The Shelter Island Bucks scored 231 times in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League regular season this summer, more than 44 runs above the league average.
They blew out the Montauk Mustangs on two occasions to advance past the semifinal round of the HCBL playoffs. And on Friday evening at Fiske Field, they hung 10 runs on the visiting Westhampton Aviators in just five innings en route to a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three championship series.
“It’s nice to be just one game away,” said Bucks Head Coach Jamie Quinn following the 10-3 victory. “But tomorrow is another day. We have to take what we did today and bring it into tomorrow. This is baseball, anything can happen.”
Centerfielder RJ Going led the offensive barrage with three hits, while Chris Hess added two triples. Eddie Haus, who won the 2015 HCBL batting title, went four for four to raise his postseason average to .529.
Batting leadoff for the Bucks, Going promptly crushed his third home run of the season to give the Bucks an early lead in the first. A pair of miscues by Westhampton in the third inning — uncharacteristic for a team that committed the fewest errors in the HCBL regular season — allowed two more runs to score, before the Bucks put the game out of reach with a six-run explosion in the fifth inning.
Starting pitcher Zack Bahm was magnificent in 8 innings of work, as he neutralized a Westhampton attack that just days before had pummeled a North Fork trio of All-Star pitchers. The rising sophomore at Columbia University never allowed a runner to reach third base and was named the Bridgehampton National Bank Player of the Game.
“Zack has been our workhorse all year,” Coach Quinn noted in his post-game remarks. “Today was his best game, and it was his last outing for us. That was a big-time performance.”
Going began the fifth with a ground-rule double over the centerfield wall, and quickly advanced to third when shortstop Ben Prada singled to right field. The game’s defining play came with one out: Prada stole second just as Haus hit a hard grounder to Westhampton’s third baseman.
Unable to turn a double play because of Prada’s head start, the infielder stared down Going at third before throwing to first. Haus beat the tag, loading the bases for the heart of Shelter Island’s order.
Jack Machonis scored two with a double to left field, followed quickly by a triple by Hess to deep center. Left fielder Jonathan Moroney put the game away with a towering home run over the fence in centerfield that fixed the score at 10-0.
Bahm briefly faced trouble after allowing two runners in the seventh, but the righty struck out the final two Aviators preserve his team’s lead. He has now thrown 9 ⅔ scoreless innings this postseason, after helping the Bucks to close out a 5-0 victory over Montauk in the first semifinal matchup on Monday.
Reliever Kevin Wiltse entered the game in the top of the ninth, but allowed two runs before Quinn called upon catcher-turned-closer Chris Tracz to finish the game. Making his first appearance on the mound all season, Tracz allowed one unearned run before striking out Westhampton’s final batter to end the game.
Shelter Island will travel to Aviator Field on the South Fork this afternoon with a chance to capture the first championship in team history. If a third game is necessary, it will be played at Fiske Field on Sunday afternoon.