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Baseball: From hitting coach to pitching coach

The North Fork Ospreys pitching coach Casey Schuermann #28 talks with Pitcher Brandon Alberto #17 and catcher Sean Buckhout #9 during the game against the Montauk Mustangs at Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic on July 30, 2016.

So, how does a young man from Illinois who works as a hitting coach in Wisconsin end up as the pitching coach for the North Fork Ospreys?

Casey Schuermann’s arrival in Peconic was something of a whirlwind. Schuermann, 24, was coming off his first season as the hitting coach for Northland College, an NCAA Division III team. He had applied for a job in another summer league. “I guess the interview went well enough [that] he didn’t quite want me, but he liked me enough to recommend me out here to the commissioner of this league,” he said.

The following day Ospreys manager Bill Ianniciello called Schuermann. Following the interview, Schuermann was offered the pitching coach job. Three or four days later, he was on a flight to New York. “It was a pretty quick process,” he said.

Flip-flopping from hitting coach to pitching coach wasn’t as odd for Schuermann as one might suspect. He played every position except catcher for NAIA Waldorf College in Iowa.

Schuermann has enjoyed his first trip to Long Island.

“It’s been awesome,” he said after throwing batting practice Saturday. “These guys have been really respectful. Hopefully, I’ve been able to teach them a little. I know I learned from them. I think it’s a two-way street.”

Player development is the primary focus of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League, but the league also aids managers and coaches in their development, too.

Ianniciello said Schuermann has “helped me immensely. He’s more than a pitching coach, he’s my assistant. He’s been a huge asset.”

Schuermann said he has had the opportunity to see some New York sites like Citi Field, Yankee Stadium and Madison Square Garden, but mostly was kept busy with his duties with the Ospreys.

One of the things Schuermann has learned is the importance of building relationships with players, who are motivated in different ways.

“Somebody responds to being yelled at, others don’t,” he said. “Some are more laidback. Some people you have to be in their face a little bit. So, yeah, definitely, there’s different ways to skin a cat.”

Stats and lies

You know what they say about statistics and lies.

Yes, the Ospreys held a 5-2 regular-season record against the Montauk Mustangs. Yes, the Ospreys rode into the playoffs on a five-game win streak, victors in eight of their previous 10 games.

What did it all mean?

“It doesn’t mean anything,” Bill Ianniciello said before the teams began their semifinal series.

How right he was. On paper, the Ospreys held the advantages, but it was the Mustangs who took the series in two games, 13-4 and 10-7, to advance to the league finals for the first time in club history. In the semifinals, the Mustangs scored 23 runs on 35 hits.

Surprised? Mustangs manager Mitch Feller wasn’t.

“That’s how baseball is,” he said. “It’s a little bit of amateur baseball. Any night, something can happen.”

The playoffs are a whole new ballgame. Everyone starts from scratch at 0-0.

The Ospreys finished the regular season strong, taking second place with a 26-16 record.

“You want to do that,” Ianniciello said. “You want to manage your team, particularly the pitching staff, accordingly, but you want to finish as strong as you can. But once the playoffs start, it doesn’t really mean anything.”

League leaders

Max Smith of the Ospreys finished the regular season as the league’s RBI leader with 42 in 39 games. Teammate Dan Schock ranked second in home runs with 12, sandwiched between Westhampton’s Aaron Ping (13) and the Ospreys’ Richie Palacios (eight). Palacios also had the third-highest batting average (.347).

Aviators fly in Game 1

Home runs by Matt Dunlevy, Aaron Ping and Jacob Jaye, along with a strong outing by pitcher Seamus Brazill, led the Westhampton Aviators to a 5-2 victory over the Montauk Mustangs in Game 1 of the league finals Tuesday at Aviator Field. Brazill limited the Mustangs to three hits and one run over seven innings. The Aviators built a 5-0 lead before Rob Vani led off the seventh with his second homer of the postseason.

Game 2 was scheduled for Wednesday in Montauk. A decisive third game will be played Friday in Westhampton, if necessary.

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Photo caption: North Fork pitching coach Casey Schuermann confers on a mound visit with pitcher Brandon Alberto and catcher Sean Buckhout. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)