OSPREYS 5, MUSTANGS 3
Growing up in Lawrence, Penn., a suburb of Pittsburgh, Alex Bell never spent much time at the beach. And he had never been to Eastern Long Island before joining the North Fork Ospreys this summer.
“We went to the beach yesterday, so it’s a real nice summer,” Bell said after helping the Ospreys to a 5-3 win over Montauk Tuesday at Cochran Park in Peconic.
While Bell has been enjoying his time on the North Fork, the Ospreys have been enjoying his bat in the middle of the lineup. In 11 games, Bell has batted a team-high .441 with 11 RBIs.
Against the Mustangs, Bell went 2 for 3 with 3 RBIs and walk. He hit a pair of doubles, including a shot to right-center in the fifth inning that drove in the go-ahead run.
“I think it was an 0-2 count and I was just trying to stay aggressive, stay up the middle,” Bell said. “He left it right in the middle.”
The win snapped a two-game losing streak for the Ospreys, who improved to 10-8 in the jam-packed Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League. Riverhead and Westhampton both have 10 wins and Sag Harbor has nine.
Bell, who will be a junior at Slippery Rocky University, a Division II school in Pennsylvania, had been weighing his options over where to play ball this summer. By March, his coach told he’d be headed to the Hamptons.
“There was a kid on our team that had already played up here and said it’s a good time,” Bell said. “So I said, yeah, sure.”
Bell was the designated hitter in Tuesday’s game, but he primarily plays catcher. Coming into a summer league where players are mixed together from an array of different colleges, playing catcher is one of the trickiest positions.
For starters, the catcher needs a crash course on the team’s pitching staff.
“It’s the most difficult part of playing in a summer league,” Bell said. “You’re not familiar with the pitchers so you have to work with them a lot in the first couple of weeks and get a little more familiar and understand their tendencies.”
Bell splits the catching duties with Chris Gaffney, a sophomore at the University of North Carolina Wilmington who grew up in Holtsville. He played high school ball at St. John the Baptist. Gaffney got the start behind the plate against the Mustangs and drove in one run on a groundout in the fourth inning.
“We talk a lot about pitchers,” Bell said. “Who to throw what, who likes what and how they pitch and everything.”
The Mustangs got the tying runs on base in the ninth inning with two outs. But with their No. 3 hitter at the plate, on a 2-2 pitch, the ball momentarily bounced past Gaffney and quickly ricocheted off the backstop back to him. The runner on first, though, took off to second. The runner on second then had to go, so Gaffney threw down to third to start a rundown. After several throws between second and third, the Ospreys applied the tag and game ended.
The Ospreys trailed 3-0 early in the game. But they bounced back with runs in the third and fourth before a three-run fifth inning gave them the lead for good.
Ricky Dennis, a 6-foot-8 sophomore from Monmouth University, pitched six strong innings for the win. He struck out nine and lowered his ERA to 3.20. David Deliz, a senior at Wright State University pitched a scoreless seventh and eighth before Andrew Burnick, a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania got the save in the ninth.