06/18/12 10:44pm
06/18/2012 10:44 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Alec Sole, who had two of Riverhead's three hits against North Fork, shattering a bat on a swing.

OSPREYS 6, TOMCATS 1

Perhaps the first person to know that Justin Hepner was on Monday evening was the North Fork Ospreys’ pitching coach, Paul Speckenbach. Speckenbach let the Ospreys’ coach, Bill Ianniciello, know that Hepner’s breaking ball looked good during pregame warmups in the bullpen.

It wasn’t long after that when everyone else at Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic, including the Riverhead Tomcats, saw for themselves just how sharp Hepner was.

Hepner threw a season-high 12 strikeouts over seven innings of two-hit ball while Ryan Solberg, Darrin Standish and Alex Perez knocked in two runs apiece for the Ospreys in their 6-1 win in the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League game.

“I was hitting all my spots, and I just kind of knew from the get-go that it would be a solid game,” Hepner said. “I felt really good.”

One could tell. Two of Hepner’s strikeouts came with batters looking at the third strike, and five of them came on a dropped third strike in which catcher Tim Panetta either had to throw to first baseman Dan Kerr or tag the batter out himself. It was quite a performance by the junior right-hander from San Diego State.

“Excellent game,” Ianniciello said. “Justin’s been outstanding all along.”

Hepner started this past college season as a closer for San Diego State. Playing for former major leaguer and National Baseball Hall of Fame member Tony Gwynn, he had the most saves (seven) and the lowest earned run average on the team (2.94) to go with a 5-3 record. He also showed a knack for chalking up strikeouts. He rang up 50 of them in the 52 innings he pitched for the Aztecs.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | North Fork pitcher Justin Hepner registered 12 strikeouts over seven innings of two-hit ball against Riverhead.

With Monday’s result, Hepner brought his summer record to 2-1 and his earned run average to 2.03. He has 34 strikeouts (against five walks) over 17 2/3 innings.

Strikeouts involve a lot more work for a pitcher (Hepner threw 114 pitches on Monday), but it’s well worth it to him.

“I love knowing that I struck someone out,” he said. “Give them three pitches and they didn’t succeed on any of them; it’s a great feeling.”

Standish, the Ospreys third baseman, has been impressed by what he has seen from Hepner. “He’s good,” the former Southold High School player said. “He’s one of the better pitchers that I’ve seen in this league so far.”

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Hepner, who allowed three walks, relied on his 12-to-6 curveball and slider to get out of trouble, which didn’t happen often.

Hepner said he is fine-tuning his changeup this summer. It’s ironic that he threw only one changeup on Monday, and that was for a ball. “I only threw one today,” he said, “but my changeup, I want to get good control of that, be able to throw it any count I want, whenever I want.”

As it was, the Tomcats had a tough enough time dealing with the offerings from Hepner.

All of the runs scored by the Ospreys (7-3), who hold first place in the Hampton Division, came on two-run hits.

North Fork took a 2-0 lead in the second inning when Solberg ripped a two-run single up the middle. The two batters before him, Kerr and Panetta, had walked and doubled, respectively. Solberg went 3 for 3, scored two runs, walked and stole a base.

In the fourth, singles by Panetta and Solberg (the latter on a bunt), set up a two-out, two-run double that Standish socked off the left-field fence for a 4-1 lead.

The game’s last two runs came in the sixth. Solberg walked, Vinny Citro reached base on an error, and Perez singled them both in.

The Tomcats (5-4) managed only three hits, and two of them came off Alec Sole’s bat. One of those hits, a double, scored Josh Smith in the third for Riverhead’s only run.

For the Ospreys, it was an impressive way to conclude the first quarter of their season.

“We had some timely hits tonight,” Ianniciello said. Reliever “Jared [Weed] did a good job closing it out. We caught the ball in the field. It’s all good stuff.”

Weed pitched the final two innings, allowing one hit and one walk, with three strikeouts. That had to feel good to him.

Hepner knows what it’s like when just about everything is working for a pitcher. He said, “It’s a great feeling.”

