The way left-hander Patrick Peterson mowed through the North Fork lineup early in Tuesday’s game for the Southampton Breakers, any lead seemed nearly insurmountable.
But one needed to look back only a night earlier to realize anything can happen. In the opening game of the first-round playoff series Monday, the Ospreys hit a pair of home runs in the ninth inning to nearly come back from a 5-0 hole. They lost 5-4, but carried the momentum into Game 2 of the doubleheader when they jumped ahead 5-0.
This time, the Breakers fought back with five of their own to send the game into extra innings. The Ospreys finally prevailed when Anthony Aceto hit a walk-off home run.
It all set the stage for Tuesday’s elimination Game 3 at Southampton, which looked like it might be headed for more late-inning drama.
The Ospreys trailed 3-0 going into the eighth inning before scratching together two runs and getting the tying run into scoring position with no outs.
But the afternoon belonged to Peterson. He buckled down to retire the next three batters in the eighth — the last threat for the Ospreys as their season ended with a 3-2 loss.
The No. 3 seed Southampton advances to face No. 4 Riverhead for the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball championship in a best-of-three series. Riverhead swept Shelter Island Monday.
North Fork coach Bill Ianniciello said the team this season was a tight-knit group.
“A lot of other teams have had guys leaving during the course of the week,” he said. “Our guys were all here. I give them credit. They wanted to be here and they played to the end. It’s just unfortunate we lost a close game.”
It was a pitcher’s duel from the start. Peterson and North Fork starter Justin Hepner were both on top of their game. The only difference for most of the game was one pitch Hepner threw to Southampton cleanup hitter Rob Fonseca in the third inning. Fonseca blasted a two-run homer to left field with two out and a runner on second to give the Breakers a 2-0 lead. Brenton Allen reached with a one-out walk and stole second on the pitch before the home run.
Allen actually started toward second before Hepner began his windup. But he threw the ball to home and Allen easily scampered into second. The next pitch Fonseca put over the fence.
“He pitched a strong game,” Ianniciello said. “He pitches a game like that, he should win the game.”
Peterson, who pitches for Temple University, got the better of him. Through seven innings he allowed only one hit. He finished the game with a three-hitter. He struck out 12 by pounding the strike zone with fastballs early in the count and mixing in a good curveball.
“I was keeping my fastball down and throwing my curveball for strikes the entire game,” Peterson said. “I was consistent.”
After Ryan Burns singled in the second at-bat of the game for North Fork, Peterson retired 20 of the next 21 batters — issuing only a fifth-inning walk.
The Ospreys finally broke through when Alex Perez led off the eighth inning with a double to left-center. A pair of errors on the next two at-bats helped the Ospreys get on the board and put themselves in position for a big inning. Vinny Citro lofted a ball into shallow left to make it 3-2, but the Ospreys couldn’t get any closer.
Peterson got the next batter to fly out to center. And he got the next two hitters to ground out to the infield.
“He’s a quality pitcher,” Ianniciello said. “He’s a competitor. He mixes his pitches well and knows how to go after it. He threw an effective game.”
Peterson said after throwing against North Fork several times already this season, he was familiar with their lineup.
“I think it helped me today,” he said. “I used a little more of the curveball this time than before.”
The Breakers added a run in the seventh inning to make it a 3-0 game, a run that proved to be the difference in the game after the Ospreys got two in the eighth.
Southamptons’ run was set up by a two-out error. Allen hit an RBI single after Vinny Zarrillo reached on an infield error and advanced to second on an errant pickoff throw.
Mike Zaccardo pitched the eighth inning for North Fork and escaped a bases-loaded jam to keep the Ospreys within a run going into the ninth inning.
The Ospreys finished out the year 23-19. Ianniciello, after his first season with the Ospreys, said it was a great experience.
“I would love to work with any of these kids again,” he said. “Hopefully they go back to school a little further than where they were when they came here.”