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Bucks come out of All-Star break strong and solid

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | The Bucks won their first two games to start the second half of the season.
REPORTER FILE PHOTO | The Bucks won their first two games to start the second half of the season.

After winning their first two games out of the All-Star break, the Shelter Island Bucks are in good shape going forward with their 16-14 record. The Bucks are currently in third place in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League and just a game out of first. The top four teams will go to the to the playoffs.

Monday’s night 4-0 victory game against the Riverhead Tomcats on the road featured solid baseball from the Island boys in all aspects f the game.

The Bucks got timely hits to score once in each of the first four innings before letting starter Max Watt of Lynn University and the rest of the pitching staff do the rest. Watt allowed only three hits and none until the fifth inning. The only base runner to reach in the first four innings was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the first.

“I was just trusting the defense, most importantly,” Watt commented on his performance. “I was getting a first pitch stroke on a lot of the batters and getting the first out and getting the shutdown innings.”

Watt had seven strikeouts in his strong starting performance. “I think mixing up was the key today,” he said about the strikeouts. “I was able to get people with a first pitch slider.”

Last summer while playing for the Center Moriches Battlecats of the HCBL, Watt said he struck out a lot more opponents, making this summer “a little different.”

Before Watt took the mound he had a 1-0 lead after the Bucks’ bats struck in the top of the first. Will Savage of Columbia University reached base on an infield single to start things off. Savage moved into scoring position on a ground out before stealing third with one out. Steven Pinales of Sullivan County Community College then singled to plate Savage.

In the top of the second, Juan Soriano of Louisiana State University – Eunice reached with a walk. Troy Scocca of Fairfield University then singled before Brian Kraft of Grand Canyon University reached on an error to load the bases with nobody out. With one out, Scott Donaghue of Quinnipiac University hit a sacrifice fly and Soriano scored to put the Bucks up 2-0. The Tomcats escaped the tough situation however without allowing any more damage.

The Bucks struck again in the top of the third after Trevor Freeman of Florida Southern College singled with one out and advanced to third on a single by Soriano. A single by Jimmy Jack of Loyola Marymount University then allowed Freeman to score and put the visitor’s up 3-0.

One more Bucks’ run would come across in the top of the fourth after Scocca singled to lead things off. An error on a throw after an infield single by Kraft allowed Scocca to reach third before he scored on a groundout by Zach Leone of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Scocca went 3 for 3 at the plate for the Bucks and also reached base via a walk a day after he went 2 for 4 in the team’s home victory over Westhampton.

“As a team we have to keep winning, so I’m trying to be as consistent as I can,” Scocca said. He credited the three hits against Riverhead to getting some good pitches to hit, not trying to do too much and having a short swing.

The two strong games moved Scocca’s average for the season to .326, good enough for fifth best in the league. Scocca joins teammate Freeman amongst the league leaders in average. Freeman’s .337 average following the Riverhead game was fourth best in the league.

Bucks’ manager Jon Karcich believed the victory over the Tomcat’s started with Watt’s performance on the mound. Karcich called the start “fantastic.”

“He was efficient. He was pounding the zone,” Karcich commented on Watt. “Throwing fastballs, sliders, changeups for strikes and he was able to keep them off balance. He was also able to locate in the zone which is a plus for him.”

Overall, Karcich is happy with how his team is performing as the season winds down after they played .500 ball for most of the season and hovered around fourth in the standings.

“It feels great,” Karcich commented on the back-to-back wins to start off the week. “We’re in a good position standing wise and I’ve been telling these guys all year to just hang around, stay tough, stay in the middle of the pack and towards the end of the season we have to finish strong. Hopefully it’s a sign of what’s going to happen.”