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

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

The Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League will expand to the east this season when it welcomes its newest franchise into the league — the Montauk Mustangs.

Montauk will join North Fork, Riverhead, Westhampton, Southampton, Sag Harbor and Shelter Island when the league continues play in 2014. The western most team, Center Moriches, will not return to the league.

“Establishing a team in Montauk has been on the league’s radar even from the very start, and we’re so pleased that it has come to fruition,” HCBL President Brett Mauser said in a press release. “We look forward to bringing free family entertainment to Montauk each summer in the form of high-caliber college baseball action, and thank those in the community and with the school district for pledging their support. In addition, none of this would be possible without our major sponsors – Hampton Jitney, Emil Norsic & Son, and Bridgehampton National Bank — all of whose backing is truly indispensable.”

The squad’s nickname is a salute to the hamlet’s prep school teams, according to the press release. The Mustangs will be headed by general manager Robert Aspenleiter, a Montauk resident, and will play their home games at the Montauk Public School.

The Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League is one of 12 summer leagues sanctioned by Major League Baseball, and since its inception in 2008, more than 60 alumni have continued their careers at the professional level. The 2014 season will feature 140 regular-season games across the region leading up to the playoffs, which culminate with the best-of-three HCBL championship series in the first week of August, the league said.

gparpan@timesreview.com

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.

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.