Baseball: These Battlecats live up to their nickname

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | North Fork's Eric Solberg was called out at home plate following a tag by Center Moriches catcher Dan Roland on a failed double steal attempt in the fifth inning.
ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | North Fork’s Eric Solberg was called out at home plate following a tag by Center Moriches catcher Dan Roland on a failed double steal attempt in the fifth inning.


These cats sure do battle. That’s why “Battlecats” is a fitting nickname for Center Moriches’ entry in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League.

Less than 24 hours after suffering a seven-run drubbing at the hands of the North Fork Ospreys in the first game of the league finals the night before, the Battlecats took Game 2, 8-2, on Saturday.

Anger is a great motivator. Do you think a little anger on the Battlecats’ part was involved?

“In a word, yes,” answered Battlecats manager Bill Batewell.

Following that 12-5 loss to the Ospreys on Friday night, there was a lot of texting back and forth among members of the Battlecats, said Batewell. Regardless of the result, Saturday’s game was the last one for the Battlecats this summer on their own Paul Gibson Field at Center Moriches High School. They wanted to leave a good memory for their fans.

“We hate to lose,” Battlecats first baseman Paschal Petrongolo said. “It’s just something that’s bred into us.”

A couple of long balls went a long way for the Battlecats, accounting for five of their runs. Petrongolo socked a three-run job during a five-run fifth inning to stretch his team’s lead to 6-1. Nick Nunziato tacked on a booming two-run shot over the left-field fence in the sixth to cap the scoring.

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | North Fork second baseman Tom O'Neill snagging a ground ball.
ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | North Fork second baseman Tom O’Neill snagging a ground ball.

Colin Orellana was the winning pitcher. The left-hander struck out six in five innings. He allowed one run, five hits and no walks.

The Ospreys managed only one hit off relievers Brett Byrum and Nick Brass over the final three innings.

“We didn’t play our best game by any means today,” Ospreys manager Bill Ianniciello said. “They took better swings at the plate than we did. Give them credit. They outplayed us.”

The result sets up a decisive Game 3 at Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic on Sunday. Now it comes down to one last dramatic showdown, one game for the championship, winner take all.

“Obviously, at this point, everybody’s got a lot at stake,” the Ospreys’ speedy center fielder, Nick Heath, said. “They really want it. We really want it.”

For their part, the Battlecats were determined to make a better showing and extend their season one more game.

“We don’t want to go home,” Petrongolo said. “We’ve all had a great summer, and we want to play for the people of Center Moriches.”

It appeared as if Game 2 might be a continuation of the way things went for the Ospreys in the series opener when, in the third inning Saturday, they broke the ice with the game’s first run. A ground-rule double slugged by Eric Solberg, a sacrifice bunt by Austin Miller and a Heath single did the trick.

The Battlecats prevented further damage that inning thanks to one of the greatest defensive plays of the season. Their left fielder, Zach Persky, not only dove forward for a catch that robbed Mike Hayden of a hit, but he quickly jumped to his feet and fired the ball to the first baseman, Petrongolo, catching Heath off the bag for a double play.

In the fourth, the Battlecats drew even through Dan Roland’s two-out, run-scoring double.

The Ospreys tried to use aggressive base running to go in front again in the fifth, but it didn’t work. Solberg tried to score from third base on an attempted double steal, only to be thrown out by second baseman Stefan Trosclair on a close call.

But it was in the bottom of the fifth when it became apparent that the pendulum had swung in Center Moriches’ favor. Rob Moore singled in the go-ahead run, Nunziato scored on a fielding error and Petrongolo went deep with his homer. That put the game out of the Ospreys’ reach.

Heath saw the game as something of a wake-up call for the Ospreys, who had won 14 of their previous 16 games. “It’s kind of a reality check,” he said. “I think we needed it. I think it helped us a lot.”

Each team has won a game handily. What Game 3 will bring remains to be seen.

“This is do or die now,” said Petrongolo.

As Center Moriches saw it, the real Battlecats stepped up to the plate on Saturday, not the Battlecats who were blown away in the first game.

“We call it the imposters or the real guys,” Batewell said. “I thought last night was the imposters and tonight we were the real guys.”

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