07/27/13 3:06pm
07/27/2013 3:06 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mike Dolce had a no-hitter going for the Riverhead Tomcats before surrendering a single to the North Fork Ospreys in the seventh inning.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mike Dolce had a no-hitter going for the Riverhead Tomcats before surrendering a single to the North Fork Ospreys in the seventh inning.

OSPREYS 4, TOMCATS 3

For over six innings, Mike Dolce had no-hit stuff going. That was before the North Fork Ospreys finally solved him and the rest of the Riverhead Tomcats.

The Ospreys, the hottest team in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League, maintained their form at the start of a busy Saturday, executing a 4-3 triumph over the Tomcats. It was North Fork’s 10th win in 11 games.

A squeeze bunt by cleanup hitter Mike Hayden with one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning was bobbled by the pitcher, allowing Nick Heath to race home for the winning run.
The Ospreys seem have the winning touch these days.

“We’re doing enough good things,” Ospreys manager Bill Ianniciello said. “We’re getting enough good pitching, playing enough good defense, running the bases, a couple of timely hits.”

And at least one well-executed bunt.

Heath had drawn a one-out walk before Austin Miller drove a double that center fielder Jack Sundberg dove for but couldn’t hold. Joe Kuzia then intentionally walked designated hitter Jim Pjura to load the bases for Hayden, who faced a new pitcher, John Axley.

The Tomcats (18-22) had already been eliminated from contention for the league’s four-team playoffs before the first pitch was thrown, but the game had a little more significance to the Ospreys (21-18), who are hoping to secure third place in the final standings.

The game, postponed from the night before because of heavy rain at Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic, was officially a home game for the Ospreys, but played on the Tomcats’ home field since the Ospreys’ place was unavailable.

Dolce, who was told he threw the ball 92 miles per hour on Scout Day, was the story for most of the contest. Before the game he told Tomcats manager Randy Caden that he would throw a no-hitter, and he made a good run at it in his final outing of the summer.

“It was the last day,” Dolce said. “I figured I would air it out a little bit, see what I had working.”

As it turned out, he had a lot working, using off-speed pitches to set up his fastball and give the Ospreys fits as they reached for pitches.

“He’s a gamer,” Tomcats manager Randy Caden said. “He said, ‘I’m going until I give up a hit, Coach.’ I said, ‘O.K.’ ”

A controversy seemed to be brewing when the first Ospreys batter in the seventh, Tom O’Neill, hit a grounder to shortstop Andre Jernigan. The third bounce shot up suddenly, striking Jernigan in the throat area and allowing O’Neill to reach base safely. A tough error was charged to Jernigan on the play, keeping the no-hitter alive.

It didn’t last long after that, though. Two batters later, Michael Fries ripped a single through the middle for North Fork’s first hit, drawing applause from his teammates. Dolce said he had been throwing sliders to Fries all game long except for that one fastball that Fries connected on for the hit. That came on Dolce’s 110th and final pitch of the day. With a potential no-hitter out of the way, Caden immediately went to the mound to take the right-hander from Farmingdale State out of the game.

“I just mixed up my pitches really well, kept them off-balance,” Dolce said. “They had no idea what was coming. That was my best weapon.”

Dolce, who led all NCAA Division III starters in earned run average in 2013, has one no-hitter to his credit. He said he was about 16 years old when he tossed one for a travel team. “It would have been cool to throw it at this level,” he said.

One of the two runs the Ospreys scored in the seventh from Eric Solberg’s two-run double were charged to Dolce. He finished with seven strikeouts, three walks and two hit batsmen.

The Ospreys held leads of 1-0 and 2-1 before the Tomcats pulled ahead, 3-2, in the eighth through a bases-loaded walk by T. J. Earham and a run-scoring single by Jason Gordon on back-to-back plate appearances.

Pjura, who led off the eighth by slashing a double, later scored on a fielder’s choice that Mike D’Acunti hit into, tying it at 3-3.

Things seem to be going the Ospreys’ way these days, a startling turnaround from their 2-8 start to the season.

“We just flipped a switch,” Miller said. “I don’t know what happened.”

For one thing, the Ospreys’ bullpen has shown an ability to finish games, something that wasn’t apparent early in the season.

The Ospreys’ starting pitcher, Tyler Knight, pitched only one inning, which was the plan to keep him rested for the playoffs. J. A. Harville was then handed the ball and he responded with six innings of three-hit relief during which he did not allow an earned run.

The game was the first of five on a busy final day of the regular season, with the first, second, third and fourth places to be decided. Both the Tomcats and the Ospreys had second games to play later in the day. The Tomcats headed to Westhampton for their final game (a 6-4 loss to the Aviators) while the Ospreys were to host a night game against the Sag Harbor Whalers, who clinched first place earlier in the day.

The playoffs will begin Monday with best-of-three semifinal series. The Ospreys will play either the Whalers or the Aviators on the road in Game 1.

