The North Fork Ospreys weren’t exactly going through hell, playing at Baseball Heaven in Yaphank, but it wasn’t fun and games, either.
Thanks in part to a hellacious sixth inning and the Westhampton Aviators’ busy bats, the Ospreys lost for the fourth time in five games Monday, 9-3.
“My assessment was we got beat pretty good,” said sullen manager Bill Ianniciello.
And the game had started off so promisingly for the Ospreys (5-5), too. On the game’s second pitch, Ospreys leadoff batter Richie Palacios socked a fastball for his second home run of the young Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League season. From that point on, though, things went downhill for the Ospreys as the Aviators (6-3) banged out 14 hits. Among them were four by Jacob Jaye, who doubled twice and drove in two runs, and a homer crushed by designated hitter Trey Silvers.
“We just didn’t have it today,” said Palacios.
That’s how it is in baseball. Teams have highs and lows. They go through peaks and valleys. Things go in spurts. This past week hasn’t been a good one for the Ospreys.
“Today just wasn’t our day,” said second baseman Tom Archer, who went 3-for-4 and brought in a run with an infield single. “We’re a great team, so I know we’re going to come around.”
They should if Palacios has anything to say about it. A natural leadoff hitter and sure-handed shortstop, Palacios has started the season well. The Brooklyn product has a .262 batting average and seven runs batted in.
“He’s got the speed, contact and power, all in one,” Archer said, “and he’s got a great eye, so it’s a perfect combination for a leadoff hitter.”
Palacios, a 5-foot-11, 162-pound sophomore from Towson State (Maryland), is coming off a fine freshman season. His numbers were eye-popping: a .329 batting average, six homers, 38 RBIs. He scored 55 runs, drew 29 walks and went 32 of 41 on stolen-base attempts. Palacios started in all 54 games he played.
“A very talented all-around player,” Ianniciello said. “He had a big freshman year at Towson. He does a lot of things.”
Palacios said: “I’m just trying to get better every day, working hard. That’s the name of the game. Just put in the hard work and the results will show.”
The Ospreys are hoping to get the results they want. It didn’t happen Monday.
The field turf at Baseball Heaven plays fast and produces high bounces, but the field wasn’t to blame for the Ospreys’ troubles. It was Westhampton’s bats, including those of Jaye and Daniel Franchi (3-for-5, two RBIs), along with a quality start by pitcher StigErik McElhinney, that made the difference. McElhinney, a lefthander, got the win. Over six innings he allowed five hits and one run.
Franchi knocked a two-out, two-run single to put Westhampton ahead, 2-1, in the second inning.
The Aviators gave themselves some breathing room with a two-run fifth from a run-scoring single that Aaron Ping squeezed past a diving Archer and a hit batsman, Griffin Hulecki, with the bases loaded. Hulecki and teammate Ross Puskarich were both hit by pitches twice.
What really did the Ospreys in, though, was a four-run burst by Westhampton in the sixth. The Aviators made 10 plate appearances during that frame, including a two-run, ground-rule double by Jaye that sliced into leftfield before bouncing out of play.
Ianniciello must have been glad when it was all over.
“I know for sure that we’re going to pick it up soon enough,” Palacios said. “We’re just having a rough patch.”
Photo caption: North Fork third baseman Bobby Romano fielding a grounder during his team’s 9-3 loss to Westhampton at Baseball Heaven in Yaphank. (Credit: Garret Meade)