The Shelter Island Bucks started the last stretch of their season off with a bang Sunday night at Fiske Field with a 7-6 victory over the Westhampton Aviators.
The victory moved the Bucks’ record to 15-14 on the season and tied them with the Aviators for fourth place in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League, just a game out of first.
Down 6-5 entering the bottom of the eighth, pinch hitter Brian Kraft of Grand Canyon University got things going for the Bucks. Put in to face the new righty pitcher for the Aviators, the lefty Kraft drove the first pitch he saw into right field for a single.
Kraft credited his ability to come in off the bench and get a big hit to knowing he was going to be put into the game if a right handed pitcher took the mound. “I was mentally prepared when I went in there and then I just swung at the first good pitch I saw,” Kraft said.
Kraft was then moved over to second via a sacrifice bunt before Will Savage of Columbia University worked a walk to put two on with one out. “There was a base open so I wasn’t going to get something to hit, so I was just being patient,” Savage said.
Kyle Bartelman, Savage’s teammate at Columbia, then singled to left to load the bases for the Bucks with just one out. Kraft would be forced home and tie the game after Steven Pinales of Sullivan County Community College worked a walk.
Jimmy Jack of Loyola Marymount University was up next with the bases loaded and still just one out. Jack hit a fly ball down the left field line foul that was caught, but Savage tagged up on the foul out and scored.
“I felt my swing was a little long and I’m proud of the fact that I was able to recognize that at-bat and able to make an adjustment,” Jack said. “We had a fast guy at third in Will so we were able to score and it was huge.”
Daniel Tunchez of Eastfield College had no issues closing out the game for the Bucks in the top of the ninth and the team officially had the victory that almost got away from them. Tunchez pitched two and to third innings allowing no runs while striking out five Aviators.
Bucks’ Manager Jon Karcich was happy with his team’s ability to score multiple runs early, especially considering the team was just coming back from a few days off at the All-Star break.
“Guys have been off two-three days and you always as a manager hope that the team does not come out flat or rusty and wait till the seventh, eighth, ninth innings to kick it in gear and pick it up,” Karcich said.
The win was big for the team not just because it featured a comeback victory but also because of it was against the aviators. Both Kraft and Jack noted a rivalry between the Bucks and Aviators, which showed in some jawing between the teams during the game.
But despite the extra emotions in play, the Bucks kept focus and walked away with the impressive victory. “They battled and kept their composure,” Karcich commented. “It’s what they’ve done all year.”