GARRET MEADE PHOTO | North Fork’s starting pitcher, Cody Johnson, left the game after six innings with a 6-4 lead.
WHALERS 7, OSPREYS 6
Some may consider Yianni Rauseo to be the best all-around athlete to come out of Mattituck High School in decades. So, it’s saying something when Rauseo looks at the players he plays with and against in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League with glowing admiration.
“It’s a lot of talented players,” said Rauseo.
Rauseo, a Mattituck resident, is spending his summer essentially playing in his backyard, for the North Fork Ospreys. He is hoping that the high caliber of play in the league, which draws players from throughout the country, will help him regain the form he showed last year as a freshman right fielder for SUNY/Oswego.
Rauseo didn’t have just any freshman season. He finished with a .343 batting average, two home runs, 21 runs batted in, 28 runs scored, eight stolen bases and no errors. He tied for the team lead in runs scored, tied for second in RBI, was second in stolen bases and third in batting average.
No wonder he was selected the 2012 State University of New York Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year as well as a member of the all-conference second team.
But then there was the fall. And it was a steep one.
This past college season, Rauseo struggled mightily. His batting average dropped to .149. He had 11 RBI, 12 runs scored and two stolen bases for the Lakers.
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Former Mattituck High School star Yianni Rauseo is virtually playing in his backyard this summer for the North Fork Ospreys.
Now he’s trying to work his way back, with the aid of the Ospreys and the HCBL.
“I’m just trying to get back to the basic stuff,” Rauseo said. “Hopefully this will help me for next year.”
Rauseo said the level of play in the HCBL is higher than what he sees while playing for NCAA Division III SUNY/Oswego.
“This is one of the best leagues out there,” he said. “They’re all fundamental players. They all know how to play the game.”
The Sag Harbor Whalers showed the Ospreys that they know how to play, for a full nine innings. Jacob Bodner’s first home run of the season evened the score for Sag Harbor at 6-6 in the ninth inning and, two outs later, John Palladino scored the go-ahead run on an errant throw on an attempted forceout for a 7-6 triumph over the Ospreys on Tuesday night.
“I don’t like coming back,” Sag Harbor’s new manager, Brendan Monaghan, said after the game at Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic. “It’s not easy on the ticker, but it shows the character of these guys, I think. They have the ability, I think, to play with anybody as long as you play for nine innings.”
As fulfilling a victory as it must have been for the first-place Whalers (5-3), the last-place Ospreys (2-4) could not have felt good about seeing a game slip through their grasp. They had led since the fourth inning, and were three outs away from winning.
“Turn the page, come back tomorrow,” North Fork manager Bill Ianniciello said. “That’s the good thing about baseball. You play almost every day.”
When North Fork’s starting pitcher, Cody Johnson, was relieved after six innings, the Ospreys were ahead, 6-4. But then came that ninth inning that the Ospreys would love to forget.
Bodner, who had three runs batted in, picked up a rare sort of save in the bottom of the ninth. He registered four strikeouts that inning. The first batter Bodner faced, Rauseo, swung at a low pitch for a third strike, but the ball ricochetted off the dirt and the catcher, Dan Rizzie, couldn’t stop it, allowing Rauseo to reach first base. But Bodner then fanned the next three batters to wrap up the game, the start of which was delayed 25 minutes by threatening clouds and rain.
Palladino also homered for Sag Harbor.
Nick Heath hit a home run for North Fork, which produced three-run bursts in the second and fourth innings.
The 6-foot, 180-pound Rauseo put his athleticism to good use. He went 1 for 4, showing his speed with an infield single to keep the second-inning rally going. Rauseo, who has been timed in the 60-yard dash in 6.43 seconds, also drove in a run in the fourth on a fielder’s choice, scored a run himself later that inning on an infield single by Joe Salanitri, and stole a base. He also struck out twice and caught all three fly balls hit his way in right field.
Rauseo has started the season going 3 for 15 with four RBI.
“He does a lot of things,” Ianniciello said. “He swings the bat, he’s got some speed, he’s good defensively, so we look for him to contribute in a lot of ways. He’s doing the things we need him to do.”
Rauseo indicated that he hopes the fine play he is surrounded by rubs off on him.
“Being around with the good players,” he said, “ultimately I would like to become one.”