Baseball: Ospreys reliever steps up on short notice

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mitch Montaldo of Westhampton reaches base on a fielder's choice in the second inning despite an attempted tag by North Fork first baseman Mike Hayden.
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mitch Montaldo of Westhampton is tagged out by North Fork first baseman Mike Hayden for the third out in the third inning.


A long reliever’s job requires that he be ready on short notice. Even so, the task placed before J. A. Harville on Sunday was really short notice.

Harville was brought into the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League game for the North Fork Ospreys just two batters into the Westhampton Aviators’ lineup, after starting pitcher Cody Johnson was hit in his pitching arm by a line drive. No matter. Harville, a left-hander from South Alabama, gave the Ospreys what they needed: five and two-third innings of steady pitching. The result was a 9-2 win at Aviator Field in Westhampton and the Ospreys’ seventh victory in 10 games.

“It was just, ‘Bam,’ you’re right on the mound,” Harville said. “You’re always ready to go in the bullpen. You never know what’s going to transpire on the field. It was unfortunate for him to get hit, but you just got to be ready.”

Harville certainly was. With his parents, Steve and Shana, watching after making a 27-hour drive to see him pitch, Harville rose to the occasion. He gave up six hits and two runs to the Aviators after Johnson was struck above his right elbow with a stinging smash by Ryan Spaulding in the first inning. Johnson, who was in obvious pain, watched the rest of the game from the dugout.

“I think he’s going to have a pretty big bruise with the swelling,” Ospreys manager Bill Ianniciello said. “I don’t know how soon he’ll be O.K., but he’ll be O.K.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | North Fork's starting pitcher, Cody Johnson, grimmacing in pain after being struck in the arm by a line drive in the first inning.
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | North Fork’s starting pitcher, Cody Johnson, grimmacing in pain after being struck in the arm by a line drive in the first inning.

The Ospreys are thankful that Harville was more than O.K., not to mention their offense.

The bulk of that offense came in the form of a five-run fifth inning when the Ospreys snapped a 2-2 tie. Austin Miller doubled in the go-ahead run. Ryan Burns, Mike D’Acunti and Michael Fries supplied run-scoring singles that inning.

The Ospreys’ leadoff hitter, Nick Heath, turned in a productive game, accounting for three hits, three runs scored and two stolen bases. Burns also had a three-hit game as the Ospreys churned out 13 hits. Jim Pjura and D’Acunti drove in two runs each.

Darius Washington extended his hitting streak to 12 games for the Aviators, going 3 for 4 with a double.

The win was all the more impressive coming against the Aviators. Last summer the Aviators finished in sixth place in the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League Hampton Division with an 18-22 record. They have turned things around in a big way this year. The second-place Aviators had won eight of their previous 10 games. Sunday’s result left them at 22-14.

“I’m not surprised by any team,” Aviators manager Lou Bernardi said of the Ospreys. “They’re a good team. Offensively, they can cut it with anybody. Today they had our number.”

The Ospreys are playing better than they did earlier in the season, having tightened up their defense and their bullpen. With Sunday’s win, they pulled to within one win of .500 with a 17-18 record. It was a vital win, as they are in a tight three-team race for one of the league’s four playoff spots.

After Sunday’s games, the Ospreys remained in fourth place, one game ahead of the Riverhead Tomcats and one and a half games in front of the Shelter Island Bucks.

“Three teams playing for one spot, so every win is important,” said Ianniciello.

The Ospreys, who are in their fifth year of existence, have never failed to qualify for the playoffs. They don’t want to spoil that spotless record this year.

“It’s getting tight,” Harville said. “This league is really competitive so you can never take a day off. This team works tremendously hard. This team really wants to be in the playoffs. It would be an embarrassment not to get in the playoffs.”

That is why it sounds as if Ianniciello isn’t as interested in talking about the past as the future. “It’s about tomorrow, not yesterday,” he said.
Sunday was about Harville meeting the challenge in a critical game at a critical point during the final week of the regular season for the Ospreys.

“He was available in the bullpen,” Ianniciello said. “We weren’t planning on going to him in the first inning, but he came in and did a great job for us.”

That’s the long and the short of it.

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