AVIATORS 6, OSPREYS 5 (10 INNINGS)
With the last name that he has, it’s no surprise that Alex Hero has been the subject of name games before. “Well, it’s usually a play on words, like the sandwich,” he said.
Not on Tuesday.
That was when the player with the perfect name for a headline did something worthy of one. When the Westhampton Aviators needed a hero, Alex Hero stepped into the batter’s box.
With the bases loaded and none out in the bottom of the 10th inning, Hero drove a 1-2 fastball off the top of the outfield fence for the game-winning hit in Westhampton’s 6-5 victory over the North Fork Ospreys at Aviator Field. It was the only time the Aviators (6-7) held a lead in the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League game.
Hero, who had homered for the first time this season earlier in the game, got a second life in his final at-bat after a foul ball barely made it over the backstop, making it uncatchable. He said he was looking to drive the ball deep for a sacrifice fly.
His game-winning single did go far. That same hit would have been a home run last year, but the outfield fence at Aviator Field this year is higher. Hero missed a grand slam by inches.
“I got robbed, I guess, you could say,” the left fielder from Amherst College (Mass.) joked with a reporter.
It was a tough loss for the Ospreys (7-4) to take. They were one out away from winning. The Aviators forced the game into the extra inning thanks to Esteban Gomez’s two-out, two-run homer in the ninth, which tied the score at 5-5. Chad Livingston came off the bench to deliver a pinch-hit double on the first pitch he saw to lead off the inning.
“We never really think that we’re out of it,” said Hero.
In the 10th, Mark Podlas started things off for the Aviators by reaching base on an infield roller that the third baseman couldn’t make a play on. Joe Candela then singled, followed by a walk to Jordan Hill. That loaded the bases for Hero, who had jumped on a pitch in the seventh for his first home run of the season.
The Aviators and the Ospreys could be considered the two most successful clubs in the Hampton Division’s brief history. In last year’s division finals, the Aviators took two of three games from the Ospreys before losing to the Staten Island Tide in the league final.
This season, the Aviator’s have had North Fork’s number. Three of the Ospreys’ four losses have been to the Aviators.
“They’re a tough team,” Ospreys shortstop Alex Perez said. “They fight, and they won’t give up.”
Westhampton coach James Lally has a theory. “I think we just catch them on the right day,” he said.
Tuesday was the right day for the Aviators, who had won only two of their previous seven games. The Ospreys had won six of their previous seven games.
The Ospreys received home runs themselves from Perez and Anthony Aceto. North Fork’s leadoff hitter, Kyle Adie, went 3 for 5, with two runs batted in, a double and a stolen base.
But the Ospreys were unable to capitalize on a fine outing by starting pitcher Rich Vrana, who allowed one earned run and six hits over six-plus innings.
“Not everything fell in place for us today,” Vrana said. “This by far has been our toughest team to play against. I don’t even know what it is, but they always play us tough.”
Perez slammed his first home run of the season to lead off a three-run fifth for the Ospreys. Adie ripped a run-scoring single and Dillon Bryant brought in the third run on a groundout.
The Aviators made it onto the scoreboard in the bottom half of the inning when they scored a run without the benefit of a hit. Sam Frost was hit by a pitch, stole second base and then scored on a fielding error.
Aceto’s homer in the seventh restored North Fork’s three-run lead, but it didn’t last long. Hero’s solo homer and Frost’s run-scoring single cut the Ospreys’ lead to 4-3.
The ninth inning followed the same pattern, with the Ospreys scoring once (from Adie’s run-scoring double) and the Aviators twice (from Gomez’s two-run shot).
“We did enough things to win, just sometimes you end up on the losing side of these games,” Perez said. “That’s baseball.”