack Sundberg and pinch hitter Andre Jernigan opened the bottom half of the inning with singles for the Tomcats. Sundberg scored from second base when Jernigan’s single slipped past the left fielder, making it a one-run game.

That is when the Ospreys might have been thinking to themselves: “Oh no. Not again.”

After Ianniciello visited the mound, Salanitri (1-1) retired the next three batters for the win. That was the only run Salanitri allowed in his four and two-thirds innings in relief of Cody Johnson.

“It was down to the wire,” Sundberg said. “I thought we had it there for a second.”

Johnson had an odd pitching line. He allowed only two hits and two earned runs over his four and one-third innings, but what hurt him were walks, eight of them altogether.

Five of those walks came in succession in the third inning when the Tomcats scored four runs to tie the score at 4-4. Jerry Downs and Josh Mason drew bases-loaded passes before another two runs scored on an error.

“A lot of walks,” Sundberg said. “You got to be patient and really just wait for your pitch, and if it’s not there, just keep walking.”

The Ospreys avoided further damage when, with runners on second and third, Charley Gould shot a flare that right fielder Michael Fries made a nice shoestring catch on before firing a throw home to catcher Mike D’Acunti for a snazzy double play, ending the inning.

Tomcats manager Randy Caden disagreed vehemently with the umpire’s call, but he couldn’t ignore the fact that his team left 10 runners on base, hitting 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position.

“We left too many men on base,” Caden said. “We had to score in those opportunities.”

The Ospreys had scored in each of the first three innings. Pjura delivered a sacrifice fly in the first, Nick Heath tripled in two runs in the second, and one out after a Pjura ground-rule double, D’Acunti rapped a single to bring Pjura home in the third. Heath also stole three bases and walked twice.

In the sixth, the Ospreys went in front, 5-4, thanks to back-to-back singles by Eric Solberg and Austin Miller.

“We just came out aggressive and stayed that way the whole game,” said Hayden, who raised his batting average to .405 with his production on Monday. “Usually that’s what it takes to win games.”

The Tomcats’ starting pitcher, Mike Dolce, entered the game with a 0.90 earned run average, which ranked him second in the league. The Ospreys didn’t do badly against him, though, scoring four runs in the four innings he pitched before Caden brought in Christian Colletti to give him some work.

“That was pretty good because he usually doesn’t give up runs,” said Caden.

For the Ospreys, the manner in which they won might have been a sign of better things to come. When that was suggested to Ianniciello, the manager said, “One at a time.”

bliepa@timesreview.com

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead's Michael; Brosseau dove safely back to the bag before North Fork first baseman Mike Hayden could slap a tag on him.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead’s Michael Brosseau dove safely back to the bag before North Fork first baseman Mike Hayden could slap a tag on him.