07/26/14 9:38pm
07/26/2014 9:38 PM

TOMCATS 4, OSPREYS 1

Welcome to the league where parity is king.

This captivating horse race of a Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League regular season went down to the wire. With the top six teams running neck and neck in the standings, and a razor-blade thin difference between each of them, the scenario on Saturday was quite remarkable before teams played their 40th games of the 40-game season. All four playoff spots had finally been secured, but there was — get this — a four-way tie for first place.

How about that? (more…)

06/19/14 8:41pm
06/19/2014 8:41 PM
Riverhead Tomcats shortstop Danny Mendick fields a grounder in Game 2 of a doubleheader against Southampton Thursday. Mendick drove in six runs in the two games. (Credit: Robert O'Rourk)

Riverhead Tomcats shortstop Danny Mendick fields a grounder in Game 2 of a doubleheader against Southampton Thursday. Mendick drove in six runs in the two games. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

As the fifth-year manager of the Riverhead Tomcats, Randy Caden is already one of the elder statesman in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League.

“I love it,” Caden said. “Coaching at Farmingdale and then coming here, it’s a different type of athlete. It’s baseball, and when you’re playing good baseball, it’s enjoyable.”  (more…)

07/30/13 8:00pm
07/30/2013 8:00 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Jake Farr completed the season with a .310 batting average, tying him with Riverhead teammate Michael Brosseau for seventh in the league.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Jake Farr completed the season with a .310 batting average, tying him with Riverhead teammate Michael Brosseau for seventh in the league.

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.”

bliepa@timesreview.com

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

07/27/13 3:06pm
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.

07/13/13 11:39pm
07/13/2013 11:39 PM
ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | The caps of the Riverhead Tomcats, the North Fork Ospreys and the Shelter Island Bucks on top of the North All Stars dugout. For one game, representatives of those teams were teammates.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | The caps of the Riverhead Tomcats, the North Fork Ospreys and the Shelter Island Bucks on top of the North All Stars dugout. For one game, representatives of those teams were teammates.

HCBL ALL-STAR GAME | NORTH ALL STARS 4, SOUTH ALL STARS 1 (10 INNINGS)

It’s safe to say that the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League does things differently.

For one thing, the first-year league’s inaugural all-star game was played a full 10 innings, not out of necessity, but in order to give the 10 pitchers on each team a chance to pitch.

What would Abner Doubleday think?

Well, for one thing, he might have been the first to applaud another oddity, or rather a treat to behold. Matt Peacock, a closer for the Riverhead Tomcats, snatched a line drive out of the air with his bare hand to earn the save for the North All Stars in their 4-1 victory over the South All Stars on Saturday night at Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic. Numerous witnesses said it was something they had never seen before.

“Maybe in a video game, but not in real life,” said Shelter Island Bucks catcher Joe Burns, who joined with other representatives of the Bucks, the North Fork Ospreys and the Tomcats to form the North team. “That was crazy.”

Peacock turned in the undoubted play of the game — if not the year. After striking out two straight batters with two runners on base, he made the remarkable barehanded grab of the liner hit by Mitch Montaldo in the top of the 10th inning, clinching the game. Peacock held the ball up in his bare right hand for a moment as if he had just surprised himself with what he did. Spectators were stunned.

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Shelter Island catcher Joe Burns was named the most valuable player of the inaugural Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League All-Star Game.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Shelter Island catcher Joe Burns was named the most valuable player of the inaugural Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League All-Star Game.

“It just kind of happened, a reaction like, oh, a ball, catch the ball and out,” said Peacock, who claimed afterward that his hand felt fine. “I saw it come at me. It wasn’t [hit] that hard. I didn’t want him to get to first.”

Like others, Riverhead third baseman Andre Jernigan had trouble believing what he saw. “It’s the craziest thing I’ve seen in a while,” he said.

Randy Caden, the Tomcats manager who served as the North’s head coach, said he would have to explain to Peacock’s college coach at South Alabama what happened. “It was an amazing play,” said Caden.

A fitting one, perhaps, given the high-caliber performances on display. Neither side made an error over the course of the 10 innings.

Some may say it was only an exhibition, but it was the league’s showcase event. Playing in front of major league scouts, players undoubtedly wanted to look their best.

“You get to see how talented this league is, a lot of great players,” Ospreys pitcher Dalton Curtis said. “You want to do well because you’re representing your team and everything.”

If some nerves were involved, that would only be natural.

“If anything, I think everybody is kind of amped up, a little nervous, but once the first pitch is thrown, all the nerves go away,” Jernigan said. “It’s just another game of baseball and it’s really fun. Have fun with it.”

Burns and Jernigan both clocked two-run doubles, accounting for the North’s runs. Burns, a St. John’s player whose two-out double in the third inning brought the North a 2-1 lead, received the game’s most valuable player award for his contributions.

“It’s a great honor to come out here with a bunch of great players and hold this up at the end,” said Burns, clutching the MVP award and the bat he was presented with after the game. “Honestly, I was just going in trying to have some fun tonight.”

The South, which included players from the Center Moriches Battlecats, the Sag Harbor Whalers, the Southampton Breakers and the Westhampton Aviators, scored first in the third. Riverhead pitcher Brendan Mulligan, who was credited with the win, issued full-count walks to both David Real and Ryan Spaulding before Kyle Zech dropped a single into shallow left-center field, loading the bases. Joey Havrilak then delivered a sacrifice fly.

But walks helped the North pull in front almost immediately after that. In the bottom half of the inning, Austin Miller of the Ospreys and Jerry Downs of the Tomcats drew passes before Burns brought them home with his double.

The North gave itself more of a cushion in the fifth. After Justin Jones worked a leadoff walk, his Bucks teammate Kevin Brantley singled. Then Jernigan golfed a two-bagger to deep center field, scoring them both.

The South made things interesting in the 10th when its first two batters, David Leiderman and Dan Shea, reached base on an infield single and a walk. But then Peacock buckled down, striking out Zach Persky and Justin Montemayor before making that memorable grab.

“It’s something I’ll never forget,” Jernigan said of his all-star experience. “You see some amazing things.”

bliepa@timesreview.com

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | The North All Stars during the singing of the national anthem.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | The North All Stars during the singing of the national anthem.

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.

06/02/13 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