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Island fans flock to Fiske Field for Bucks opener: Home team comes away with a win over Sag Harbor

The Shelter Island Bucks are back.

After a long wait — since August 2019 when the pandemic shut down two seasons — the Bucks delivered for their fans by opening 2022  on Friday in a resounding fashion. The Island’s Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League franchise beat the Sag Harbor Whalers 5-3, showcasing spectacular defense and remarkable grit.

The sun’s welcoming rays shone down on Fiske Field as the players finished their warm-ups and prepared for Opening Day. The bleachers filled up and, with the return of baseball, it felt like a sense of normality had finally returned after a turbulent few years.

At attention, the 2022 Shelter Island Bucks.

A ceremonial first pitch from former General Manager Cori Cass was followed by a joyful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner from Lenore Dileo-Berner.

After two seasons of no baseball, Lenore Dileo-Berner’s stirring rendition of the National Anthem was music to Islanders’ ears.

The Bucks wasted no time revealing that their defense is a strength. A double play in the 1st inning and another quick out sent a message that this team is all about effort. As Head Coach Vern Hasty told the Reporter after the game, “These guys have never played together. But they played as a team.”

The Bucks scored when second baseman Drew Sotell (George Washington U) and center fielder Ryan Vogel (Bradley U) teamed up. Sotell put the ball in play, allowing Vogel on third to tempt the pitcher into an error by initiating a rundown. In the top of the 2nd, right fielder Matthew Wessels (Iona) showed his athleticism when a pop fly came his way. He called off his teammates, leaping for the catch and flipping over in mid-air.

A near collision and a great outfield play.

The score was still 1-0 Bucks after three innings, and a large crowd was finally settling for both teams. The Islanders were vocal in their support, something that’s been essential in bringing the Bucks back.

General Manager Brian Cass said before the game that, “Shelter Island has been a part of this since day one when we started in 2012. Because of this community, we have a brand new field, new dugouts, and a new scoreboard.” When asked about the goals this year and hopefully restoring the 2015 championship title, GM Cass kept it simple: “That’s been discussed. That’s our plan.”

The crowd shared a similar sentiment. Father Peter DeSanctis felt that bringing the Shelter Island Bucks back meant “bringing families together.”

Still a tight game with the home team clinging to the 1-run lead, in the bottom of the 5th the Bucks were looking to score. With one out and the bases loaded they plated 2 runs.

The Bucks were aggressive on the basepaths. Here Gunner Boree steals second.

The next inning the Whalers answered with a home run from D.J. Perron Jr. (University of Massachusetts Dartmouth). Outfielder C.J. Dean (Cincinnati) then hit a double, driving in another run. The Bucks escaped with a good play by catcher Conor Cooke (Brown) firing a strike to second for an out on an attempted steal.

The Bucks scored on heads-up base running by shortstop Gunner Boree (Brown) who stole two bases and then came home, giving the Bucks a 4-2 lead. In their half, the Whalers loaded the bases with only one out. Coach Hasty brought in pitcher Marco Siracusa (Pace) in relief. A hustle catch from catcher Cooke, and a clutch strikeout from Siracusa retired the Whalers.

The Bucks came back with a triple off the bat of right fielder Wessels. A sacrifice fly brought Wessels home and the score was 5-3. But the Whalers had one more opportunity in their turn at bat. With bases loaded and only one down, catcher Cooke caught a fly to secure the second out. Then, the Whalers batter hit a pop fly to first base, and Keefe stayed grounded and made the routine catch under pressure.

After the game, Coach Hasty told the Reporter, “It was a group effort. It showed that with only one practice and not much time to get used to each other, we clicked. Let’s keep it going.”

The Bucks still need housing to keep the season going. If you can host one or more players, get in touch with David Austin at [email protected], or call 415-613-1991; General Manager Brian Cass at [email protected], or call 631-445-0084; or Frank Vecchio at [email protected], or call 516-317-8687.