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Shelter Island Bucks sizzle down the stretch

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO All for one. The Bucks home dugout was a lively place this season.

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO All for one. The Bucks home dugout was a lively place this season.

The Shelter Island Bucks completed the season on a hot streak, winning five of six ballgames and showing character over the final week of Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League play.

Quentin Pyle pitched seven strong innings in a 9-6 win over Southampton on July 23. The Bucks led 9-0 going into the bottom of the ninth as the Breakers almost made it interesting with six late runs. After Manager Casey Buckley inserted Matt O’Neill in center field with two on and two out, pitcher Nick Jerolimov was able to get Nick Dunning to fly out to center and end the game.

The Bucks fell to the Sag Harbor Whalers 8-7 on July 24. Down 7-5 entering the ninth, Ryan Aloise, in relief of Anthony Alicki, allowed one run on three hits and stranded two. Shelter Island rallied for two runs on a Nico Cuccia double, but came up short.

Facing Riverhead in a rain-shortened five-inning game on July 25, Nick Rand (4.2 innings) and Chance Malek (0.1) combined for a 6-0 shutout. Matt O’Neill and Sam Ilario went two for three with two R.B.I. each, as the Bucks defeated the playoff-bound Tomcats 6-0.

On July 26, the Bucks again took on the Whalers, who had dominated the Bucks this summer, winning all six contests before Tuesday’s game.

After spotting Sag Harbor a 4-1 lead early in the game, the Bucks battled back with four in the fifth and two in the eighth on clutch hitting by Tim Zeng, Nick Campana and Jesse Russo to secure the Bucks first win over the Whalers.

The Bucks ended the season in last place, but went out on a high note, in a double dip on July 27, facing the high-powered offense of the Montauk Mustangs, who boast six players with batting averages over .300. Game one was tied 4-4 after seven innings. In the top of the first extra frame, singles by Campana and Russo followed by consecutive RBI doubles by Goulard and Molfetta scored four runs for the Bucks, who won 8-7.

In the nightcap, Ben Schragger and Chance Malek combined to allow just one run on four hits. Brian Goulard’s third home run of the season in the bottom of the seventh gave the Bucks a thrilling walk-off finish to an otherwise disappointing 2016 campaign.

Mark Twain said: “There are three kinds of lies, Lies, damn lies and statistics.” But in baseball, much can be learned from pesky facts.

Bucks pitchers led the league in five categories, four of which are negative. The team struck out more opposing players (374). But control issues had them at the top for “hit by pitch” (49), wild pitches (40) and walks (208). And they allowed the most earned runs (194).

Pitching highlights included Anthony Alicki and Peter Beattie, who recorded sub 2.00 season ERAs. Josh Goldberg led the team with 45 strikeouts.

Offensively, Jesse Russo (.316), Matt Sinatro (.310), Nico Cuccia (.294) and Justin Etts (.292) had averages above .280. But the team struggled to score and ranked last in runs (180) and sixth in walks (151).

General Manager Frank Emmett and Assistant G.M. Dave Gurney thoroughly enjoyed the season, they said, consistently expressing pride in players who never lost heart and battled gamely to finish 15-26-1.

With the team’s strong finish, the baseball adage “wait ‘till next year” comes to mind.

Champions in 2015, the Bucks struggled this year. But the team, supported by dozens of volunteers, provided the Island with a lot of fun, good sportsmanship and community service.

Thank you to all of the 2016 Bucks. Good luck in the coming year.