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Baseball: Harkins leads Tomcats in four-hit shutout

Call them summer rentals.

That is essentially what the players in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League are. Colleges entrust their players to the care of the HCBL clubs for the purpose of training and development. The Riverhead Tomcats’ new manager, Mike Amendola, had an apropos analogy.

“Number one is sending them back healthy,” he said, “and the line I keep using is you’re driving somebody else’s Ferrari, so you got to make sure you treat it as such.”

One of those “Ferraris” was humming today.

Tomcats pitcher Emmett Harkins was in full command of his tricky slider and the North Fork Ospreys.The righthander, a sophomore at George Washington University, shared a four-hit shutout with relievers Frankie Giuliano and Kyle Martin as the Tomcats rolled to a 6-0 Father’s Day win at Veterans Memorial Park in Calverton.

“I was definitely successful because I lived at the knees and threw strikes and I could get my slider in the zone pretty much when I wanted to,” said Harkins (1-1).

As with many players in the HCBL, which celebrates its 10th anniversary, these opening weeks of the season have been Harkins’ first taste of the league. “Everybody’s special here,” he said.

Because player development is the HCBL’s top priority, winning games as well can be a delicate balancing act. Bill Ianniciello, who has managed the Ospreys into the playoffs the past five years, knows that full well. “It’s different because I’m trying to be accountable to the players, to their coaches and programs,” he said. “You’re still trying to win games; you’d like to make the playoffs so that you’re playing for something, so you’re balancing many things.”

Balance wasn’t an issue for the Tomcats (7-4-1) today. They had the pitching. They had the hitting (11 hits altogether). They had the fielding (no errors and two double plays).

Tomcats centerfielder Alvin Melendez, who started the day with the second-highest batting average in the league at .486, continued his fine form. The Fordham University sophomore went 3-for-4 with an RBI. Melendez was named the HCBL’s Player of the Week for his 8-for-14 tear during the opening week. Meanwhile, George Bell went 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI. He was also hit by a pitch.

After Bell’s bases-loaded single opened the scoring, Duncan Hewitt grounded a two-run single into leftfield for a 3-0 lead in the first inning.

The Tomcats didn’t score again until the seventh, which they opened with a double by Jacob Abbott, an RBI single by Brian Cox, a lined single that Melendez ripped past third baseman Peter Matt and a fielder’s choice by Sabido that made it 5-0.

In the eighth, Bell led off by lacing a double that landed just inside the leftfield line. He scored two outs later on a single by Dai Dai Otaka.

All four Ospreys hits (singles by Chris Adams, Mike Sciorra, Matt and John Mead) came off Harkins. Over his seven innings, Harkins had five strikeouts and no walks.

“Today was definitely his best start, and he stayed in the strike zone,” Melendez said. “When he stays in the strike zone, he’s very good and it’s very tough to beat him.”

Ospreys starter Stephen Hansen registered eight strikeouts against six hits and a walk in six innings. The Ospreys are 6-8.

Ianniciello, an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Adelphi University, said the HCBL has done “a very good job of building the brand of the league and they’ve established a lot of good relationships with strong college programs around the country so, yeah, it’s moving in a good direction.”

That has brought some high-powered talent from around the country to eastern Long Island.

When told about Amendola’s “Ferrari” quote, Ianniciello cracked a grin and said, “I would love to have 25 Ferraris.”

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Photo caption: Riverhead shortstop Dai Dai Otaka throwing to first base as North Fork’s Mike Sciorra slides. (Credit: Ray Nelson)