The Shelter Island Bucks’ offense came alive in their final regular season home game of the season Wednesday evening with an 8-1 victory over the Montauk Mustangs.
The win improved the Bucks’ record to two games over .500 at19-17 and kept them close for a Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League (HCBL) playoff spot. The Islanders are now tied for third place in the league with the Riverhead Tomcats, trailing the first place North Fork Ospreys by a single game.
But they’re only ahead of the Southampton Breakers by the slimmest of margins, a half-game, in the battle for the final playoff spot. In the crowded HCBL field, a game and a half is all that separates first and fifth place. The top four teams following the regular season’s finale Saturday night will make the playoffs.
In Wednesday’s game at Fiske Field, the Bucks jumped out to an early lead in the bottom of the second. Steven Pinales of Sullivan County Community College started things off with a double and then stole third. Zach Leone of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst followed with a sacrifice fly to center field that allowed Pinales to score and put the Bucks up 1-0.
The home team’s offense kept it going in the bottom of the third after Jimmy Jack of Loyola Marymount University walked with one out and then stole second to move into scoring position. Brian Kraft of Grand Canyon University then doubled to left bringing Jack home. Kraft came across the plate himself on a single by Troy Scocca of Fairfield University, which put the Bucks up 3-0.
Pinales would produce another run in the bottom of the fourth after he reached on an error by the Mustang third baseman. After stealing second, Pinales was able to advance to third on a bad throw to second the Montauk pitcher trying to pick him off of the base. A ground out to short by Andrew Casali of the University of Maryland Baltimore plated Pinales and put the Bucks up 4-0.
In the bottom of the fifth the Bucks put another number up on the scoreboard thanks to a three run home-run by Scocca. Singles by both Jack and Kraft set up the round tripper that put Shelter Island up 7-0.
“I was just trying to be patient and wait for a good pitch to hit,” Scocca said. “That came on the first pitch of the at-bat and I was just able to put a good swing on it.”
Scocca went 2 for 2 at the plate in the game and scored one run.
After Jack doubled with one out in the bottom of the sixth he reached third on a wild pitch before scoring on a ground out by John LaRossa of the University of Hartford.
Jack and Kraft both went three for four with Jack scoring three runs and Kraft scoring twice.
Following the victory, Jack was quick to admit that he had been in a bit of a slump recently. As a result, he said he’s been putting in extra time with Manager Jon Karcich. “The last few days I’ve been seeing the ball a lot better,” he said. “I didn’t change my approach a lot, I just focused on the ball better.”
The Bucks’ offense had been slumping before the eight run performance. Scocca said playing at home helped because of the support the Island has shown the team all season.
“It’s always better when we get to play in front of our home crowd,” Scocca said. “They’re very supportive and have been all year. I think that gives us a little extra boost when we play here.”
Shelter Island starter Isaac OBear of Grambling State University said after the game that the recent offensive struggles didn’t put more pressure on him on the mound. OBear pitched six innings for the Bucks, shutting out Montauk, allowing two hits.
OBear’s ERA after another strong performance is now 1.38, second lowest in the league among those with enough innings pitched to qualify. After starting the season as a reliever, OBear has become one of the best starters in the league. Karcich called his pitcher “a great competitor” and praised him as someone who always wants the ball.
The Bucks’ now turn their attention to the conclusion of a tie game in Westhampton against the Aviators that will finish up Thursday afternoon. After that, they head to Sag Harbor on Friday for a doubleheader against a Whaler’s team they’ve beaten just once this season.
When asked what will be most important for the Bucks in their final weekend, OBear pointed to the doubleheader as a crucial set of games.
The regular season will conclude for the Bucks Saturday evening at Southampton. Jack believes that as long as the team keeps up what they’ve been doing, they will play in the post season.
“I think we just need to keep to our normal routine because we’ve been playing good baseball,” he said.