HCBL FINALS, GAME 1 | OSPREYS 12, BATTLECATS 5
In their fight for a second league championship in four years, the North Fork Ospreys came out swinging. Not only were they swinging, but they were connecting,
Pitching has been the dominant force during these Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League playoffs, but not on Friday night.
“It was a hitters’ night,” said Ospreys designated hitter Jim Pjura.
He wasn’t kidding. Hits, which had been hard to come by in previous playoff games, were aplenty in Game 1 of the league finals. Mike Hayden homered and drove in six runs in the Ospreys’ 12-5 thumping of the Center Moriches Battlecats at Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic, helping the Ospreys take the lead in the best-of-three series.
“It seemed like it was a beach ball coming in,” said Hayden, who played first base.
Hayden hit a three-run homer, as did teammate Jim Pjura, who launched his shot inside the right-field foul pole in the eighth inning for the game’s final runs. Another Ospreys player, Michael Fries, went 3 for 4 with a run-scoring single and a double.
Altogether, the Ospreys banged out 14 hits, half of them going for extra bases. Among them were the two home runs, one triple and four doubles. With the exception of one pinch hitter, every North Fork player who batted came up with at least one hit. The Ospreys produced at least one hit in each of the eight innings they batted, including three multi-hit innings.
“The offense … just exploded tonight,” Pjura said. “We took a decent [batting practice]. It was nothing out of the ordinary. Everybody was so loose tonight. Everyone was just ready to play. We’ve been rolling.”
Indeed, Friday’s win was the Ospreys’ 14th in 16 games. It pushed them to within one win of the first-year league’s inaugural championship. The Ospreys were the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League champions in 2010.
They could claim the crown as soon as Saturday at Center Moriches High School. If a third game is necessary, it will be played Sunday in Peconic.
“We’re really hot right now,” said Ospreys third baseman Ryan Burns. He added: “We want this championship bad. We feel really loose right now, you know. We’re not pressing, having fun and joking around before the games. I think that helps when you’re just relaxed. Our confidence is up right now.”
As well it should be after Friday’s hitting display.
The Ospreys jumped on top of the Battlecats early, scoring seven runs in the first two innings. By then, Hayden already had five runs batted in., from a two-run double he slugged into a gap and the home run he clubbed over the left-field fence. No wonder he was all smiles after crossing home plate following that long ball and being greeted by happy teammates.
Hayden later added a sacrifice fly in the sixth.
“Everything just came together,” Hayden said. “… We got the offense going today.”
The Battlecats had eight hits themselves. The first two batters in Center Moriches’ lineup, Rob Moore and Stefan Trosclair (4 for 5), both homered and had two runs batted in each.
“There were some good hitters in this ball park,” Pjura said. “They can swing it; we can swing it.”
Some, including Center Moriches manager Bill Batewell, believe the Battlecats have the best pitching in the league. But Batewell was quick to admit that his team did not show it on Friday.
“I thought we would pitch better than we did,” he said. “The first two innings were really not good, obviously. As I told our guys, I don’t think we pitched with authority. We just kind of steered the ball and wing and a prayered it.”
Perhaps overshadowed somewhat by all that offense was the pitching of Matt D’Ariano, who is normally a reliever, but got the start for the Ospreys. After walking the leadoff batter in the fifth, D’Ariano was pulled by manager Bill Ianniciello. D’Ariano gave up two hits and was charged for two runs.
Because D’Ariano didn’t pitch five innings, he was ineligible to receive credit for the win. That went instead to his successor, J. A. Harville. Harville struck out six in the two and two-third innings he worked before David Deliz finished up.
When the Battlecats fell behind by so much so quickly, it brought to Batewell’s mind the story about a college game between Siena and Manhattan several years ago. The winner was headed to the playoffs, and the loser was going home. Siena was leading, 17-2, in the sixth inning, yet, incredibly ended up losing, 21-19, in 10 innings.
“You really never know what’s going to happen,” Batewell said. “I shared that story, but it didn’t work tonight.”