Aviators fly high with three homers

Riverhead shortstop Jeff Welsh covered second base while Westhampton’s Sal Intagliata made sure he got a foot on the bag.

WESTHAMPTON — Say this about the Westhampton Aviators: They may not have had many come-from-behind wins this season, but when they do mount a successful comeback, they do it in style.

The Aviators snapped a three-game losing streak on Saturday by overcoming deficits on three occasions. They were responsible for three of the five home runs hit in their 7-5 defeat of the Riverhead Tomcats in an Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League game at Hite Field.

Chad Livingston and Marc Magliaro both smacked two-run homers and Ramon Ortega added a solo shot for the defending league champion Aviators, who brought their record to 14-17.

“Oh man, it was nice to see us finally swing the bats,” said Aviators Manager Jeff Quiros. “This was huge.”

The Tomcats, who dropped to 15-16, received solo shots from Jeff Welsh and Kevin Needham, who went 3 for 3 with a walk.

John Soldinger (3-2) picked up the win, scattering seven hits over six innings and giving up four runs. He struck out five and walked one as part of his 102-pitch performance.

“Pitching, defense and the long ball,” Quiros said. “In this ballpark, if you can elevate something, you know, it carries. It’s a hitter’s ballpark.”

Magliaro picked a good time for his first extra-base hit of the season, and it was a home run at that. His two-run homer capped a three-run sixth for the Aviators, who took a 6-4 lead. Quiros said it may have been his team’s biggest hit of the season.

The first of the runs during that rally came on a groundout following Kevin Heller’s hard-hit infield single and a double that Blake Slattery ripped down the left-field line. Tomcats third baseman Cody Slaughter hit the ground hard while trying to stop Heller’s hit and dirt flew into his eyes. He left the game and was replaced by Eric Schlitter.

The Tomcats trimmed Westhampton’s lead to 6-5 in the seventh. Nathan Pittman led off with a walk, stole his league-leading 21st base of the season and moved to third on a passed ball before scoring on Matt Fleishman’s sacrifice fly.

The Aviators received a major boost from relief pitcher Matt Longfield. After the Tomcats loaded the bases on a Needham single and two walks, Longfield was brought into the game, relieving Anthony Cervone with one out. Longfield proceeded to strike out Pittman and get Tyler Brant to fly out to right, ending the threat.

Ortega took the game’s next pitch deep for his first home run of the season and a 7-5 lead in the eighth.

The Aviators put up an unearned run in the first inning. Sal Intagliata reached base on a fielding error. Then, following a sacrifice bunt and a balk, he made his way home when Heller belted a single through the middle.

But the Tomcats pulled that run back in the second. After Chase Fowler led off by ripping a double to the right-field fence, Isaac Rodriguez shot a single to left, allowing Fowler to slide home. Rodriguez later tagged up and attempted to score from third base on a shallow fly ball hit by Eric Romano, but was thrown out by the right fielder, Intagliata.

Welsh put the Tomcats ahead, 2-1, by clocking a home run over left field to lead off the third. It was his first home run of the season.

Singles by Rodriguez and Romano, sandwiched around a walk to Needham, set up Riverhead’s third run in the fourth. Slaughter brought that run home with a sacrifice fly for a 3-1 lead.

Then, with one swing of the bat, the Aviators tied it at 3-3 in the fourth. Livingston smoked a 3-0 pitch for his second home run of the season, a two-run shot to right-center field that traveled an estimated 340 feet.

“It was a battle,” Needham said. “It went back and forth all game.”

Needham went deep himself, launching the first pitch of the sixth halfway up a hill, well over the right-field fence for his second round-tripper of the season.

“We definitely needed to end our losing streak,” Ortega said. “We’re a lot better than we’ve been playing.”

The pleased look on Quiros’ face after the game said as much as the words that came out of his mouth.

“We haven’t had many comeback wins, so this one was a nice one, the biggest one of the year,” he said. “We haven’t played our best baseball yet, so that’s encouraging for me because our best baseball could be coming at the right time.”

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MACALUSO GOES EIGHT INNINGS Riverhead took a 3-0 lead by the third inning, and Dom Macaluso pitched eight innings of four-hit ball as the Tomcats held off the North Fork Ospreys, 3-2, last Wednesday night at Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic. Macaluso gave up two earned runs, walking two and striking out two.

GODLEY FANS 10 TOMCATS Zach Godley and Jared Wagner of the Southampton Breakers combined for a four-hit shutout of the Tomcats, 2-0, on Thursday in Southampton. Godley struck out 10 in his eight innings of work while allowing two hits and three walks. Wagner fanned three batters in the ninth for the save.