Bucks struggling but see signs of a turn around

BEVERLEA WALZ | High and tight. Bucks’ batter getting out of the way of an inside pitch Sunday at Fiske Field.

Heading into the top of the ninth in their only home morning game of the season on the Fourth of July, it looked like the Shelter Island Bucks would win a game for the first time in six days. The team had a 4-3 lead before the Sag Harbor Whalers struck for six runs ensuring the Bucks would go over a week without a win.

They broke through Saturday, taking one game in a doubleheader against Southampton to head  into a new week in third place in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League with a record of 14-13.

But that Independence Day top of the ninth was a sloppy one for the Bucks, marred by multiple bad decisions by Bucks’ infielders, passed balls and intentional walks. The biggest blow of all came after the Bucks’ intentionally walked a Whaler for the second time to load the bases allowing designated hitter Dan Shea to launch a grand slam.

The big home run put the Bucks away for good, giving the Whalers’ a 9-4 lead before the Bucks went quietly in the bottom of the ninth.

The game got off to a rough start for the home team following patriotic pre-game ceremonies. With a Shelter Island fire truck displaying a large America flag in right center field and Islander Linda Bonaccorso giving a thrilling acapella rendition of the anthem, there was an electric atmosphere at Fiske Field on America’s 237th  birthday.

The Whalers struck right away in the first inning after an error put their second batter on base and another error allowed him to score.

The Bucks answered in the home half of the first by putting a three on the scoreboard after a walk by third baseman Mac James of the University of Oklahoma and single by catcher Joe Burns of St. John’s set up a two-run double by designated hitter Jimmy Jack of Loyola Marymount University. Jack then scored on a double by right fielder Kevin Brantley of Hofstra.

The Bucks kept the lead until the top of the seventh when the Whalers’ scored one to tie the game at three. The seventh inning would mark the end of Bucks’ starter Frank Trimarco’s day after a decent start, going seven innings allowing four hits and three runs while striking out six.

After the game, Brantley spoke about the rough loss. “Today just didn’t go our way,” he said. “We were up in the ninth inning and thought we still had the win in us. We know we can play a lot better.”

The loss was the second at home for the Bucks in three days after another tough loss at home on Tuesday at the hands of the Center Moriches Battlecats.

Bucks’ pitcher Jon Young of Rutgers University is one returning player on the team, having also played for the Bucks last summer when they won the HCBL regular season title in its first year of existence. Despite the recent slide, Young still sees comparisons between this team and last year’s squad.

Young said the team slumped last year the same as they are now. “We’re just going through a little down period right now,” he said,  “and soon enough we’ll be on the up and we’ll be winning the whole thing.”

Young also pointed out that baseball “is a crazy game” where anything can happen.