Bob Furlong Day was doubly sweet for the North Fork Ospreys.
After Furlong, who shares the general managership of the Riverhead Tomcats with Patti White and is battling leukemia, was honored in a pregame ceremony Sunday, the Ospreys took over things from there. In sweeping a doubleheader from the Tomcats, 8-1 and 12-1, the Ospreys leaped from third place to second and put a crimp in the Tomcats’ playoff prospects.
Three of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League’s four playoff slots are filled by the Westhampton Aviators (26-13-1), the Ospreys (24-16) and the Montauk Mustangs (23-15). With their losses Sunday, the fourth-place Tomcats (18-21-1) need to win their final two regular-season games — both at home against the Shelter Island Bucks on Monday and the Aviators on Tuesday — in order to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
The Ospreys are headed to the postseason for the eighth straight year. The playoffs will start Friday.
Prior to Sunday’s doubleheader at Veterans Memorial Park in Calverton, the guest of honor, Furlong, was surprised when he arrived at the field with his wife, Shirley, to find that the day had been set aside in his honor. The ceremony for Furlong, who has been with the Tomcats since the club’s inception in 2009, drew league officials, former Tomcats manager Randy Caden and Riverhead Town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, among others. HCBL president Henry Bramwell announced the creation of the Bob Furlong Award, which will go to the player who best exemplifies the highest level of integrity, teamwork and leadership on and off the field. Tomcats manager Alex Nikolic presented Furlong with a team jersey, signed by the team members.
Then Furlong threw out the first pitch, and the Ospreys went to work.
The Ospreys, prepping for the playoffs, received playoff-type pitching from both of their starters Sunday. In the opener, Anthony Catinella (3-1) allowed one run and eight hits over six innings. The righthander registered eight strikeouts and walked one batter intentionally. During one stretch bridging the first and second innings, he had six strikeouts in seven at-bats as the Ospreys handed Frank Valentino (5-1) his first loss of the season. Valentino struck out nine, but was charged with five runs in 5 1/3 innings.
In the second game, Kevin Ross (3-2) went six innings, conceding a run, six hits and no walks. He struck out seven.
Both pitchers received plenty of offensive support as the Ospreys totaled 24 hits on the day.
In the first game, the Ospreys struck for eight unanswered runs, including seven in the sixth when the first four batters reached base. Tom Archer picked up an RBI the hard way, being hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to snap a 1-1 tie. A sacrifice fly by Nick Bellafronto and a lined RBI single by Sean Buckhout extended the lead to 4-1. Richie Palacios doubled in two runs and two more scored on an error.
Asher Lee-Tyson had four singles in as many at-bats for the Tomcats. The first of those helped the Tomcats load the bases in the first, which Tim DeGraw led off by knocking a double. DeGraw later scored on a passed ball.
The Ospreys drew even in the fifth. Dan Schock delivered a leadoff double to the left-centerfield gap. Archer then singled and an error on the play allowed Schock to scoot home, tying it at 1-1.
Nikolic’s day ended early. The manager, who was served a warning from an umpire for expressing his displeasure at a pickoff call in the sixth, was ejected the following inning. It came after Ospreys rightfielder Max Smith made a splendid sliding catch on a fly ball hit by Gavin Garay. Smith then fired the ball in and DeGraw was thrown out at third base for a double play. Nikolic had words and was tossed.
An example of what kind of a game it was for the Tomcats: They churned out three hits each in the sixth and seventh, yet came away scoreless each inning.
Another oddity was seen in the seventh when the Tomcats recorded all three outs by throwing out runners trying to steal, including a double-steal attempt by Bellafronto and Archer, who were thrown out at second and home plate on the same play.
The Ospreys took a 2-0 lead in the third inning of the second game when Rodrigo Duluc singled in a run and Dylan Resk scored on an errant throw.
That was the first of five straight innings in which the Ospreys scored, including three runs each in the fourth, fifth and sixth.
Palacios led the way with three hits, the third being an RBI single that placed him third on the league’s all-time, single-season hits list with 58.
The bottom five batters in the order — Hunter Smith (three RBIs), Archer. Hayden Rappoport, Dylan Resk and Duluc — had two hits each.
With a sacrifice fly in the sixth, the Ospreys’ Max Smith took the league lead in RBIs with 44.
Photo caption: Tomcats general manager Bob Furlong and his wife, Shirley, during the pregame ceremony in his honor. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)