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Shelter Island meets Sag Harbor today in playoff opener

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO |  Strong pitching carried the Bucks to the playoffs and will be key to their success in the post season. Above, Isaac OBear of Grambling State University pitched to a  1.38 ERA during the regular season.

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | Strong pitching carried the Bucks to the playoffs and will be key to their success in the post season. Above, Isaac OBear of Grambling State University pitched to a 1.38 ERA during the regular season.

After missing the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League playoffs last season, the Shelter Island Bucks will be seeing postseason action in 2014.

A 21-19 record secured the Bucks’ the third seed in the playoffs. They will face the second seeded Sag Harbor Whalers in a best of three series.

The Whalers will host game one this afternoon at 4:30 and the Bucks will be home for game two tomorrow at Fiske Field with the first pitch at 4:30. If the teams split the first two games, the series decider will be in Sag Harbor on Wednesday.

The Whalers finished the 2014 regular season 22-18, tied with the Southampton Breakers for best in the league.

The Bucks and Whalers last met on the second to last day of the regular season in Sag Harbor. The teams split a doubleheader, with the Whalers winning game one 1-0 and the Bucks taking the nightcap, 6-1.

The Whalers fared well against the Bucks in the regular season, beating the Islanders five of the seven times they faced each other. After the Bucks beat the Whalers June 12th 7-1, they did not best their neighbors to the south again until the second game of the recent doubleheader.

Both teams enter the playoffs going 5-5 down the stretch.

The series will feature strong pitching since Shelter Island and Sag Harbor were statistically the best teams on the mound in the HCBL. The Bucks finished the season with 160 runs allowed, which was the fewest in the league. The Whalers  were right behind with 166 runs allowed.

The four main Buck starters all have something to brag about. Isaac OBear of Grambling State University has a 1.38 ERA, ranked second lowest in the league. Max Watt of Lynn University has a 2.76 ERA and five wins, second most in the league. Nick Freijomil of Long Island University had four wins and an ERA just over three. Brenton Arriaga of Loyola Marymount University has a 2.47 ERA and has struck out 33 batters this season to lead the Bucks.

Shelter Island also has a strong bullpen, anchored by Jackson Bubala of Dartmouth College. In 16.2 innings pitched this summer Bubala has not allowed a run while striking out 22. Willis Robbins of Columbia University has also been effective late in games, pitching 22.1 innings to the tune of a 2.41 ERA.

The Whalers’ pitching staff is led by Alex Person of Southern New Hampshire University who has a 1.31 ERA in six starts. Ian Searles, also of Southern New Hampshire, has started nine games going 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA. Justin Thomas of Quinnipiac University has started seven games and has an ERA just under three. Person leads the staff with 30 strikeouts.

Sag Harbor has three relievers who have pitched more than 18 innings and have ERAs under two. Tyler Manez of Elon University, Connor Stanley of Georgia State University and Mitchell Kuebbing of Longwood University form a strong trio out of the pen. Kuebbing has 22 strikeouts in 18.2 innings while Stanley has struck out 28 in 22.2 innings.

Looking on the other side of the ball, the Whalers will be led by Dan Rizzie of Xavier University and his .337 batting average. Rizzie ranks third in the league in average, right ahead of the Bucks’ Trevor Freeman of Florida Southern College who hit .330.

Ted Shaw of Sacred Heart University is also hitting above .300 for the Whalers. Scott Hagen of Mercy College leads the team in RBIs with 26. Hagen is tied with two of his teammates for most home-runs on the team with three. Nolan Meadows of Long Beach State and Aaron Smith of Wake Forest University also have three round trippers.

No player on Shelter Island has three home runs but four have two. Freeman, Troy Scocca of Fairfield University, Jimmy Jack of Loyola Marymount and Juan Soriano of Louisiana State University-Eunice are all power threats.

Scocca’s 20 RBIs are the most on the team, but Will Savage of Columbia University is not far behind with 19. Brian Kraft of Grand Canyon University has also swung a solid bat for the Bucks, hitting four triples, tied for the lead in the HCBL.

In the other playoff series, the Southampton Breakers are taking on the North Fork Ospreys. The Breakers are red hot of late, winning six straight and eight of their last nine. This could put Southampton in a good position after the Ospreys won it all in 2013.

All four playoff teams had identical records entering the final day of the regular season, showing that parity reigns supreme in the league. That could make for some interesting and unpredictable playoff games.