Baseball: Tomcats head home for Game 3

The Riverhead Tomcats are going home again — not that they wanted to.

At least in this series.

Riverhead’s 11-5 loss to the Sag Harbor Whalers on Friday at Mashashimuet Park forces a decisive third game in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League semifinal series. The teams will meet again Saturday at Veterans Memorial Park in Calverton for a place in the league finals.

The top-seeded Tomcats, who finished the regular season in first place for the first time in their history, had taken Game 1 by a 4-0 score on Thursday. It was their first playoff win in six years.

But the Whalers, survivors of a wild-card game against the Shelter Island Bucks, evened the series Friday with an impressive hitting display that saw 18 hits (as well as eight walks) by the home side. Sag Harbor’s leadoff batter, Jace Mercer, went 3-for-6 and cracked a double that brought in three runs as part of a six-run fifth. Seven other Whalers had two hits apiece.

The loss snapped the Tomcats’ eight-game win streak. They had taken 10 of their previous 11 games, going back into the regular season.

The Whalers held an 11-1 lead through seven innings, before the Tomcats pulled back two runs in each of the last two innings.

The Tomcats had 12 hits themselves in a sloppy game that saw the teams combine for eight errors. Xavier Vargas knocked in three Riverhead runs with an RBI single and a two-run single. Markus Melendez blasted a two-run homer in the eighth.

Whalers starter Nick Kruel earned the win. Despite allowing 10 hits over 7 2/3 innings, only one of the three runs scored off the righthander were earned.

The other semifinal series between the Westhampton Aviators and defending champion Long Island Road Warriors is tied at a game apiece. Game 3 of that series will be played Saturday at Southampton High School.

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Photo caption: Riverhead starter Peter Myers delivering a pitch against Sag Harbor in Game 2 of their semifinal series Friday at Mashashimuet Park. (Credit: Bob Liepa)