One bad inning sinks Bucks in season opener vs. Sag Harbor

TARA SLEDJESKI PHOTO | The Bucks pitched well against the Sag Harbor Whalers but still dropped their season opener on the road.

The Shelter Island Bucks were in good shape to win their first game of the 2013 Hampton Collegiate Baseball League season Sunday evening thanks to strong pitching and timely hitting. Well, at least they were until one bad inning lost the Bucks the game.

The Island team went into the bottom of the seventh inning holding onto a 3-0 lead when the Whalers’ bats came alive. The home team loaded the bases due to an infield error and a bunt before a single scored the Whalers’ first run to make it a 3-1 game. With the bases still loaded, a walk to the next batter forced in a run. A fielder’s choice on a sparkling play by Bucks’ first baseman Conner Wilson, of Missouri State University, allowed the game to be knotted at three. The ball hit to Wilson took a wild hop but he stuck with it to get the force at first while a run scored.

The Whalers really opened the game up after the next batter, right fielder Scott Hagan, hit a ball to second that was bobbled. The error allowed two more runs to score with Hagan standing on second on a ball that never left the infield. The inning ended with the Whalers up 5-3 and the Bucks never came back. Tacking on two more runs in the bottom of the eighth, the Whalers won by a final score of 7-4.

After the game, Bucks’ Coach Johnny Hernandez put a positive spin on the contest. “Just getting out there and playing after three days of long practice, just to get them out there and get the pitchers throwing, hitters swinging the bat, it was good, ” Coach Hernandez said.

A couple of Bucks players also had positives to take away from the loss. Catcher Joe Burns from St. John’s University was happy about how the team is starting to come together. “Great group of guys,” he said. “We are all coming closer together and we’re out here playing baseball, so it’s nice.”

Pitcher Mike Wallace from Fairfield University also focused on the positives. “I thought it was a good game, obviously there was one inning that kind of got away from us but I think all in all we were on the same page and for the most part we pitched well, we played the field well and we hit well,” Wallace said. “It was a great atmosphere, great to be out here and we’re definitely looking forward to the rest of the season.”

It was an unseasonably chilly and windy evening in Sag Harbor and quite different from the extreme heat the team practiced in a couple of days earlier. But Coach Hernandez did not think that made a big difference. “Maybe the weather affected them a little bit, it’s kind of windy but a lot of these guys are from the northeast so they should be used to this,” he said.

The Bucks take the field going for their first win of the season today at 5 p.m. in their home opener at Fiske Field.