08/06/12 6:00pm
08/06/2012 6:00 PM

GARRETT MEADE FILE PHOTO | Shaun Hansen in his high school playing days.

Shaun Hansen might be the perfect example of the big fish-little pond syndrome.

During his high school playing days for the former combined Southold/Greenport baseball team and then Southold and Greenport separately, Hansen was a dominant force as both a hitter and a pitcher. He was a monster at the plate who hit for power and average. As a pitcher, he routinely fired fastballs past overmatched batters.

Then again, that was then, in the small pond of high school baseball on eastern Long Island. The present situation is quite different for Hansen. At 6 feet 3 inches tall and 205 pounds, Hansen is a sizable speciman, but he is no longer a big fish. For one thing, he’s no longer playing in the proverbial little pond. He is in a much larger pool now. As Hansen has found, college baseball is a whole new ball game.

Hansen learned early on in his freshman season at Suffolk County Community College that he needed to adjust to a higher level, not to mention a new position: third base.

“It was a lot different than high school, a lot more intense, but I like that,” Hansen said. “Everyone is an all star. I would go out there and I would play terrible the first couple of games. I would be like: ‘Wow, I need to go to the gym. I need to do something different to help me get better. I need to get in the cage more. I need to do this and that.’ It made me want to do better, want to work harder to get better.”

In continuance of that pursuit, Hansen played for the Riverhead Tomcats in the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League this summer. He played first base, took some swings as a designated hitter and pitched some.

Hansen came off the bench in a pinch-hitting role last Thursday to line a single over third baseman Bobby Geren in the ninth inning of a 12-4 loss to the Southampton Breakers in Game 2 of the Hampton Division finals. The victory brought the Breakers their first division championship.

But Hansen, who throws and bats right-handed, had difficulty with a back injury earlier this summer. “They found out that my vertebrae has actually shifted a little bit so it’s pinching my muscle,” he said. “They stretched me out and I guess they popped it back into place.”

The back trouble didn’t help Hansen’s numbers with the Tomcats. He batted .077 (3 for 39) during the regular season with two runs batted in. As a pitcher, he went 1-2 with a 13.50 earned run average. In the nine and one-third innings he pitched, he issued 10 walks against nine strikeouts.

Of course, the other side to this is the quality of the competition he faced in the ACBL, which draws college players from various parts of the country.

“Playing in this league, it’s a little overwhelming at first,” said Hansen. He added: “Really, when I came here, I just wanted to get the experience. I wanted to play against good competition. Even if I did poorly, either way it’s a good experience. It is summer ball. It really doesn’t mean much. It’s just about getting better. It’s what the league is about, developing players.”

Riverhead coach Randy Caden said Hansen has the size and strength to be a good player. “I think he has the ability, he just doesn’t believe in himself yet,” Caden said. “It’s a confidence thing with him. … He’s never played on this level, as most kids haven’t. It’s a new challenge. I try to tell him, ‘It will come; it will come.’ But that’s the thing, as you go up, the competition gets tougher.”

Hansen was in for a surprise this past college season at Suffolk when he was asked to play third base, a position he had little experience at, to fill a team need. He also pitched for the Sharks. Hansen, whose father Brian coached the North Fork Ospreys last year, said he would like to play for a four-year school after completing his sophomore year at Suffolk.

While Hansen may like to reminisce about his high school playing days occasionally, he knows they are done and over with.

“In high school I could throw a fastball right down the middle and usually two out of three times they’re not going to hit it,” he said, “but if I throw one down here, someone’s going to take it out of the park easily.”

bliepa@timesreview.com

08/02/12 8:10pm
08/02/2012 8:10 PM

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.

bliepa@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

07/29/11 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.

07/17/11 10:21pm
07/17/2011 10:21 PM

All nine Southampton Breakers batters had a hit or more as the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League team produced 21 hits in a 14-3 rout of the host Riverhead Tomcats on Sunday. Southampton (15-17) blew the game open with eight runs over the final two innings.

Leading the Southampton offense were Jordan Zech (3 for 6, three runs, home run, three runs batted in), Brant Whiting (4 for 6, three runs, three RBI), Andrew Shimkus (4 for 5, run, two RBI) and Steve Schrenk (3 for 5, three runs, double, RBI), according to www.hamptonsbaseball.org.

The Tomcats (12-20) received two hits each from Jim Luppens and Patrick Jones, who doubled, walked and had an RBI.

07/09/11 10:43am
07/09/2011 10:43 AM

Jordan Zech and James McMahon both had two hits each and homered for the Southampton Breakers in their 7-2 Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League victory over the host Riverhead Tomcats on Friday. Zech knocked in two runs for the Whalers (11-12), who had seven players with at least one hit.

Josh Barry notched the win. He gave up two runs and eight hits over five and one-third innings, with one walk and three strikeouts.

Jamie Wollerman went 2 for 3 for the Tomcats (10-15).

