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A well-fought season: Bucks just miss a playoff bid in loss to Road Warriors

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO Never say die. Superfans Bob DeStefano, left, and Father Peter DeSanctis at the Bucks’ last game of the season last Tuesday evening.
Never say die. Superfans Bob DeStefano, left, and Father Peter DeSanctis at the Bucks’ last game of the season .

The 2017 Hamptons Collegiate Baseball (HCBL) League regular season ended July 25 for the Shelter Island Bucks as they bowed to the playoff-bound Long Island Road Warriors.

The Bucks finished the season in fifth place, one spot out of the playoff picture.

Despite missing the post-season for the second consecutive year, the Bucks provided Island fans with entertaining and often excellent baseball.

Behind first-year Head Coach Matt Wessinger and his assistants Pete Barron and Tim Nolan, the team played through injury, roster changes and an often limited rotation to come within a few good breaks of making it into the top four spots of the HCBL’s standings.

Standouts among position players included center fielder Jacob Stracner, who hit .306 this year and was third in the league with 37 RBI, just four behind the league leader. Stracner was also tied for third in home runs with six while playing a truly outstanding center field.

He routinely ran down hard hit line drives and ranged far to his right and left to rob opposing hitters of apparent extra base hits.

Brian Goulard, a Fordham University junior in his second year with the Bucks, led the team with a .319 average, .932 OPS and a .428 on base percentage. Goulard also tied for third in the league with six home runs and was a stalwart performer at first base. Bucks infielders could count on Goulard to dig out a low throw and to stretch to nip a runner at first on a double play.

Connor McNamara emerged as the ace of the Bucks staff. With a 1.78 ERA, he was second in the league. McNamara only allowed 27 hits in his 35 innings of work while recording 36 strikeouts and only nine walks. Down the stretch of the season, while the Bucks were still fighting for a playoff spot, he threw seven innings versus the Breakers, allowing just one run and six hits. The Bucks won that game 6-1 and kept their hopes alive.

Nick Robinson followed that clutch performance with one of his own at Fiske Field. On July 22 against the Tomcats, the 6-foot 5-inch righthander tossed six and two thirds innings of 1-run ball to lead the Bucks to a 9-1 victory and kept playoff hopes alive for another day. On the season, while only 1-3, Robinson recorded a 2.33 ERA, allowing just 43 hits in his 42 innings of work with 22 strikeouts and just six walks.

Bucks baseball is made possible by a number of dedicated people without whose contributions it would not exist. Probably foremost on this list are the host families. Every year, these generous Islanders provide a place for players to stay, and in some cases welcome two players into their homes.

Every year, the team is looking for folks to step up and help out as a host family. If you have never done so and have the room, consider hosting a player for all or part of the 2018 season.

Contact Dave Gurney at (631) 433-1502 if you can offer this invaluable help. Dave and his wife, Laura, annually host two players and Dave has served the team in several capacities since their first season.

Frank Emmett, general manager of the Bucks for the past two seasons, orchestrates what we all enjoy when we attend a game at Fiske Field. From the concession stand, staffed by volunteers, to the advertising we see on banners along the center field wall, to the performances of the National Anthem before each game, Frank is a mainstay to the continued success of our HCBL franchise. In addition to his GM duties, Frank and his wife, Colleen, are a host family every year.

Announcers, concession stand volunteers, statisticians and the loyal fans who come out and support the Bucks, win or lose, are all a part of what is a highlight of summer on Shelter Island.

Thank you, finally, to all the players and coaches who proudly wore the orange and black this season.