The Shelter Island Bucks will spend their weekend playing for the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League championship.
The Islanders swept the best-of-three semifinal playoff matchup against the Sag Harbor Whalers, winning 5-4 at Fiske Field Tuesday evening. The Bucks came back from a 4-0 deficit to advance to the HCBL Championship Series.
The Bucks will begin their quest for their first HCBL title on Friday in Southampton facing the Breakers in another best of three series. Southampton swept the North Fork Ospreys to move on and are red hot, winning their past seven games.
With the Bucks down 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh and Andrew Casali of the University of Baltimore County on second following a walk and a sacrifice bunt, Will Savage of Columbia University stepped to the plate and blasted a triple to right field that plated Casali and tied the game.
“I was just trying to stay back, my two strike approach,” Savage said. “I was feeling pretty good my previous at-bats, seeing a lot of pitches. Just looking to get a good one to hit and finally got one.”
Bucks’ Manager Jon Karcich noted that Savage has been struggling at the plate lately and called the at-bat “gutsy.”
Savage’s Columbia teammate Kyle Bartelman came up next in the seventh, singling to right to score Savage and put the Bucks ahead 5-4.
“Just trying to do my job,” Bartelman said. “Situational hitting [like] we practice every day for batting practice. A guy on third, less than three outs, just try to get a ball to the right side so I was lucky that it went through the infield and I got a run in.”
The one run lead was held on to for the final two innings of the game thanks to Jackson Bubala, who pitched lights out, picking up the save. Bubala came on with two Whalers on base and nobody out in the top of the eighth and proceeded to strike out the next three batters to escape the jam.
Bubala struck two more Sag Harbor batters out during a perfect ninth inning that sealed the victory. It has been nothing short of a spectacular summer for the right-hander from Dartmouth College. He has not allowed a run to score and struck out 22 batters in 16.2 pitched during the regular season.
“I think throwing strikes is key,” Bubala said about his approach during his remarkable summer. “Getting ahead of the leadoff guy, just getting ahead of guys in general.”
Momentum began to shift in the Bucks’ favor in the game in the bottom of the sixth, trailing 4-0.
Bartelman, three for four at the plate in the game, started off the sixth with a single before moving to second on a groundout. Trevor Freeman of Florida Southern College then singled to move Bartelman to third and bring up Troy Scocca of Fairfield University.
For the second time in the series Scocca went deep, hitting hit a three-run homer to put the Bucks on the board and back in the game.
“That’s such a big swing of the bat from him,” Karcich said. “He hasn’t been to his standards feeling the best in the box but he’s up there to get into a ball and give it a drive. Fortunately he got a pitch up in the zone and he got it out of the park.”
Sag Harbor’s starter had been on cruise control until the sixth, allowing just four Bucks to reach base over the first five frames.
“The pitcher had been throwing well for the first six innings or so and we just tried to get him out of his rhythm,” Scocca said. “Trevor [Freeman] had a nice hit before me to set it up and I got a good pitch to hit and I was able to handle it and hit it over the fence.”
Nick Freijomil of Long Island University got the victory for the Bucks after coming out of the bullpen with one out in the top of the fifth. Freijomil went on to pitch 2.2 innings allowing no runs and just two hits.
A starter for most of the summer, Karcich said Freijomil was told before the game that he could be coming out of the bullpen due to the amount of innings he has thrown this summer.
The top of the fifth was the lone inning Sag Harbor put anything on the scoreboard after Shelter Island starter Brenton Arriaga of Loyola Marymount University allowed four runs.
The Bucks series clinching victory by coming back in a game came as no surprise to most of the players. They had multiple comeback victories during the season. Scocca noted that the team has been “resilient.”
A few Shelter Island players noted that it’s been a summer of ups and downs but lately the upside has been dominant, with the Bucks peaking at the perfect time. “This team is really talented and at times it hasn’t clicked, but it is at the right time, which is important,” Freijomil said.
The team also continues to put in a lot of hard work at the right time, according to Bartelman. He said lately he’s seeing the ball better because of work he’s putting in coming early to the field and working with Karcich.
“Guys are working hard every day,” Bartelman pointed out. “We’re still showing up for early work this late in the season, and the results are showing in the games.”
Maybe most importantly, the Bucks were able to wrap up the series at home in front of a large crowd. A lot of support is not at all unusual for the team when they play at Fiske Field, where they will play one last time in 2014 on Saturday night.
“It means a lot clinching in front of the fans,” Scocca said. “They’ve been here all year supporting us and cheering us on. So they’ve really been behind us through ups and downs. It’d be great to bring back a championship to Shelter Island. I’m just happy for everybody.”