07/24/12 7:30pm
07/24/2012 7:30 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead Tomcats second baseman Bryan Palermo graduated from Riverhead in 2010.

When Bryan Palermo began looking at colleges to play baseball while in high school at Riverhead, he originally narrowed his choices down to a few schools in Virginia and Maryland. That all changed with a random request from his high school baseball coach, who had him enter an essay contest.

Palermo obliged and wrote the essay about what baseball meant to him. He talked about his desire to compete and the lessons baseball had taught him. His essay won, earning Palermo an opportunity to attend a free baseball camp at Harvard University.

He played at the camp and it just so happened coaches from St. Lawrence University, a liberal arts college just south of the Canadian border upstate, were in attendance. The coaches liked what they saw in Palermo, beginning the recruitment process that quickly reached its conclusion when he made his first visit to St. Lawrence.

“I say it all the time, I couldn’t have made a better choice of where I go to school,” said Palermo, who is working toward becoming a physics teacher.

A 2010 Riverhead graduate, Palermo quickly blossomed on the baseball field at St. Lawrence. As a freshman he became the starting second baseman early in the season and finished the year with a .328 average to earn first-team all-Liberty League honors. He repeated those honors again last spring when he batted .362 as the leadoff hitter for St. Lawrence in his sophomore season. He led the league in runs scored, plate appearances, at-bats and was tied for third in hits as the team posted its best finish in program history.

Based on his superb play and with the recommendation of his college coach, Palermo got an opportunity this summer to play for the Riverhead Tomcats in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League. He’s the only Riverhead graduate to play for the Tomcats this season.

“It’s a lot of baseball and it’ll definitely help me improve for next year, so I’m excited about that,” Palermo said.

Palermo has started at second base for the Tomcats this season, playing almost every day in front of family and friends.

Palermo finds himself in a minority when it comes to playing in the Hamptons League. Whereas most players come to the East End from Division I schools, Palermo plays in Division III at St. Lawrence.

It’s been a bump in the level of competition for Palermo, who came into the summer not looking to put any extra pressure on himself.

“I think I knew I was capable of it,” Palermo said. “I’ve played against a bunch of these guys before. I just went out and played hard and that’s all I can do.”

Palermo’s held his own at the plate this summer, posting a .265 average in 28 games heading into action Tuesday.

He said it took some adjusting early on when he was facing better pitching than he’d become accustomed to at college.

“I think I’ve improved and done well with it, so I’m happy about that,” he said.

The biggest difference, Palermo said, is the velocity. With the Tomcats he routinely faces pitchers who can hit 90 miles per hour. In college, he rarely will go up against a pitcher who can reach that speed.

“Playing against this competition will definitely make me a better ballplayer,” Palermo said. “I know my college coach has been following me and he’s excited about how I’m playing.”

Palermo was in high school in 2009 when the Tomcats made their debut in the Hamptons Baseball League. He said it was a dream of his to play college baseball and get an opportunity to compete in the Hamptons League.

Last summer he played with the Center Moriches Battlecats in the FABL College Wood Bat Division. This summer the Battlecats joined the Hamptons Baseball League along with the Shelter Island Bucks.

In high school Palermo played all over the field, from shortstop to pitcher to catcher. He also wrestled during the winter. He was always primarily a middle infielder and by the start of his college career, he found a permanent home at second base.

As the regular season winds down this week for the Tomcats, Palermo said the goal is to lock up a spot in the playoffs, which begin Sunday. Once the season ends he’ll get some time off before heading back to college. The players get two weeks off at the start of the first semester before fall practices begin. After the fall season it’s onto weight-lifting and other training.

“Once second semester comes around, that’s when it really starts to focus on baseball,” he said.

He wouldn’t have it any other way.

joew@timesreview.com

07/10/12 9:24pm
07/10/2012 9:24 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead Tomcats left fielder Andrew Gorecki hit a pair of home runs Tuesday against Southampton.

