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Bucks make playoffs, gunning for first championship

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | The Bucks battled over the weekend to make the playoffs.

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | The Bucks battled over the weekend to make the playoffs.

The Shelter Island Bucks put the finishing touches on their 2014 regular season the past couple of days, splitting a doubleheader at the Sag Harbor Whalers before falling to the Southampton Breakers on the road in the scheduled finale.

The Bucks finished the season at 21-19, good enough for third place in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League and one of four teams to make the playoffs.

The team began the day Friday in Sag Harbor on the verge of clinching their playoff spot. A 1-0 loss in game one was not enough for a playoff bid, but a 6-1 victory in game two paired with other results around the league locked them into the postseason.

It seemed that all day Friday the Bucks’ offense was on the verge of doing their job in the playoff battle. Finally, in the fourth inning of game two, they broke out. With the game tied 1-1, a hit by pitch and two singles loaded the bases for Shelter Island with no outs.

Steven Pinales of Sullivan County Community College put the team ahead after he got hit by a pitch forcing in a run. After a strikeout, Zach Leone of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst also got hit with the bases still loaded to force in another run. Scott Donaghue of Quinnipiac University then got the big hit of the inning, a single to left field that allowed two more Bucks to score and put the team in front 5-1.

“We just kept swinging the bat good and kept hitting the ball hard,” Donaghue said. “Occasionally they’ll find the holes. That’s baseball.”

Later in the inning, Donaghue came home on a passed ball that gaveShelter Island a 6-1 advantage.

The six runs were all Bucks’ starter Nick Freijomil of Long Island University needed. Freijomil pitched five innings allowing just one run, which wasn’t earned, after the Whalers scored on an overthrown ball to first in the bottom of the second.

Bucks’ manager Jon Karcich was quick to praise not just Freijomil’s performance against the Whalers, but also his overall performance of late.

“I think Nick’s gotten stronger as the summer’s gone on,” Karcich commented. “Especially his last three, four starts he’s given us a chance to win. I think he looks fantastic going out there.”

Shelter Island had gotten off to a fast start in game two, scoring in the top of the first. Will Savage of Columbia University led off the game with a single before advancing to third on a single by his Columbia teammate Kyle Bartelman. A single by Jimmy Jack of Loyola Marymount University plated Savage for the first, and only, run of the game, for the Bucks.

Game one was a true pitcher’s duel with just three hits between both teams. The Bucks managed two hits off the bats of Brian Kraft of Grand Canyon University and Troy Scocca of Fairfield University while the Whalers managed just one. Still, the Whalers managed to come out on top after a slow start by Shelter Island in the top of the first.

Bucks’ starter Max Watt of Lynn University walked the first batter he faced in the bottom of the first before allowing the only hit he would give up for the game. A hit batter loaded the bases with Whalers with no outs. The lone run of the game would score on a sacrifice fly before Shelter Island got out of the inning without any more damage done.

Karcich called Watt’s performance “fantastic” even as he walked away a tough luck loser.

Following the split on Friday, the Bucks headed into the regular season finale at Southampton with a chance to win the HCBL title. All four playoff teams went into Saturday with identical records.

The Bucks looked flat in the game and it was ultimately the Breakers that took home the HCBL regular season crown after an 8-1 victory. Southampton scored three runs in the bottom of the first to set the tone for the game in which they compiled 17 hits against Shelter Island pitching.

Fortunately for the Bucks the rough loss can be put in the past and they know can look forward to Monday’s playoff opener at Sag Harbor as they begin their journey for their first HCBL championship.

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