Said Miller, “I’m glad we’re rolling into the playoffs really hot right now.”

bliepa@timesreview.com

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | North Fork shortstop Eric Solberg is about to tag out Riverhead's Jack Sundberg, who tried to steal second base in the third inning.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | North Fork shortstop Eric Solberg is about to tag out Riverhead’s Jack Sundberg, who tried to steal second base in the third inning.

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

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.

06/09/13 8:11am
06/09/2013 8:11 AM
DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | North Fork pitcher Anthony Rosati earned his first win of the season, allowing Riverhead six hits over six innings.

DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | North Fork pitcher Anthony Rosati earned his first win of the season, allowing Riverhead six hits over six innings.

OSPREYS 6, TOMCATS 3

First baseman Mike Hayden clubbed a two-run home run and shortstop Eric Solberg doubled in another two runs as the North Fork Ospreys recorded a 6-3 victory over the Riverhead Tomcats in a Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League game at Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic on Saturday night.

Right-hander Anthony Rosati worked in and out of trouble in his six innings of work and earned his first win of the season as North Fork improved to 2-3 while Riverhead fell to 1-1. Rosati, a Copiague resident who attends St. John’s University, scattered six hits while walking five and striking out four batters.

The Ospreys needed three relief pitchers to close out the game, with another St. John’s pitcher, right-hander Thomas Hackimer, to get the final two outs after the Tomcats scored twice in the ninth inning.

The Tomcats had taken a 1-0 lead on Austin Davis’ run-scoring single in the top of the fourth inning before the hosts took the lead for good behind Solberg’s two-run double and Tyler Bethune driving in another run with a groundout in the bottom of the inning. North Fork added two more runs in the sixth on Hayden’s homer to left-center field.

06/02/13 8:45pm
06/02/2013 8:45 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead's starting pitcher, Matt Peacock, gave up one earned run and four hits over six innings.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead’s starting pitcher, Matt Peacock, gave up one earned run and four hits over six innings.

TOMCATS 5, OSPREYS 4

It was a new beginning in more ways than one. A new season and a new league, and a season-opening game between two teams with plenty of new faces.

The seven eastern Suffolk County teams that formed a division of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League last year, broke off and formed their own circuit, the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League. The HCBL, one of 12 summer leagues in the country that is sanctioned by Major League Baseball, was christened on Sunday with three games to start the season.

After the league president, Brett Mauser, threw out the ceremonial first pitch, the North Fork Ospreys and the Riverhead Tomcats engaged in an old-fashioned thriller. A home run by Jerry Downs kick-started a four-run seventh inning for the Tomcats, who held on for a 5-4 victory on their home field. Both teams held leads in the game, showing their ability to bounce back.

“We just kept fighting and fighting and fighting,” said Downs, the right fielder from St. Thomas University (Fla).

Downs is one of the many newcomers to the league. The Ospreys have two returning players in infielders Ryan Burns and Austin Miller. The Tomcats have two players back as well, infielder Joe Forney and pitcher Alex Summers.

The only player on either team with local ties is Ospreys outfielder Yianni Rauseo, a former Mattituck High School star who is coming off his sophomore season at Oswego State. He did not play in Sunday’s game.

The Tomcats have some interesting additions themselves. Two of their players, Ozney Guillén and Austin Davis, have fathers who played in the major leagues. Ozzie Guillén earned fame as both a player for a number of clubs and as a manager for the Chicago White Sox and the Miami Marlins. Doug Davis was a pitcher for several major league teams.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | The Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League president, Brett Mauser, is handed the ball by Riverhead Tomcats catcher Jason Gordon after throwing the ceremonial first pitch.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | The Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League president, Brett Mauser, is handed the ball by Riverhead Tomcats catcher Jason Gordon after throwing the ceremonial first pitch.

“It’s a new breed of kids, and they know baseball,” Riverhead manager Randy Caden said. “You can see they know baseball.”

They surely know a game goes nine innings, and not to give up hope until it is over.

Following Downs’ solo blast to left field, a sacrifice fly by Michael Brosseau brought in the second run of the seventh. Jason Gordon and Jonah Lakatos later scored on a throwing error, giving the Tomcats a 5-3 lead. The Tomcats might have done more damage that inning if not for a splendid play by Ospreys shortstop Joe Salanitri. With a runner on second base, Tyler Fox struck a looping liner that Salanitri did well to race back on for a running backhanded grab in shallow left field that saved a run and ended the inning.

Caden, who because of personal reasons didn’t arrive at the field until the bottom of the second inning, joked, “I got them four runs, great coaching from the bench.”

The Ospreys made things interesting in the ninth, though, pulling to within 5-4 when a two-out chopper by James Howard rolled dead just inside the third baseline for a run-scoring single.

The fans weren’t the only ones sitting on the edge of their seats. “Even though it was the first game, it was nerve-racking,” said Caden.

