With a chance to move into first place in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League Sunday evening at Fiske Field, the Shelter Island Bucks came up just short of the opportunity. In front of a packed house in their second to last regular season home game of the season, the Bucks fell 3-2 to the Riverhead Tomcats.
The Bucks are now 18-16 on the season and in fourth place in the league, one game back of first. The top four teams in the league make the playoffs, which begin Monday July 28. The Islanders have a game-and-a-half cushion over the fifth place Southampton Breakers. They will meet the Breakers twice on the road before the season concludes.
Sunday night against the Tomcats the Bucks struck first in a pitcher’s duel between Nick Freijomil of Long Island University and Riverhead’s Matt Weissheier. In the bottom of the fifth, Trevor Freeman of Florida Southern College doubled to start things off. A sacrifice bunt advanced Freeman to third before he scored on a single by catcher Zach Leone of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
The Tomcats quickly fought back, plating a run of their own in the top of the sixth. After a throwing error and a hit batter put two runners on with no outs, a single to centerfield tied things up.
Riverhead tried to take the lead on the single but their runner was called out at home plate on a questionable call. The Tomcats’ manager argued the call at home and was ejected from the game.
In the top of the seventh, the Tomcats took a 2-1 lead following a leadoff ground rule double. They then added another run to their lead in the top of the eighth to go up 3-1.
The Bucks rallied in the bottom of the eighth after Weissheier was taken out of the game. Scott Donaghue of Quinnipiac University singled before Steven Pinales of Sullivan County Community College walked. A sacrifice bunt moved the two runners over to second and third with just one out.
After Juan Soriano of Louisiana State University – Eunice was intentionally walked to load the bases, Troy Scocca of Fairfield University hit a sacrifice fly to left to move the Bucks within one run of tying the game. But the inning and rally ended there after Soriano was picked off of first base and the Bucks couldn’t score in the ninth.
Before the loss to Riverhead, the Bucks were having a solid weekend, winning at home Friday and Saturday night.
They got their busy weekend at home off to a good start with a 4-1 victory over the North Fork Ospreys, who were in first place in the HCBL entering the game.
With the score tied at one in the bottom of the fifth, John LaRossa of the University of Hartford bunted for a single before a throwing error moved him into scoring position with no outs. Sean McMillan of the University of Redlands then walked before a groundout put runners on third and second with one out.
Pinales came to the plate and hit a hard ball in the infield. The fielder opted to throw it home to try and get LaRossa out, but his throw went high and the Bucks took a 2-1 lead.
From there, the Bucks tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the sixth thanks to a McMillan single that plated two runners.
Bucks’ starter Isaac OBear of Grambling State University got off to a shaky start, throwing over 20 pitches in the first inning before allowing a run in the second inning. But after his offense tied things up for him in the home half of the second, OBear got on a roll and would not allow another base runner until the top of the seventh.
OBear credited his strong performance to his coaches who worked with him following his last start. He also noted he walked less batters this time around and was doing a better job of hitting his spots.
The Grambling State athlete went eight innings allowing just one run on five hits. The outing lowered his earned run average to 1.69 on the season, third best in the league following the game.
Earlier in the summer, OBear was used just out of the bullpen for shorter periods during games. But now OBear has been turned into a starter and again he credits his coaches for helping him make the move.
“It’s definitely a transition,” OBear commented on changing roles. “I have to just thank my coaches for helping me with my adjustments, helping me work out more getting ready to be a starter and going longer in the game.”
In Saturday night’s 9-2 victory over the Southampton the Bucks trailed 2-0 after the top of the second due in part to a couple throwing errors and starting pitcher Max Watt of Lynn University looking a bit shaky.
The Bucks became a new team in the bottom of the second, however, putting four runs on the board.
“It’s ideally not the start we wanted,” Bucks’ Manager Jon Karcich said. “But this team’s MO is they don’t let things get out of hand. They usually make adjustments quickly and no one panics. If you panic, it’s bad news for everybody. We do a good job of keeping our composure”
Freeman started things off with a walk before he stole second and then advanced to third on a single by Scocca. A sacrifice bunt my McMillan then allowed Freeman to score and put the Bucks on the board.
After Soriano singled to put runners on the corners, an error on a sacrifice bunt by Bartelman allowed Scocca to cross the plate and tie things up.
After the Breaker pitcher dropped a pop up by Pinales, the bases were loaded with Bucks before a single to right by Will Savage of Columbia University allowed Soriano and Bartelman to score.
The Bucks would add another run in the bottom of the fourth and the seventh saw another run for the home team.
Watt finished the day allowing two runs, one earned, after pitching five and one third innings. Karcich said that Watt “battled” despite not having his best stuff and ultimately kept his team in the game.
Watt credited his ability to put up a few scoreless frames after the first two innings with having confidence in his defense. Since he had a lot of 3-2 counts on batters, he said he was just focused on getting the ball put into play so his teammates could do the rest.
It seems that the team’s ability to rely on one another is part of the reason they are making a strong playoff push.
“We have a lot of confidence in each other,” Watt said about the team’s 4-2 record since the All-Star break. “The biggest thing is that we have each other’s backs.”