The summer fun is over. The Ospreys have left their nest for the season.
History seemed to be on the North Fork Ospreys’ side, working against the Westhampton Aviators. A Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League team had never before won a semifinal series after losing the first game. That augured well for the Ospreys who, largely on the strength of Danny Pobereyko’s pitching, were 5-2 winners in Game 1 in Westhampton. Game 2, however, went the Aviators’ way, 3-2, setting up a decisive third game yesterday.
Things looked good for the Ospreys yesterday when Nick Heath’s bases-loaded double gave them a 3-0 lead in the third inning. But it went downhill from there for the Ospreys. The Aviators delighted their home fans at Aviator Field, producing 15 hits for a 6-3 victory to advance to the league finals for the third time in franchise history. They will face the top-seeded Shelter Island Bucks in the league finals, which start Friday. It will be the Aviators’ first appearance in the finals since 2011 when they topped the Ospreys for their second league championship.
The Aviators became the first No. 2 seed to advance to the championship series since they did it themselves in 2009, when they won the first of their two HCBL titles.
The Ospreys, who fell short of their fifth finals appearance in seven years, were one of the seven-team league’s four playoff teams. They finished a grueling regular season strong, winning seven of 10 games to seal third place with a 22-19-1 record.
Pitching had an awful lot to do with it. The Ospreys’ pitchers ranked No. 1 in earned run average (3.01) and strikeouts (329). Frank Moscatiello was the most prominent among them. The right-hander went 6-2 with a 1.95 ERA and was the league’s strikeout king with 57.
For offense, the Ospreys were helped by the bats of Peter Papcun and James Morisano. Papcun led the league with seven home runs, tying an Ospreys single-season record. He also drove in 26 runs, tying him for fifth in the league. Morisano led the team with a .325 batting average.
The Aviators and the Ospreys had crossed semifinal paths in 2013 as well. That year the Ospreys won the first game of the series, dropped the second and then prevailed in the third in extra innings. The way this most recent series started, both sides might have felt a sense of déjà vu.
To the Ospreys’ disappointment, though, things didn’t turn out the same in Game 3. A two-out single by Westhampton’s Tyler Piccolo tied the score in the sixth inning.
The following inning, Matt Spruill tripled in two runs before being driven home himself by A. J. Montoya (3 for 4) for a 6-3 Aviators lead.
Cody McPartland was the winning pitcher, giving up three hits during seven innings of shutout relief.
The Ospreys’ border rivals, the Riverhead Tomcats, did not reach the playoffs. The Tomcats had their struggles, losing eight of their last 10 games and finishing in last place with a 14-28 record. They did, however, have some fine individual performers. Jake Reinhardt led all pitchers in ERA at 1.01 and Turner Buis was second in the race for the batting title with a .354 average.
[Caption: North Fork Osprey outfielder Nick Heath, pictured in Game 2, hit a bases-clearing double Wednesday against Westhampton]