With the bases loaded, relief pitcher Brendan Mulligan got Tom O’Neill to bounce into a 6-4 fielder’s choice, ending the game. Mulligan earned the win, allowing three hits over three innings while striking out five.

“That’s just what we do,” Ospreys center fielder Nick Heath said. “We just don’t give up on anything, and I feel like if we play like that all season, we’re going to have a great season.”

The two starting pitchers did well. Anthony Rosati of the Ospreys gave up five hits and one earned run in three and a third innings. Matt Peacock of the Tomcats went six innings, giving up four hits and one earned run.

Both sides sounded encouraged by what they saw.

“There’s plenty of talent here,” Ospreys manager Bill Ianniciello said. “We have good players from quality programs.”

Ianniciello noted that the summer league is a good opportunity for players to get at-bats and playing time. Some players coming off their freshmen seasons did not play much or at all if they were red-shirted. “A lot of them, for that reason, they’re eager to go,” said Ianniciello.

As is the case with many teams early in a college summer league season, the Tomcats were still awaiting the arrival of seven players. Because of that, the team didn’t have any extra field players available, so a pitcher, Lakatos, filled in as the designated hitter.

“We’re a little low right now, so as soon as we get a full team I think we’re going to be alright,” Caden said. “We made two [division] finals in three years, so I told these guys, maybe we can go all the way this year. It would be nice, you know.”

Those kind of thoughts come with opening day.

bliepa@timesreview.com

07/01/12 7:12pm
07/01/2012 7:12 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Ryan Solberg, right, receiving congratulations from North Fork teammate Anthony Aceto after clubbing a home run in the 13th inning.

OSPREYS 4, TOMCATS 3 (14 INNINGS)

Some “late-inning lightning” helped the North Fork Ospreys win a suspended game against the Riverhead Tomcats before real lightning led to the postponement of a regularly scheduled game between the two Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League teams on Sunday.

It was only fitting that a strange play should decide the resumption of a suspended game on a strange day. Alex Perez scored from second base following an unsuccessful pickoff attempt in the 14th inning to give the Ospreys the tie-breaking run in a 4-3 triumph over the Tomcats in Riverhead. The first 12 innings of the game were played on June 5 before the contest was suspended because of darkness with the score tied at 2-2.

Perez led off the 14th by dropping a single into left field. After Tomcats pitcher Matt Facendo retired the next two batters, Perez stole second base. Then a pickoff attempt at second base sailed high into the outfield and the ball skipped past the center fielder, allowing Perez to race all the way home.

Ospreys reliever Mike Czenszak gave up a two-out single by Austin Barrois and then a walk to Bryan Palermo before getting Josh Smith to pop up to the shortstop, Perez, for the game-ending out.

After that game, though, players, coaches, umpires and spectators spent more time watching the sky than watching baseball as growling thunder was soon followed by lightning and rain. The regularly scheduled game was halted with one out in the bottom of the first inning and later postponed. Neither team had scored. A makeup date has not been determined.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead pitcher Jonathan Cohen preparing a delivery.

“It was just good that we didn’t come out here for nothing and we got one win out of it,” said Ospreys center fielder Kyle Adie.

A white cloud could be found among the thunder clouds. The postponement provided needed rest for weary pitching arms.

“It was definitely a more positive day than a negative day,” Ospreys third baseman Darrin Standish said. He explained: “Today we were pretty nervous about our pitching. We wanted to see how far [starting pitcher Mike] Tamburino could go, and we were looking for position players [to pitch] after that.”

The two innings of baseball that were played were eventful.

On the first at-bat of the day, the hot-swinging Ryan Solberg led off the 13th by socking a home run to left field for the Ospreys (12-6).

“I thought for sure we had that game won after Ryan hit that home run, and then they came back and they wanted it, too,” said Standish.

Indeed, the Tomcats (9-7) bounced back in their half of the inning, tying it at 3-3. Josh Smith led off with a bunt single. A wild pitch and a groundout moved him to third base before James Luppens rapped a double to the right-field fence, evening the score again.

Some players had as many as seven at-bats in the 14-inning game. Solberg and Perez were the only Ospreys with two hits each.

Josh Smith was responsible for half of Riverhead’s hits, going 4 for 7 with a double and scoring twice. Luppens added two hits.

It was an odd day for the players. Tomcats left fielder Andrew Gorecki likened it to a short practice. “You get your throwing in, you get your B.P. in, and then that’s it,” he said. “You go home.”

Barrois said completing the suspended game had an odd feel, sort of like starting a game and then finishing it without a middle.

“It’s kind of like jumping into the beginning of a game, but then kind of having the emotions of the end of a game,” he said.

While lightning may unnerve some people, it’s more of an annoyance to players like Gorecki.

“It’s stressful,” he said. “Once they call the lightning strike, we know it’s a half-hour [wait before possibly returning to the field]. The down time hurts you.”

bliepa@timesreview.com

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