Riverhead Tomcats left fielder Andrew Gorecki couldn’t help but smile as he trotted back to the dugout from first base after coming within inches of hitting his third home run of the game Tuesday against Southampton.

“I can’t do everything,” he said, laughing, after the umpires conferred on the strange play.

Gorecki, a St. Anthony’s graduate who plays at Manhattan College, had just hit a high fly to the opposite field that kept carrying and carrying at Riverhead High School. Southampton left fielder Brenton Allen drifted back with the ball, then collided into the fence as he attempted to make the catch. He tumbled over the short fence and somehow hung on to the ball.

“I saw the ball go in his glove and then I saw him fall over,” Gorecki said afterward. “I didn’t see the ball come out. I was hoping it would come out because then obviously it would have been a home run.”

The Tomcats could have used the two runs after Southampton rallied for three runs in the ninth inning to win 7-5 and snap a three-game winning streak for Riverhead.

The umpires got together to talk about Gorecki’s ball to determine whether it was caught and then what to do with the runner who ended up on second base.

“The rule is if you leave your feet and go out of play, it’s a dead ball and the runners move up,” said Riverhead coach Randy Caden. “He caught the ball, then he fell over the fence and once his body touched the ground, it’s a dead ball.”

There was no confusion on Gorecki’s first two at-bats. He hit a two-run homer to right-center in the second inning for the first runs of the game. Then in the fourth he hit another two-run shot to center that gave Riverhead a 5-4 lead after Southampton had struck for three in previous inning.

The lead nearly stood up for Riverhead until the ninth when a one-out double by Vinny Zarrillo sparked a three-run inning.

The home runs were the first of the summer for Gorecki, who said it’s been a long time since he ever had a multi-homer game.

“Probably since I was little,” he said.

Gorecki is batting .242 in his first season playing in the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League. Caden said he wasn’t surprise to see Gorecki show off some power.

“He has a very good swing and if his head’s on the ball he has the opportunity to do that,” he said. “He almost put that third one out.”

A day earlier Gorecki, who’s from Smithtown, said he went to the batting cage and took about 200 swings.

“I just kept working on things, trying to stay inside the ball,” he said. “Little things, little fundamentals.”

Gorecki hit one home run at Manhattan last spring in 128 at-bats. A left-handed hitter who throws righty, Gorecki said that’s how it came natural to him when he first picked up a bat.

His dad asked him if he was sure he was holding it correctly. When Gorecki said yes, his dad told him to go for it, as left-handed hitters are always a commodity in baseball.

It’s worked out well for Gorecki, who was a three-time team MVP in high school.

He benefitted Tuesday from a big game by catcher Seby Zavala batting in front of him. Zavala singled three times in front of Gorecki to set the stage for him. His first single came with two out after Southampton starter Eric Peterson struck out the first two batters.

He then led off the fourth with a single and again in the sixth. He finished 3-for-4 after flying out to right in the eighth.

The Tomcats got some strong relief work against the Breakers before the ninth. Riverhead starter Mike Trionfo gave up four runs in 3 2/3 innings. The combination of Matt Facendo and Will Bacon combined to keep the Breakers scoreless through the eighth.

“We usually don’t lose games like that,” Caden said. “When you have one out in the ninth with your closer and you’re winning by a run, 95 percent of that time you’re going to win that game.”

At 16-9 the Tomcats still remain in first place, just ahead of Shelter Island.

joew@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

06/26/12 9:42pm
06/26/2012 9:42 PM

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead Tomcats first baseman Jimmy Luppens, a 2010 SWR grad, homered in the first game of a doubleheader Tuesday against Sag Harbor.

Every now and then, Jimmy Luppens still gets an itch to pitch.

“I ask coach all the time, ‘Hey, when am I getting into pitch?’ ” Luppens said after the Riverhead Tomcats split a doubleheader Tuesday afternoon against Sag Harbor at Riverhead High School.

In his days at Shoreham-Wading River, Luppens was the kind of player who could slide all around the field, including on the mound where the Wildcats relied heavily on his right arm as a starter. Now after two years in college at Canisius, his pitching duties are mostly behind him, as are all the other positions he may have once played.

