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Baseball: No drama for Cardiac Cats as Riverhead falls in Game 1 of HCBL Championship Series

This time there was no drama, just a whole lot of Southampton Breakers’ hits and runs.

The Riverhead Tomcats have gained a reputation this season for their flair for the dramatic in games, particularly in the postseason, with comebacks and wild, walk-off wins. Strong pitching and sturdy defense has taken the Cardiac Cats to the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League Championship Series. That sort of a cocktail tends to keep teams in games, tight games when the offense isn’t producing a lot.

One thing Game 1 Wednesday wasn’t, however, was tight. The Breakers saw to that.

Bryan Krolikowski turned in eight splendid innings of shutout ball and was supported by a 12-hit attack as the Breakers romped, 9-1, at Southampton High School. Will Gale, Beau Root and Tyler Robinson drove in two runs apiece. Gale also had two hits, as did teammates Mason Marquez and David Franchi.

“The only thing you can do is just, you know, put this game behind you and we’re gonna come in, you know, play our game tomorrow and, you know, it’s the same guys,” Tomcats shortstop Tyler Cox said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re up against, you know. We got a strong group, we got good team chemistry and we’re just gonna come out and compete tomorrow, play our Tomcats game and make it a dogfight.”

The powerful Breakers, seeking their third league title in as many appearances in the championship series, held first place the entire regular season, and there was a reason for that. Their work in the batter’s box is impressive.

The league has no mercy rule in the playoffs, and the Breakers showed no mercy. They scored a run or more in five of the eight innings in which they batted.

It was hardly the start the Tomcats were looking for to their third straight championship series. If they are to pick up their second league title (their first was in 2018), they will need to win Game 2 Thursday at Veterans Memorial Park in Calverton. Should they do that, a decisive third game will be played in Southampton Friday.

In the meantime, a little amnesia wouldn’t be a bad thing for the Tomcats.

“Yeah, that’s all we can do is just keep going,” said Joe Gisonda, who socked a 2-and-1 fastball to dead centerfield for a leadoff home run in the ninth inning, giving the Tomcats their only run. “We’ve been out here all summer. There’s no reason why we should just give up now, you know. So I think the best thing to do is just put your head down and go full at it.”

Krolikowski, a 6-foot-3, 170-pound righthander, made things difficult for the Tomcats, getting weak contact early in counts while spotting sliders and fastballs. Cameron Love, Kevin Bowrosen, Calvin Brown and Cox each got a single off him, and that was it. Krolikowski didn’t allow anything else, not even a walk, while striking out seven. He threw 90 pitches before Andrew Ledbetter took over for the final inning.

Former Shoreham-Wading River High School star Brian Morrell started in leftfield for the Tomcats. He flied out, reached base on an error and stole a base before coach Bill Ianniciello replaced him in the sixth when he sent the first of four straight pinch hitters to the batter’s box. The score was already 8-0 by then.

Jared Restmeyer started for the Tomcats and went four innings during which he was charged with six runs and nine hits against the fearsome Breakers. David Galvao handled the remaining four innings.

Southampton has beaten the Tomcats six times in seven meetings this year. It seems they have Riverhead’s number, but the Tomcats have shown they shouldn’t be underestimated. They are gritty. On paper, they shouldn’t have even gone this far in the playoffs, having finished in fourth place. Heck, they entered the playoffs on a six-game losing streak.

“This is a good character group,” Ianniciello said before the game. “I’m very happy with the kids. We’ve done all we had to do so far. They keep competing, absolutely.”

Asked about his team’s underdog status, Gisonda said, “Our record against them shows that we’re underdogs, but I think we got a really great group of guys and I think we’ve shown that, you know, we can hang right up there and I think the next few games are going to be fun to watch and I think we have a really good chance.”

The Tomcats didn’t sound beaten after the game.

Said Gisonda, “I think we still have unfinished business.”