HCBL SEMIFINALS, GAME 1 | OSPREYS 1, AVIATORS 0
Good pitchers find ways out of jams, and David Jesch was in one heck of a jam.
The North Fork Ospreys pitcher saw the first three Westhampton Aviators reach base in the second inning on Monday. Cole Miller drew a walk, Darius Washington was hit by a pitch, and Mitch Montaldo put down a bunt single that first baseman Mike Hayden fielded, only to miss the tag attempt on Montaldo along the first-base line.
That is when Jesch needed a moment to collect his thoughts.
“I really dug deep,” Jesch said. “I took a step off the mound, took a deep breath.”
And then he turned in what might have been his best work of the day. With the bases loaded and none out, Jesch buckled down, retiring the next three batters. Dan Parisi lined out, Brian Lee fouled out and Rick Alessi flied out. Jesch escaped the jam unscathed and the Ospreys hung on for a 1-0 triumph in Game 1 of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League semifinals.
The hot Ospreys can take the best-of-three semifinal series with a win tomorrow night in Peconic. They have won 12 of their last 13 games and their last four meetings with the Aviators.
Jesch prevailed in a genuine pitching duel, thanks in part to his ability to pitch effectively with runners on base. Some fine fielding behind him didn’t hurt, either.
“David maybe didn’t have his best velocity today, but he competed,” Ospreys manager Bill Ianniciello said. “He got in trouble, he got himself out of innings, executed pitches, guys made plays behind him, you know, hung on. You got to make pitches. Give him credit.”
Jesch’s counterpart, Preston Brown, deserves plenty of credit himself. Brown went the distance for the Aviators, giving up six hits. The righty from Mississippi State struck out six and didn’t issue a walk. During one stretch, he retired 17 batters in a row.
For all his effort, though, he was the losing pitcher.
“It’s a little bittersweet,” Brown said of what he regarded as his best performance of the summer.
Jesch had something that Brown didn’t have: a run to work with. The Ospreys spotted him a 1-0 lead before he even stepped on the mound at Aviator Field in Westhampton. That run was the result of Austin Miller being hit by a pitch, Jim Pjura slapping a single to left field, and then Hayden slicing a two-out single to right.
The Ospreys then let Jesch handle things for the first seven innings. The right-hander from Hofstra University allowed five hits, three walks and struck out six in his 109-pitch effort before Dalton Curtis relieved him for the last two innings.
Ianniciello said Jesch has been the Ospreys’ most consistent starting pitcher. Jesch led the league in strikeouts with 52 during the regular season. He went 5-0 with a 2.38 earned run average. That record of achievement earned him the honor of starting the first playoff game.
“It’s a lot of pressure, but I try to do my best,” Jesch said. “I felt like I didn’t have my best stuff. … I feel like my location at times was a little off. It’s a struggle at times.”
But Jesch came through when it really counted, like in the seventh when the Aviators put two runners on base. Jesch fanned J. C. Brandmaier for the third out.
The Ospreys also benefitted from some nice glove work, particularly a fine running grab by Michael Fries of a hard-hit line drive to left field.
“The defense was tremendous,” said Jesch.
The Aviators were putting runners on base; they just couldn’t bring them home. Westhampton stranded 11 runners and went 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position.
“It came down to execution,” Aviators manager Lou Bernardi said. “In playoff baseball, it’s who can make the fundamental plays the most. When you get playoff baseball, it’s going to come down to good pitching, good defense and timely hitting.”
And perhaps managing to get out of a jam or two.