Making their first post season appearance since 2015, the Shelter Island Bucks took a 5- run lead into the seventh inning, but fell to the Sag Harbor Whalers 12-10 in the Hampton Collegiate Baseball League (HCBL) Wild Card game on July 25 at Fiske Field.
Shelter Island dominated the first half of the game. After falling behind 1-0 on a homer by Sag Harbor catcher Nick Thornquist (Texas San Antonio University), the Bucks plated three runs in the bottom of the first on back-to-back RBI doubles by Alex Volpi (Holy Cross) and Tyler Smith (Grand View).
Starting pitcher Parker Thode (Grand View) escaped a bases loaded-jam in the top of the third to preserve a 3-1 lead for the home team. In the bottom of the third, the Bucks took advantage of three costly errors by Whaler fielders to score three unearned runs, chasing starter Michael Marzonie (Boston College) from the game and taking a 6-1 lead into the fourth inning.
The two teams traded runs in the middle innings. Sag Harbor’s cleanup hitter Jason Allberry (Creighton) lined a double to left center field to score two runs in the top of the fifth. In the bottom half of the inning, Jake MacKenzie (Fordham) launched a high-arcing solo home run that just cleared the left field fence, giving the Bucks a seemingly comfortable 9-4 advantage.
But the lead wasn’t safe.
The momentum shifted in the top of the seventh as the Whalers loaded the bases on singles by Thornquist, Joe Suozzi (Boston College) and Brandon Miller (Saint John’s). Third baseman Connor Anderson (Texas St.) smacked a bases-clearing double down the right-field line to bring home the first three runs of the inning for Sag Harbor. The next hitter, Kross Bay (Cowley County CC), lined a leftfield double to score Anderson, trimming the lead to 9-8 and Daniel Alvarez Jr. (Pittsburgh) followed with a bouncing single up the middle to tie the game.
The Whalers weren’t finished scoring. Sam Cochola (UC Berkeley) worked a four-pitch walk, setting the stage for centerfielder Joe Suozzi, who was batting for the second time in the inning. With two outs, Suozzi drilled the first pitch he saw from Bucks reliever Michael Matter (Belmont) deep over the centerfield fence for a decisive 3-home run. All told, the Whalers scored eight runs on seven hits in the inning, turning a 9-4 deficit into a 12-9 advantage.
The Bucks got a run back in the bottom of the seventh inning, when Cal Christafori (Yale) ripped a two-out single past the diving glove of the second baseman to score Volpi from third. Pitcher Joseph Quintall (Fordham) entered the game in the bottom of the eighth and tossed two strong innings of relief, holding the Whalers hitless and striking out five batters to keep the game within reach for the home team.
Quintal finished the 2018 season as the HCBL strikeout leader, with 48 K’s in 42 innings.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Bucks brought the tying run to the plate after John Behrends (Belmont) grounded a two-out infield single to third base. But Sag Harbor reliever Sam Lara (Saint John’s) struck out Christafori to end the game, giving the Whalers their first post season victory in 10 years.