A strong afternoon sun served as the backdrop for an afternoon doubleheader at Fiske Field Saturday, where the Shelter Island Bucks won a thriller over the visiting Riverhead Tomcats before dropping the nightcap.
After falling behind in the opening inning of game one, the Bucks scored 7 unanswered runs en route to a commanding 7-4 victory over the Tomcats. Riverhead’s entry in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League would respond with a 5-2 win in the second game, allowing just four hits before Shelter Island scored twice in the bottom of the final frame.
An error and wild pitch by Shelter Island starting pitcher Stephen Ridings allowed Riverhead to take an early 2-0 lead in game one’s first inning.
The Bucks chipped way at the lead, loading the bases in the third, managing just one run, before taking control of the game with six scores during an explosive fifth inning.
Star right fielder Eddie Haus began the onslaught with a single to left that scored Nino Cuccia, recording his league-best 10th RBI. Shelter Island, while clinging to a 4-2 lead, would put the game out of reach when Riverhead second baseman Alex Perry muffed a routine grounder that likely would have been a double play. Three more Bucks crossed home plate in the inning.
Infielder Jack Machonis scored in Shelter Island’s breakout fifth inning, and was one of the Bucks’ few bright spots in the second game.
“We definitely feed off each other, and our hitting gets contagious,” Machonis said. “Stringing together those quality at-bats is really what’s helped us be successful this year.”
Bucks’ Head Coach Jamie Quinn has stressed the importance of timely hitting since the preseason, but after a clinical batting performance in the first game, the Island bats went cold in the nightcap. Riverhead starter Nick Rubino managed to escape the first three innings of the game without allowing a run, despite loading the bases on two occasions. The Island clearly missed the presence of Haus, who Coach Quinn decided to rest before the Bucks played another doubleheader on Sunday against the North Fork Ospreys. The Bucks settled for another split against the Ospreys.
“Our bats were flat in game two today, that was definitely our problem” Coach Quinn said about the home doubleheader Saturday.
Dom Brugnoni, who hit a home run last week, would have crushed a bases-loaded grand slam if his blast to right field didn’t sail foul. The Bucks went on to strand eight base runners in the game — seven in the first three innings — and after Perry’s miscue in the first game, committed a costly error of their own.
With two outs in the second inning, replacement right fielder Mark Flynn dropped a deep fly ball and allowed two Riverhead runners to score. The Bucks would not recover from this early deficit, since Tomcat reliever Tanner Watkins pitched three scoreless innings in relief of Rubino and won his second game of the early season.
Chris Hess recorded Shelter Island’s first triple of the season in the bottom of the seventh, scoring Ben Prada and R.J. Going in the process, but the Bucks couldn’t muster any more heroics.
The Bucks ended their week with a 7-5 record, half a game behind league leaders North Fork and Westhampton. Although they finished the weekend with a 2-2 record, playing .500 ball during this grueling stretch of four games in two days will prove critical to the season’s success.
“We’re monitoring every arm,” said Coach Quinn after the Riverhead contests. “We have to make sure guys who aren’t used are able to compete the next day. After the two rainouts, getting two [doubleheaders] scheduled is tough, but what can you do?”
The Bucks will get two much needed days of rest before returning to Fiske Field on Wednesday to face the Westhampton Aviators.