He’s found a permanent home at first base.

What hasn’t changed is that big bat that always instilled fear into an opposing pitcher. As a junior at Shoreham Luppens hit .436 with five home runs and 22 RBIs. He followed that up with another strong season as a senior, earning all-state honors.

In his second year now playing for the Tomcats, Luppens has provided a big boost to the middle of the order. He hit a two-run home run in the first game against Sag Harbor, a 4-0 Riverhead win, for his fourth home run of the season.

“It was a fastball middle and up in the zone,” Luppens said. “I was just thinking about hitting a fly ball and getting a sacrifice fly.”

Luppens came into the day batting .364 and he leads the team with 15 RBIs in 12 games. No other player for Riverhead has hit double-digit RBIs yet.

“Jimmy’s hitting the ball really well,” said Riverhead coach Randy Caden. “The last third of the season [last year] he was probably our hardest hitter. He has a good approach and his confidence is there. And he knows he can hit the ball. He’s not afraid of this.”

Luppens reached base once in Game 2 Tuesday when he was hit by a pitch in the sixth inning of a 2-1 loss. He advanced to third with two outs and the Tomcats trailing by a run, but was left stranded.

Luppens came into the summer off a superb season with the Golden Griffins in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. He led the team with a .503 slugging percentage and drove in 32 runs while hitting .346. Canisius went 16-8 in conference and advanced to the finals of the conference tournament before falling to Manhattan.

“We lost two heartbreakers to Manhattan, but they’re a good team,” Luppens said.

The Golden Griffins lost 3-2 in extra innings of the final game to end the season. The first game of the best-of-three series also ended with an extra inning, one-run loss for Canisius.

Now back with the Tomcats, Luppens has helped lead the team to an 8-6 record. In an 11-5 win over Shelter Island Saturday Luppens drove in five runs and hit a home run.

“I knew he had a great college year,” Caden said. “And I was expecting him to have a good year and he’s doing what I expected — get base hits, have some power. He plays a pretty good first base for us.”

Caden said the way Luppens has grown and matured since he started on the team last year, he’s developed into the kind of player who’s hard to take out of the lineup.

“You give him a days rest here and there, but now you got that kid coming off the bench and he could lose it in any park at any time,” Caden said.

Looking ahead Luppens said he hopes to keep hitting the ball hard, help the Tomcats win and keep working toward the goal every player dreams about: getting drafted.

“It’s just one of my goals,” he said. “I don’t know if it’ll get achieved or not, but I guess that’s everybody’s goal.”

Riverhead got some outstanding pitching in both games of the doubleheader Tuesday, giving up a total of one earned run over 14 innings. Mike Trionfo, a senior from Towson, threw a complete game shutout in the Tomcats’ win, giving up just one hit and striking out six.

Will Bacon threw four innings to start Game 2 and took the loss. Sag Harbor tied the game at one in the third inning. Grant Shambley hit a ball into right field with a runner at first going on the pitch. The ball got under the glove of the right fielder, allowing the runner to come around to score and tie the game. Sag Harbor took the lead with a RBI single in the fourth from Jake Kinsley.

Zack Hopf, a junior from St. Peter’s, came in for Riverhead to pitch the final three innings.

joew@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

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

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

OSPREYS 2, TOMCATS 2 (12 INNINGS, SUSPENDED)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He still has some waiting to do.

bliepa@timesreview.com

07/29/11 12:36pm
07/29/2011 12:36 PM

The Riverhead Tomcats rallied for four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to overcome the visiting Southampton Breakers, 4-3, on Thursday, the final day of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League Hampton Division regular season. Frank Schwindel drove in two runs while Eric Schlitter went 3 for 4 with a double and a run batted in for the last-place Tomcats, who finished the season with an 18-22 record. They did not qualify for the playoffs.

James McMahon went 2 for 5 for the Breakers (21-19), according to www.hamptonsbaseball.org.