The Riverhead Tomcats were on a whale of a run — until the Whalers ended it.
Harpooned by Sag Harbor Whalers pitching, the Tomcats saw their five-game unbeaten streak (including four straight wins) come to an end Tuesday.
Ironically, it was pitching that was largely responsible for the Tomcats’ fine run of late. Following a 1-1 tie with the Southampton Breakers on June 20, the Tomcats won their next four games, outscoring their opponents, 29-9.
Five Tomcats pitchers — Beau Keathley (2-0, 0.65 ERA, league-high 27 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings), Joe Murphy (1-0, 0.00), Pete Myers (1-0, 0.73), Chris Stefl (0-0, 0.00) and Nick DeSalvo (0-0, 0.93) — all have sub-1.00 ERAs.
“I think everybody’s starting to jell,” Tomcats coach John Galanoudis said before Tuesday’s game. “At the beginning of the season, I don’t want to say it was tough, but we kind of had to figure out what we had on the pitching end. That’s the biggest thing. The hitters have been pretty good. The pitching staff, I think that’s the difference. The pitchers have made a big adjustment, throwing strikes, trusting the defense behind them. We haven’t been walking as many guys as we were … The pitching has been lights out.”
But it was Sag Harbor’s pitching that shined brightest Tuesday at Mashashimuet Park. Max Spencer turned in five quality innings while Joe Suozzi and Leo Horacio provided two hits each at the top of the order for the Whalers in their 4-2 win.
The Tomcats mounted a ninth-inning threat, putting two men on base — Trevor Fagan was hit by a pitch and the speedy Luke Oliphant legged out an infield single. But reliever Sam Lara struck out Luis Antos on three pitches and got Eduardo Malinowski to fly out, securing Lara’s second save.
For the Tomcats, it was a reminder that all good things come to an end.
“You can’t win them all,” said Fagan.
The Tomcats finished with nine hits, one more than the Whalers, but their timing was off. Riverhead stranded 10 runners on base.
“We just didn’t put the at-bats together at the right time,” Fagan said. “We didn’t have clutch hits in the right spots.”
Of course, Sag Harbor pitching had something to do with that.
Spencer (1-1, 2.36 ERA), a lefthander from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, conceded five hits and a walk against two strikeouts before Reuben Drogin, Sal Ferro and Lara handled four scoreless innings in relief.
Both Riverhead runs scored on sacrifice flies by Alex Baratta and Antos.
The Whalers (8-7-2) opened with a run in the first inning. Horacio chopped an infield single and Nick Thornquist slammed a lined single before Jason Allbery brought in the run with a fielder’s choice.
That lead was stretched to 3-0 in the third. After a leadoff walk by Thornquist and a bad-hop double by Allbery, Connor Anderson produced a sacrifice fly and Sean Trenholm ripped an RBI single up the middle.
In the fourth, Suozzi led off with a single, stole second base, advanced to third on an error and came home on Horacio’s sacrifice fly for a 4-1 lead.
James Judenis (1-1) pitched the first four innings for Riverhead. DeSalvo handled the next four, allowing only one hit and no runs.
The loss aside, the Tomcats can’t complain about life of late.
“I think as the season goes on, we’re going to get more and more comfortable with each other and see the success rate go up, but I think overall, we’re on the right track and I see a good future for this team,” Antos said. “The pitching has been outstanding, and team chemistry, I think we’re all good friends. Everybody likes each other, and I think it shows itself on the field. We play as friends, we play for each other.”
Photo caption: Riverhead’s Luis Antos receives a throw at third base, but Sag Harbor’s Casey Aubin was safe on the slide. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)