GIANTS DRAFT FORMER OSPREY For the second straight year, former North Fork Ospreys standout Andrew Cain (UNC-Wilmington) heard his name called in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. This time it was the San Francisco Giants who recently picked up the 6-foot-6 first baseman/outfielder, doing so in the 24th round. Cain, who played for the Ospreys in 2009, hit .322 with 12 homers and 42 runs batted in as a senior, earning himself first team All-Colonial Athletic Association accolades. The Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League, which has sent players like Frank Viola, Craig Biggio, Jamie Moyer and 2011 National League All-Star Ryan Vogelsong to the big leagues over the years, had 21 of its alumni selected in 2012.

bliepa@timesreview.com

06/08/12 10:49pm
06/08/2012 10:49 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Saby Zavala of Riverhead was out on a forceout while North Fork second baseman Vinny Citro threw to first base.

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.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Eric Romano doubled and singled for North Fork in its 4-1 win over Riverhead.

“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.

Nice stuff.

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.”

bliepa@timesreview.com

06/05/12 9:13pm
06/05/2012 9:13 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | North Fork starter Mike Tamburino gave up two hits and no earned runs over five innings.

OSPREYS 2, TOMCATS 2 (12 INNINGS, SUSPENDED)

There are not supposed to be ties in baseball. Well, the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League game between the North Fork Ospreys and the Riverhead Tomcats is tied — for the time being.

The two stubborn teams, both refusing to lose, played 12 innings in Riverhead on Tuesday before the umpire suspended the game because of fading light with the score knotted at 2-2. The game will be resumed at a future date.

Not even a full two games into their season, the Ospreys (0-1) can feel good about what they have seen from their pitching, which has allowed only four runs in 21 innings.

The Ospreys received splendid pitching from starter Mike Tamburino and reliever Rich Vrana on Tuesday. They didn’t allow an earned run. Tamburino worked the first five innings, giving up two hits, with six strikeouts and three walks. Vrana picked up the next seven innings, during which he limited the Tomcats (2-0) to three hits. He had eight strikeouts and two walks.

“I think it’s a pitcher’s league, and you’re going to see well-played, well-pitched games,” North Fork’s new coach, Bill Ianniciello, said. “I just think you have quality arms here. On our side, the two kids both threw real strong games. They each could have won a game.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Dillon Bryant of North Fork laying down a bunt.

The pitching on the Tomcats’ side wasn’t too shabby, either. Riverhead used five pitchers — Zach Hopf, Shaun Hansen, Colin McEnery, Steve Kimmelman and Matt Facendo — who held North Fork to six hits.

Josh Smith (3 for 5) was involved in both runs the Tomcats scored in the fifth inning to even things at 2-2. Riverhead’s first batter that inning, Bryan Palermo, reached base on a throwing error. He then scored from first after Smith’s single skipped by the center fielder. Smith then scored the tying run when North Fork shortstop Alex Perez did well to pounce to his left and stop an Austin Miller ground ball. Perez had no play at home, so he threw Miller out at first.

The Ospreys put up a two-run inning of their own in the second. Ryan Solberg led off by legging out a double to shallow right field. Daniel Kerr then smacked a single to bring Solberg home. Later, with the bases loaded, Darrin Standish got a run batted in the hard way. He was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, plating Kerr. Standish was hit by a pitch again later in the game.

The contest between the two neighboring teams had an added local flavor with some players who have played their high school ball in the area. Standish, who played third base for the Ospreys, is a Southold High School product and a junior at Southern New Hampshire. The Tomcats have three such players. Both Kimmelman (C.W. Post) and Palermo (St. Lawrence University), a second baseman, played on the same field that they did when they played for Riverhead High School. Hansen (Suffolk County Community College) played for Southold and Greenport when he was in high school.

Without a doubt, it was a pitcher’s day. It was also something of a test for Vrana, who entered the game in the sixth inning. The last time he pitched competitively was for Marist in a game against Brown a little over a month ago. He looked sharp, though, retiring the first five batters he faced and seven of the last eight.

“You come in a tight game, you got to hold them down,” Vrana said. “You got to basically do whatever you can to keep your team in it. You just go out there and just throw.”

Before the bottom of the 12th inning started at 7:54 p.m., the umpire stated that it would be the last inning of the evening. That was a one, two, three inning, thanks to a nice leaping catch by Perez of a liner hit by Andrew Gorecki for the penultimate out in the 12th.

