With the playoffs on the not-too-distant horizon, what is it going to take for the North Fork Ospreys to finish the regular season strong?
Manager Bill Ianniciello didn’t hesitate in his answer. “Pitchers have to step up, for sure,” he said.
Through Tuesday’s games, the Ospreys ranked dead last among the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League’s seven teams, having allowed 157 earned runs in 254 innings. That was well below the sixth-ranked Sag Harbor Whalers (119 earned runs in 246 innings).
“I’d like to see the pitching come on a little stronger,” Ianniciello said. “We’re at the bottom, numbers-wise, on the pitching. So, for us to have a good run, we need to pitch.”
Defense and hitting have been a big reason why the Ospreys have a 17-13 record.
Outings such as the one Tevita Gerber provided Tuesday night would be most welcome. Gerber allowed one run and five hits with six strikeouts and three walks over seven innings, but the Ospreys dropped a 2-1 decision to the Sag Harbor Whalers at Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic. He didn’t factor in the decision.
“If we get that pitching performance every game, I expect us to win nine times out of 10,” said third baseman Bobby Romano.
As vital as pitching is, it takes on even greater importance in the playoffs, when games tend to be tight and so much is riding on every pitch.
Gerber (1-2) has the team’s best ERA at 3.72. Daniel Aguilo (4-1, 4.28) is tied for second in the league in wins, with an ERA a notch above that of teammate Matt Messier (1-0, 4.39).
“We’re just going to have to pitch it like we did earlier in the year,” Gerber said. “I mean, pitchers were on a roll. We kind of hit a rough bump for a little bit.”
Dan Schoch undoubtedly has power, and that includes the power to juice the Ospreys’ offense.
Schoch made a fine showing Monday, clubbing 12 homers in the league’s Home Run Derby before homering for the North All Stars in their 9-1 loss to the South All Stars.
Bill Ianniciello likes what he has seen from the Sacred Heart outfielder.
“Dan Schoch had a slow start, but he’s come on really strong in the last week, 10 days,” Ianniciello said. “He’s been on an extraordinary stretch with some power numbers. He’s got power. He’s got good bat speed. A very athletic kid. He’s got good pro tools, a very strong, accurate arm. He’ll be on some radars. Right now he’s doing a lot of damage.”
Schoch has nine homers and 21 RBIs to go with a .239 batting average.
Approaching dog days
With their loss Tuesday night, coupled with the Montauk Mustangs’ 12-2 defeat of the Riverhead Tomcats, the Ospreys slipped into a second-place tie with the Mustangs (17-12) at 34 points apiece. The top four teams will qualify for the postseason.
“The goal is to make the playoffs,” said Ianniciello. He added, “We got to stay healthy, pitch and catch the ball and, hopefully, keep hitting the way we’ve been.”
At this point in the year, players are feeling bumps and bruises. The wear and tear is all part of the game.
“You know how baseball is,” Ianniciello said. “Guys are banged up. … But for the most part we’re OK. It’s a grind, but they’re used to it.”
Photo caption: North Fork pitcher Tevita Gerber gave up five hits and one run over seven innings, but received little in the way of run support against Sag Harbor on Tuesday night. (Credit Garret Meade)