In an incredible stretch run, the Shelter Island Bucks won five consecutive games in the final week of the season to clinch their first appearance in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League (HCBL) playoffs since 2015.
The winning streak began July 18, when starting pitcher Joseph Quintall (Fordham) tossed five scoreless innings to lead the Bucks to a 10-1 victory over the Westhampton Aviators at Fiske Field. Right fielder David Brehm (LIU Post) led the offensive attack with two hits and four RBIs, including a 3-run homer in the second inning to put the Bucks ahead.
On Friday night, the Bucks battled back from a 5-run deficit to power past the North Fork Ospreys 15-6 at Cochran Field. In the top of the fifth inning, Alex Volpi (Holy Cross) blasted his 14th home run of the season, breaking the HCBL single-season home run record set by Westhampton’s Aaron Ping two seasons ago.
Shortstop Jake MacKenzie also made HCBL history, becoming only the second player in the league’s 10-year history to record six hits in a single game.
On Saturday afternoon at Fiske, the Bucks staged a late-inning comeback to claim a 17-15 extra-innings victory over the Sag Harbor Whalers in the highest scoring game of the HCBL season.
The game featured an impressive offensive display from both teams. Sag Harbor leapt out to a 7-2 lead on homers by Jason Allberry (Creighton) and Sean Trenholm (Binghamton) in the first and third innings. The Bucks answered with back-to-back homers by MacKenzie and Volpi in the bottom of the third inning to trim the lead to 7-5.
With his 15th homer of the season, Volpi surpassed the HCBL career home run record set in two seasons by former Southampton/Center Moriches player Rob Moore.
The Whalers extended the lead to 10-5 with 3 runs in the top of the fourth. In the bottom of the inning, the Bucks rallied to tie the game as MacKenzie slammed his second home run of the game. But a 3-run homer in the top of the fifth inning by Sag Harbor’s catcher Conor Anderson (Texas St) put the Whalers back ahead 14-10.
Sag Harbor entered the ninth inning with a 15-12 lead. In the bottom of the ninth, the Bucks loaded the bases. After Volpi worked a four-pitch walk to force the 13th run home, John Behrends (Belmont) lined a single over the glove of the centerfielder to score the tying run. But the Bucks failed to push the winning across, and the game went into extra innings tied at 15.
Reliever Patrick Webler set the Whalers down quickly in the top of the tenth. In the bottom half of the inning, Mike Caseleggio (Marist) lined a one-out double to the right field wall, setting the stage for Mike Nyisztor (Rutgers), who was pinch-hitting for Tyler Smith (Grand View). Nyisztor drilled a 2-0 pitch deep over the leftfield fence to give the Bucks an improbable 17-15 walk-off victory.
The Bucks continued their hot streak on Sunday, sweeping a doubleheader against the Long Island Road Warriors at Fiske. After a 10-5 loss to Riverhead on Monday, the Bucks ended the season with a record of 19-19-2 to finish fourth in the HCBL.
Shelter Island hosts the Whalers in the HCBL Wild Card game on Wednesday July 25 at 4 p.m.