It’s too early to draw conclusions, but Ianniciello likes what he has seen from the Ospreys, who lost to the Westhampton Aviators in last year’s Hampton Division finals.

“Every inning I’m learning something about somebody,” said Ianniciello, an assistant coach at Queens College who has worked for the New York Mets for 31 years, including 17 as vice president of tickets sales and services. “I think it’s a good group, and we’re going to win a lot of games. Everybody here can play. It’s just a matter of finding their strengths and trying to use their strengths the best we can.”

Vrana may not have expected to pitch as much as he did, but once the game entered extra innings, he said he was determined to remain on the mound. He said, “I wasn’t going to let [Ianniciello] take me out until the game was over.”

He still has some waiting to do.

bliepa@timesreview.com

07/17/11 1:06am
07/17/2011 1:06 AM

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO

The Riverhead Tomcats scored all six of their runs in the first four innings of a 6-2 Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League defeat of the North Fork Ospreys on Saturday night at Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic. Aiding the effort for the Tomcats (12-19) were home runs by Ryan Lukach, Alex Gouin and Frank Schwindel (2 for 4, two runs batted in). Jamie Wollerman and Adam Michel added two hits apiece to the victory, according to www.hamptonsbaseball.org.

Peter Kaplan was the winning pitcher, allowing eight hits and two earned runs over six and two-third innings.

Andrew Furr delivered two hits, including a home run, and stole a base for the Ospreys (17-14). Teammates Matt Carroll and Sebastian Graziani singled twice.

07/12/11 12:12am
07/12/2011 12:12 AM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Eric Schlitter of Riverhead dove home to score the East's first run on Ray Ortega's double in the third inning.

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.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | East second baseman Ryan Brockett of North Fork got Dan Klem out on a 6-4-3 double play in the second inning.

“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.”

bliepa@timesreview.com

07/05/11 1:54pm
07/05/2011 1:54 PM

Five Riverhead Tomcats are among the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball players who will join with the Long Island Collegians to represent the East in the 2011 Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League All-Star Game. The will take place on Monday, July 11, at Brooklyn’s MCU Park, home of the Cyclones, the New York Mets’ single-A affiliate. The Tomcats named to the team are infielder Zach Mathieu, pitcher Brett Schreiber and outfielders Eric Romano, Eric Schlitter and outfielder Frank Schwindel. Another Tomcats player, pitcher Aaron Slegers, has been designated as an alternate. Tomcats Coach Randy Caden will be one of the team’s assistant coaches.

The North Fork Ospreys will be represented by pitcher Milan Mantle, outfielders Ryan Brockett, outfielder Ryan Williams, Manager Brian Hansen and Assistant Coach Michiel van Kampen.

Each Hamptons Collegiate Baseball team placed at least four players on the squad.

07/04/11 12:10am
07/04/2011 12:10 AM

The Riverhead Tomcats banged out 16 hits, scored in six of the nine innings and received four runs batted in apiece from Eric Romano and Frank Schwindel as they steamrolled the North Fork Ospreys, 19-3, in an Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League game on Sunday in Riverhead.

Romano enjoyed a 4-for-6 game and homered. Adam Michel drove in three of Riverhead’s runs.

Ryan Lukach earned the win, scattering seven hits and striking out six over five innings, during which the Ospreys scored all three of their runs.

Pat Brennan homered for the Ospreys. He had two hits, as did teammate Matt Carroll.

The result pulled the Tomcats’ record to 10-11. The third-place Ospreys, who had led the Hampton Division for most of the season, dropped to 11-11.

07/01/11 10:59pm
07/01/2011 10:59 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead pitcher Marc Rutledge did not allow an earned run over seven innings against North Fork on Friday night.

The Riverhead Tomcats built a 7-0 lead by the second inning and rolled over the North Fork Ospreys, 13-1, in the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League on Friday night. Eric Romano and Ryan Lukach both homered for the Tomcats (11-9) and Eric Schlitter drove in four of their runs in the game at Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic. Another Tomcat, Adam Michel, went 3 for 5 and scored twice.

The winning pitcher, Marc Rutledge, did not allow an earned run over seven innings during which he gave up six hits. He struck out six and walked one.

Brendan O’Brien went 3 for 4 for the Ospreys (11-9), who dropped into a tie for first place in the Hampton Division with the Westhampton Aviators.