GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Bryan Palermo of Riverhead rocked a single off the pitcher’s mound in the second inning.
HAMPTON DIVISION FINALS, GAME 2 | BREAKERS 12, TOMCATS 4
In the quirky world of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League postseason, where up can be down and down can be up, playoff seedings don’t count for a heck of a lot these days. The top two seeds in the Hampton Division (the Shelter Island Bucks and the North Fork Ospreys), for example, didn’t make it out of the division semifinals.
Nonetheless, there have been a couple of constants. For one thing, it remains a hitters’ league, particularly late in the regular season when pitching staffs start running short on arms. Also, it’s still safe to say that the team that gets hot at the right time often wins.
Meet the hot Southampton Breakers, the 2012 Hampton Division champions.
The third-seeded Breakers became well-deserved owners of that title Thursday evening when they turned in a 12-4 shellacking of the No. 4 Riverhead Tomcats to take the series in two games. It is the first division championship for the Breakers since the team’s inaugural season in 2009.
“We really felt like we were the best team,” Breakers right fielder Brenton Allen said. “Honestly, we felt that from day one, that we were the best team in this league no matter if we were losing games or winning games, and I felt like this was a chance for us to show it, to prove it. The best team won it.”
The Breakers will face an unknown opponent in a league semifinal on Saturday for the right to play for the league title on Sunday.
Second baseman Jon Testani spearheaded Southampton’s 15-hit attack with four hits and four runs batted in. He homered for the Breakers as did Allen (3 for 5, three runs batted in) and Rob Fonseca.
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Former Riverhead High School pitcher Steve Kimmelman started for the Tomcats.
The Breakers posted multi-run innings in five of the nine innings. They assumed a 4-0 lead by the second inning and never trailed, although the Tomcats did pull as close as within 5-4 in the fifth after Josh Mason smashed a run-scoring single. Then the Breakers put up three runs in the sixth, two in the seventh and two in the eighth.
Game over. Series over.
Offense has been the keyword this season, with all sorts of Hampton Division batting records being set. Among them was a new regular-season mark for home runs: 12 by Mason.
“I thought there was a lot more hitting this year,” said Riverhead coach Randy Caden, whose team played in the division finals for the second time in three years. “There was a lot of offense this year. There was less low-scoring games than high-scoring games.”
The Breakers continued the trend on Thursday, putting up 12 runs worth of scoring, as if they needed them all with Anthony Eichhorn on the mound. Over five innings, the right-hander gave up four runs (three were earned), six hits and two walks. He had four strikeouts in gaining the win.
The Breakers have been as hot as the weather, ever since the final days of the regular season. And it hasn’t all been hitting, either. Prior to Thursday’s game, Southampton had not given up an earned run in the playoffs.
“I knew the whole year that they were going to be good because I knew their pitching staff was unbelievable,” said Joe Forney, who delivered a two-run homer for the Tomcats. “They’re really deep. Once their hitting came around, they were playing great.”
Testani said, “Baseball-wise, everything’s been clicking, from pitching, hitting, fielding.”
The Breakers won the first game of the series, 6-2, in Southampton on Wednesday as Robb Scott produced five RBI. He had another one on Thursday.
“Every team in the league here was a good team and anyone could have won it, but we got hot at the right time,” said Breakers coach Rob Cafiero, who was presented with the division championship trophy by Westhampton Aviators general manager Henry Bramwell. The Aviators were last year’s division champs.
Thursday’s series clincher featured a couple of unusual — and controversial — plays. In the fifth inning, James Luppens powered a fly ball that Allen caught before toppling over the right-field fence, with the ball in his glove. One of the white caps on top of the fence fell to the ground about the same time as Allen did. With confusion over whether Allen had dropped the ball or not, Luppens was at first awarded a two-run homer. But after Cafiero argued the call, the umpires conferred and reversed the ruling, calling Luppens out and taking away the two runs in question.
Afterward, Allen said he didn’t drop the ball. “I can say that completely honestly,” he said.
Then, with Southampton batting in the seventh, Allen was involved in another debatable call — this time as a batter. With runners on second and third, Allen struck a soft liner that second baseman Bryan Palermo appeared to nab before it struck the ground. Both runners took off upon contact, and Palermo tossed the ball to the shortstop, Mason, covering second base for a double play. Once again, the umpires met and talked. This time, though, the original call stood.
For the Tomcats, the loss marked the end of an intense season that saw them play 44 games in 61 days.
“It’s fun, man, because for me, especially, I didn’t get to play that much on my school ball team my freshman year [at Xavier], so coming out here and just playing every day was exactly what I needed to get back in my groove,” Forney said. “I enjoyed my time in the Hamptons.”
As for playoff seedings, throw them out — at least as far as this year is concerned.