For the second consecutive year, the Shelter Island Bucks will play for the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League Championship.
After splitting a pair of games with the Montauk Mustangs on Monday and Tuesday, the Bucks cruised past their southern rivals in the decisive third game, scoring 8 runs early and staving off a late Montauk comeback attempt to win 10-3.
“I basically told the guys, we have to flush [yesterday’s loss] and move on,” said Head Coach Jamie Quinn after the victory. “We’ve been here for two months, we might as well show up today. And the guys did.”
Catcher Nico Cuccia led Shelter Island with four hits on a night when eight starters hit safely on multiple occasions, while pitcher Anthony Alicki outdueled Montauk’s Tyler Kardas to improve his record to a perfect 8-0 on the season. Despite falling behind early, the Bucks managed to tag Kardas, who held a 0.65 ERA during the regular season, for eight runs before the fourth inning ended.
Mustang right fielder Noah Shulman homered on Alicki’s third pitch of the game, but Montauk would go nearly nine full innings without sending another runner past home plate. After two quick outs in the second inning, Shelter Island tied and quickly took the lead on RBI singles by Cuccia and centerfielder RJ Going. The Bucks were twice down to their last strike of the inning with no runners in scoring position before a string of hits, capped off by a double by Ben Prada, gave the hometown boys a 3-1 lead.
Montauk loaded the bases in the third inning, but after scoring 9 runs the night before, could not break through for any meaningful offense against the Bucks starter. With the tying run in scoring position and only one out, Alicki struck out two consecutive batters to end the inning.
While his counterpart on the mound managed to evade trouble on a number of occasions, Montauk’s Kardas struggled with a string of unlucky breaks before heading to the bench after 3 ⅔ innings of work. The lefty from George Mason University again recorded two outs, this time in the fourth inning, before falling victim to the potent Bucks attack.
Ben Prada had an 0-2 count with two outs when he ripped a single to score Dom Brugnoni for the game’s winning run. Eddie Haus quickly followed suit with a double to centerfield that scored Going, before Jack Machonis dropped a ball over the first baseman’s head that put two more runs up on the scoreboard. Chris Hess finished the barrage with an RBI single, but the damage was already done.
“Our kids weren’t throwing away their at-bats just because there were two outs,” noted Quinn. “It goes to show you that they aren’t giving up. It’s a long season, but they’re still grinding out at bats.”
Alicki threw his 100th pitch of the game to end the sixth inning, and was promptly replaced by Shelter Island native Pat O’Shea in the next frame. The rising sophomore at Haverford shut down the prolific Mustang offense, which led the HCBL in batting average during the regular season, for two full innings before surrendering a pair of runs with two outs in the ninth.
“It means a lot to advance again,” said Bucks General Manager Dave Gurney after the win. “Me and my staff put a lot of hard work in, and really, these last four years have been great.”
Westhampton edged out North Fork in the other semifinal, meaning the Aviators will travel to Fiske Field on Friday afternoon for game one of the championship series, before the two teams play again the next day at Aviator Field, where Shelter Island will finally have a chance to avenge their 2014 championship loss.