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Baseball: Antos homers, but Tomcats fall

No question about it, Louis Antos has a reliable glove that’s a good match with his bat. And that’s saying something, considering he was the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League batting champion last year with a .425 batting average.

The Riverhead Tomcats third baseman finished the recent regular season with a not-too-shabby .310 batting average, ranking him tied for 13th. Through two playoff games, he is hitting 3-for-7 in the postseason.

But Antos sees himself as more than a one-dimensional player. He’s a complete player, as evidenced by the pair of defensive gems he produced in Game 1 of the Tomcats’ semifinal series, a 3-2 victory over the Sag Harbor Whalers on Thursday. Both times Antos stopped hard-hit drives by Brandon Dowd before recovering and making accurate throws for the outs.

Antos’ bat stood out in Game 2 Friday when he smacked a 1-and-0 pitch for an opposite-field home run. That shot to lead off the top of the fifth inning was the Tomcats’ first and only hit until Thomas Papadopoulos sent a two-out single up the middle in the seventh. By then the Whalers had already forged a 6-1 lead, which soon expanded to 9-1 on the way to a 9-5 win at Mashashimuet Park in Sag Harbor.

River Town (3-for-5, two runs, two RBIs) and Andrew Bates (2-for-2, two RBIs, two walks) both homered, Peter Marren (4-for-5, two runs, three RBIs) enjoyed a splendid day and Kevin Eaise turned in a first-rate starting pitching performance. Altogether, they helped the Whalers force a decisive third game Saturday in Calverton.

Both sides sounded confident after Friday’s game.

“I don’t know if it has a huge impact other than the fact that we were expecting a day off tomorrow,” Antos said. “We came in thinking that we had this game, but we’re going to come in with the same mentality, a lot of confidence. We got one of our best arms on the mound tomorrow.”

It’s expected the Tomcats will hand Nick DeSalvo the ball for that one.

Antos, DeSalvo and pitcher Joseph Murphy are the only returning players from last year’s Tomcats team, which won the club’s first championship. Now they are looking to become part of the first HCBL team to win back-to-back titles.

“We always had that goal in mind, to go back-to-back titles, especially us three,” Antos said. “We can do it again.”

Antos has done his part for the Tomcats this season.

“He’s sound as can be,” Tomcats manager Bill Ianniciello said after Game 1. “He was batting .140 a few weeks ago. He got himself over .300. He’s just been a big presence in the lineup the last few weeks. We wouldn’t be here without Lou.”

Antos’ popularity with teammates is reflected in interviews. Designated hitter Andrew Hernandez referred to Antos as an “HCBL legend.” Bobby Vath, the winning pitcher of Game 1, called Antos “Mr. Reliable. He’s like the dad of the Tomcats. He’s a little bit older than everybody. It’s his second season back. He’s our iron horse over there.”

Antos plays shortstop for Queens College, but said he’s more at home playing third base.

Eaise did his best to make life uncomfortable for the Tomcats in the batter’s box, and that included Hernandez, his teammate at Pennsylvania. Over six innings, Eaise had six strikeouts and two walks before four relievers handled the final three innings.

“I was able to control my curveball and then my fastball is my best pitch, and I was able to work that in and get a couple of strikeouts with it,” Eaise said. “Riverhead has a real good lineup and just keeping them off-balance was the key.”

Regarding that scary lineup he faced, Eaise said: “They’re deep, one through nine. I mean, you’re starting off the nine hitter with curveballs. You don’t really do that very often, but you got to keep them off-balance.”

When it comes to balance, consider Antos’ all-around game. He was asked if he’s a better hitter or fielder.

“I like to hit, so I’m going to say I’m a better hitter, but I don’t think one part of my game really outplays the rest,” he said. “I think I’m overall a pretty solid player, but if I had to pick one aspect, I’m going to go with hitting. It’s my favorite thing to do.”

Spoken like a true former batting champion.

Photo caption: Louis Antos, right, is congratulated at home plate by teammate Bryce Wallace after Antos led off the fifth inning with a home run, Riverhead’s first hit of the game. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)

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