07/08/11 1:22pm
07/08/2011 1:22 PM

Steve Schrenk went 4 for 5 with a home run, three runs batted in and three runs scored for the Southampton Breakers in an 8-4 defeat of the Riverhead Tomcats in the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League on Thursday.

Robb Scott (two RBI) and Brant Whiting added two apiece for the visiting Breakers (13-13), who produced 12 hits.

Chris Phelan notched the win, giving up three earned runs and eight hits over eight innings.

Frank Schwindel went 3 for 4 with a homer and three RBI for the Tomcats (10-14). Teammate Adam Michel had two hits, two stolen bases and scored a run.

06/24/11 9:04pm
06/24/2011 9:04 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead third baseman Alex Gouin used his glove as well as his bat to help the Tomcats top Southampton.

Things were getting a little tight down the stretch. Both the potential tying and winning runs were on base. The pressure was on.

That’s just the way Brett Schreiber likes it.

Indeed, it seems like Schreiber thrives under pressure. He’s a pitcher with a closer’s mentality. No wonder that’s the role he prefers.

“The tougher [the situation], the better” he is, said Tomcats Coach Randy Caden.

Well, the numbers don’t lie. With Schreiber’s third save of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League season Friday in the Tomcats’ 2-1 triumph over the Southampton Mariners, he extended an impressive run. The 6-foot-4 right-hander, in his eighth appearance of the season, extended his string of scoreless innings to 12 1/3 innings. What’s more, he has surrendered only five hits and two walks against 16 strikeouts, and has a 1-0 record.

“I think I throw harder when the game’s on the line,” he said.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | David Gibson pitched four scoreless innings for Riverhead, allowing two hits.

Schreiber’s inning of relief and a clutch catch by third baseman Alex Gouin enabled the Tomcats to hold on for the win, bringing their record to 7-7. The Breakers dropped to 5-8.

Schreiber, the fifth pitcher used by the Tomcats, entered the game in the bottom of the ninth inning and struck out the first two batters. It was the third and final out that proved a little tricky, though.

On an unseasonably cool, breezy day, visibility became an issue in the later innings as a heavy fog hovered above the Stony Brook Southampton field. After Schreiber fanned Robb Scott and pinch hitter Tim Swatek, Andrew Shimkus singled down the left-field line and Jordan Zech laced a single into right field, keeping Southampton’s hopes alive. Then, with runners at the corners, Schreiber got Steve Schrenk to hit a high popup in foul territory. Gouin managed to find the ball through the mist for the out.

Game over. Put another save in the books for Schreiber.

“This is him,” Caden said. “He usually doesn’t give up hits, either, but he did a great job again.”

Schreiber, who lives in Westbury and played for Clarke High School, recently completed a freshman season at Hofstra University in which he went 1-0 with a 4.95 earned run average. He said he was primarily used as a seventh- or eighth-inning pitcher, but wants to become a closer for the Pride.

If his stint with the Tomcats can be seen as an audition, he’s faring quite well.

Gouin said Schreiber is doing “an unbelievable job. Every time he goes out there, I’m sure the team feels very confident. He just gets it done.”

Schreiber, who throws a fastball, a slider and a changeup, said the wood bats in the ACBL make things a little easier.

The Tomcats scored a run in the third and fourth innings for a 2-0 lead. Their first two hits of the game came in the third. Mike Johnson doubled past right fielder Steve Harrington and Jamie Wollerman rapped another single to right field. That set up a sacrifice fly by Frank Schwindel. In the fourth, Ryan Lukach reached base on an error, stole second, and scored when Gouin slapped a single along the right-field line.

Riverhead’s starting pitcher, David Gibson, turned in four scoreless innings in which he allowed two hits. He walked two and struck out five.

The Tomcats missed golden opportunities to expand their lead in both the sixth and seventh innings. After the Tomcats loaded the bases with one out in the sixth — prompting the exit of starting pitcher Mike Campbell — reliever Raul Jacobson got Jim Luppens to look at a called third strike and Johnson to fly out to right field, ending the threat. The Tomcats nearly scored in the seventh. With Adam Michel on third base, Schwindel lined a single that struck the backside of an umpire, but Michel was unable to score. Jacobson then got Lukach looking at a third strike for the third out.

Caden, whose team left 10 runners on base, said: “We’ve been doing that all year, leaving guys on base. That’s our downfall right now, but hopefully that will come.”

Then it was Southampton’s turn to load the bases in the seventh. That was the inning in which the Breakers scored their run. A bunt single by Scott, a walk by Tito Marrero and a lined single by Shimkus made that run happen. Zech was then hit by a pitch, loading the bases and prompting Caden to bring in reliever Sean Cabrera. Cabrera got Schrenk to strike out looking.

A couple of innings later it would be Schreiber’s turn to take the mound. On a day like this, when the heat is on, it’s nice to have a pitcher like Schreiber who can bring some heat of his own and not get rattled.

“Some guys can do it,” Caden said. “It doesn’t bother them. It’s a mental thing, and when you find one of those [pitchers], you love to have him.”

bliepa@timesreview.com