Baseball: Aviators fly into tie for first with Ospreys, Tomcats

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Westhampton's Joe Candela was called out on a close play at home plate after a tag by North Fork catcher Matt Halloran in the second inning.

It is still early in the season, and the teams have met only two times, but so far the Westhampton Aviators have the North Fork Ospreys’ number — and a share of first place.

The Aviators defeated the Ospreys on Tuesday for the second time in as many games this season and moved into a tie for first place in the Hampton Division with the defending Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League champion Ospreys and the Riverhead Tomcats. Kevin Heller homered for the third time this season and Nick Camastro supplied a two-run double for the Aviators in their 5-2 win at Hite Field in Westhampton.

“It’s good to be in first. That’s what we wanted to do, and we want to be the best,” Camastro said. “It’s still early, but it’s still meaningful to beat the defending champs.”

Not even a rare triple play and a sensational catch by right fielder Rocco Gondek, robbing Westhampton’s Aaron Cohn of a three-run homer, was enough to prevent the Ospreys from taking the defeat.

“Thank God we made those plays,” said Ospreys Coach Brian Hansen, whose team shares a 5-3 record with the Aviators and the Tomcats. “It would have been worse of a score.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Vaughn Hayward was North Fork's starting pitcher against Westhampton.

One would have thought that the Ospreys did enough to win, belting seven hits and drawing five walks, but as they say, timing is everything. That’s especially true in baseball.

“Seven hits, five walks, just couldn’t put it all together at the same time, but that happens,” Hansen said. “That’s part of baseball.”

Heller opened the bottom of the first inning for Westhampton by blasting a home run into the woods beyond the center-field fence.

“I think we have some long-ball potential, and I think the home run is going to be a big part of our arsenal this summer, and I’m all for that,” said Aviators Coach Jeff Quiros.

Westhampton struck for three more runs and a 4-0 lead in the second. The first four Aviators to step into the batter’s box that inning reached base. Mike Rosenfeld walked before Cohn and Joe Candela produced infield singles. That set the stage for Camastro, who socked a two-run double into the left-center-field gap. The third run of the rally came on a double steal. Heller broke for second base, drawing a throw, and Camastro raced home for the run.

Perhaps the highlight of the game came in the third, though, with a rarity. Westhampton had runners on first and second when Rosenfeld lined out to first baseman Matt Carroll. Carroll stepped on the first-base bag for the second out and then threw to shortstop Ian Vazquez covering second to complete a triple play.

The Ospreys turned in another web gem in the fifth when Gondek, celebrating his 22nd birthday, robbed Cohn of a three-run homer. Despite falling over the fence, Gondek held onto the ball, which he showed to the umpire.

“If that ball went out, this game could have been really out of control, but Rocco made a great catch,” said Carroll, who went 3 for 4.

North Fork got into the scoring column in the sixth. Andrew Furr and Ryan Brockett, who had both walked, scored the runs on singles by Carroll and Matt Halloran.

Westhampton pulled a run back in its half of the inning. A well-executed squeeze bunt by Taylor Mondshein was enough to get pinch runner Matt De Renzi home for a 5-2 lead.

Westhampton’s starting pitcher, Taylor Black (1-0), went six innings, allowing five hits.

“The big thing was to get into first place,” said Quiros, whose team won the 2009 ACBL championship. “The only way we’re going to lose is if we beat ourselves. We’d like to establish ourselves as the best team in this league, so we’d like to have that mental edge over all these clubs.”

Hansen said the Ospreys could use some clutch hitting, but he likes what has seen from his team so far. As for the role of being a defending champion, he likes that, too.

“It’s good to have the target on your back,” he said. “That means you are the defending champs, so it’s a good thing.”

[email protected]