SOUTHAMPTON — If the North Fork Ospreys continue to play games like this, life will be good for manager Shawn Epidendio this summer.
The Ospreys shot out to a 7-0 lead and held on for a 7-4 win over the Southampton Breakers on Tuesday in an Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League game at Stony Brook University’s campus in Southampton. North Fork’s offense was sparked by a two-run homer by Sebastian Grazziani (his first of the season) as well as two hits apiece by Dan Muscatello, David Jacob and Ryan Lee. One of Muscatello’s hits was a two-run single.
The Ospreys were efficient, leaving only two runners on base to nine for the Breakers.
Meanwhile, pitcher Chuck Fontana, who took the season-opening loss to the Riverhead Tomcats on Friday night, brought his record to 1-1 with the win for the Ospreys (2-2). The left-hander, who lasted for five and two-third innings, allowed only two hits through the first five innings.
“The guys played hard,” Epidendio said. “They never quit. That’s always a good sign when a team is young and just getting to know each other. Today we had some clutch hits. That’s what we need.”
Fontana, who had good movement on his pitches, sure had cause to feel good. He was cruising through the first five innings when he faced only three batters over the minimum. But then Fontana gave up successive hits to the first four batters he faced in the sixth — Prateek Thaman, Nick Ferraresi, Tommy Corbin and Blake Amaral. They were all sharply struck singles except for Ferraresi’s blast, a two-run homer.
Fontana struck out six and walked three.
“Getting the runs early definitely gave us momentum, but also Fontana going out there and shutting them down really gave us a lot of confidence going into the batter’s box,” Muscatello said. “We weren’t pressing as much. We could relax.”
Baseball is a funny game. It was just two days earlier when Southampton administered an 18-0 battering of the Riverhead Tomcats. The way Tuesday’s game started, though, it looked as if it would be Southampton’s turn to be on the wrong end of a pounding.
“That’s the thing about this game,” Southampton Manager Rob Cafiero said, “once you think you have it figured out, it comes back and bites you in the butt.”
The only Southampton player with more than one hit was its cleanup batter and designated hitter, Amaral. Amaral, who is the first Hawaiian player in the league, went 3 for 5 with a stolen base. The Hawai’i Pacific University sophomore hit .400 this past college season. “Just call me lucky,” he said modestly.
But more than luck was in North Fork’s favor on Tuesday.
The Ospreys hopped in front, 2-0, in the first inning. Muscatello led off by slapping a single over third baseman Jackson Shaver, who lost the ball in the blinding sun. After stealing second base, Muscatello advanced to third on a groundout, and then scored on another groundout by Robert Kelly. The next batter, Jacob, knocked in the second run on an infield single.
A fielding error in the third led to the North Fork’s third run. Brendan O’Brien led off and was hit by a pitch. A stolen base, grounder and error later, he was home.
While the Ospreys played clean defense, the Breakers made three errors that led to four unearned runs.
“The focus was not there today,” Amaral said. “If you make an error, they’re going to take advantage of it.”
North Fork knocked Southampton’s starting pitcher, Zack Godley (0-1), out of the game in the fourth after the Ospreys picked up four runs that inning. Grazziani tore into a 2-1 pitch for a two-run shot past the center-field fence. Later, Muscatello knocked in another two runs with a single up the middle, making it 7-0.
Fontana went two outs into the sixth inning before his 98-pitch day was done and the ball was handed to Mike Czenszak and then later to Lee Weld. Before exiting the game, though, Fontana saw his shutout bid spoiled when Ferraresi clocked a two-run homer to center field. The Breakers (1-2) banged out four hits that inning, but couldn’t produce more runs, leaving the bases loaded.
Southampton used four walks — two with the bases loaded by Dylan Swift and Mike Mandarino — to make it a three-run game, cutting North Fork’s lead to 7-4 in the eighth. A sensational diving backhanded catch by the Ospreys second baseman, Muscatello, of a fly ball hit by Shaver helped limit the damage.
MEET TOMMY JOHN Former major league pitcher Tommy John will be in attendance at four Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League games this weekend to meet players and fans. John joined the league during the winter and has pledged his support of the project, which has brought 125 top-flight college players to the East End for the next two months, including some from prominent programs such as Vanderbilt, Stanford, St. John’s, Long Beach State and Southern Mississippi. Among the games John will attend will be the Riverhead-North Fork game on Saturday in Peconic at 7 p.m. John won 288 games during his 26-year career.