Baseball: Bucks return to .500 with 16 hits against Ospreys


Practice is supposed to make perfect, but sometimes, strange as it may sound, no practice works best.

That is what one might be led to believe by the Shelter Island Bucks’ showing on Sunday night. With his team coming off an 11-5 loss to the Riverhead Tomcats on Saturday, Bucks coach Joe Burke opted against having his team take batting practice before Sunday night’s game against the North Fork Ospreys.

“We let them relax today and come out and swing the bats and have fun,” Burke explained. “That’s what it’s all about. You have to change it up. There’s too much of a routine, and you have to get them out of the routine.”

Judging by the way the Bucks swung the bat, it didn’t look as if they needed any batting practice. They enjoyed their best offensive showing of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League season, producing 16 hits, including two home runs by Jon Nelson and one by Zach Collett, to win, 12-7, and bring their record back to .500.

And that wasn’t all. Nick Howell drove in three runs while Rennie Troggio and Nick Powell had three hits each for the Bucks (8-8) in the game at Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic.

After falling behind, 3-0, by the third inning, the Bucks scored in five of the last six innings, including three-run rallies in the fourth, fifth and sixth.

“The offense was phenomenal,” Burke said. “We were putting the bat on the ball tonight.”

And a lot of that damage came against Justin Hepner, one of the league’s top pitchers. Hepner (2-2), who entered the game with a 1.66 earned run average, was victimized for 11 hits and seven earned runs in the six innings he threw.

Is there any explanation for why the Bucks hit so well?

“I think we were laying off his good pitches and we were just hitting the fastballs,” Nelson said, “and we were on the pitches that he was leaving up.”

The Bucks, who entered the game with a .257 team batting average, knew they had hitters in Thomas Roulis (.353) and Vin Guglietti (.327). Sunday’s performance, though, was a team affair. All but one of the nine Bucks who batted had at least one hit; six had two or more.

Shelter Island’s starting pitcher, Pat Simone (1-2), gave up three runs and seven hits before making his exit after six innings.

It started off looking like it would be the Ospreys’ day. Run-scoring doubles by Alex Perez and Tim Panetta as well as a run-producing sacrifice bunt by Anthony Aceto spotted them a 3-0 lead by the third.

Shortly after that, though, the Shelter Island bats warmed up. Nelson clubbed homers in the fourth and fifth, giving him six for the season. His second shot made it 4-3, Shelter Island.

The Bucks were off and running.

“I’m actually not a home-run guy at all,” Nelson, the catcher, said. “I don’t really care how I do as long as we win the game.”

The Bucks stretched their lead to 10-3 in the seventh. Before the inning was over, though, the Ospreys (9-5) pulled themselves back into it, thanks to a three-run homer by Panetta and a bases-loaded walk by Dan Kerr.

But the Bucks weren’t done touching home plate for the night. Collett muscled a home run over center field and Howell ripped a run-scoring infield single off relief pitcher Robert Galligan’s foot for the game’s final two runs in the eighth.

“It was a pretty frustrating game,” said Panetta, the designated hitter who knocked in four runs. “We did a lot of things right, but we also did a lot of things wrong.”

Among the latter were five errors.

“Justin struggled a little bit, and I felt like the umpire called the zone a little tight on him and I thought we got out of rhythm a little bit,” Ospreys coach Bill Ianniciello said. “They took some good swings. That’s going to happen. There are all good teams out here. You’re not going to beat everybody every night.”

And some nights, the Bucks will tell you, perhaps it’s not a bad thing to skip batting practice.

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