Before the start of Tuesday’s doubleheader, someone mentioned to North Fork Ospreys coach Bill Ianniciello that his team needed “just one more point” to clinch a playoff berth.
“Don’t say ‘just’,” said Ianniciello, who advised that the word “just” be removed. In other words, just because the Ospreys needed only one point didn’t mean it would be easy, and it wasn’t.
It took Tom Brady’s walk-off single to bring the Ospreys a 3-2 triumph over the last-place Sag Harbor Whalers in Game 1 of the twinbill at Mashashimuet Park, securing a coveted place in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League playoffs. In doing so, the Ospreys kept alive their string of having never failed to reach the playoffs in the league’s 10-year history.
“It’s a great organization and we come to the field ready to play every day, ready to win, so it’s not surprising,” said Brady.
Ianniciello said, “They earned it.”
Game 2 was a bit easier, with the Ospreys winning, 8-4, to nail down the No. 3 seed. They will open a best-of-three semifinal series against the No. 2 Long Island Road Warriors on Thursday.
“I’m just looking forward to seeing where we can go,” said shortstop Luke Stampfl.
An overcast day marked by unseasonably cool, October-like weather began with the Ospreys, Riverhead Tomcats and Shelter Island Bucks vying for two remaining playoff slots. Like the Ospreys, the Tomcats needed one point from a doubleheader to reach the postseason, which they achieved. They will face the defending champion Westhampton Aviators in the other semifinal series.
Brady had a big game in the opener. The first baseman socked a deep home run — his first of the season — off a tennis court fence beyond rightfield for a 2-1 Ospreys lead in the fifth.
Brady topped off his 3-for-3 game in style with his seventh-inning heroics. With the score tied at 2-2, Stampfl led off the inning by drawing a full-count walk. Following a sacrifice bunt by John Mead and a walk by Tom Archer, Brady stepped into the batter’s box. Ianniciello had told him to try to hit the ball into a big hole between first and second base. Brady took an inside fastball and did just that, drilling a hit to rightfield. Ianniciello, coaching at third base, waved Stampfl through.
“My thinking was we were going to try to score that run on a base hit,” Ianniciello said. “No question.”
The throw home was late and high, and the Ospreys (22-19) were playoff-bound.
Sag Harbor (13-28-1) had leveled the score at 2-2 on Justin Lebek’s leadoff homer in the sixth.
Sag Harbor had a 3-for-3 hitter, too, in Will Strauss, who had a pair of doubles.
Michael Calamari made his way into the Sag Harbor record book. By knocking a single in the seventh, he set a new mark for hits in a single season by a Whalers player with 53.
Anthony Criscione pitched five-plus innings for the Ospreys, scattering eight hits with four strikeouts and no walks. Tanner Propst (4-2, 1.69 ERA) picked up the win in two innings of relief.
The Ospreys were able to breathe a little easier in the second game as they built a 4-0 lead by the third inning against knuckleballer Nick Kruel.
Matt Dipasupil slid home safely from third base on a wild pitch in the first. Then three straight walks set up a three-run third. Stampfl (3-for-4, two RBIs) singled in a run (a second run came home on an error on the play) and Archer knocked in another.
An RBI single by Cole Coker in the third and a two-run drive over the rightfield fence by Bryan Rubin in the fifth for Sag Harbor trimmed the Ospreys lead to 4-3.
But the Ospreys gained more separation in the sixth when they rallied for four runs with two outs.
Ospreys starter Dylan Mulvihill (2-1, 3.80) gave up one run and six hits over four innings. He was succeeded by four relievers, including Parker Bates, who pitched for the first time since he was in high school and surrendered the homer to Rubin.
“I’d say we’re gritty,” Brady said. “We don’t give at-bats away. We don’t lose focus on the mound. We just come ready to play every day.”
And now, the Ospreys will have at least a couple of more days to play.
What does reaching the playoffs once again mean for the Ospreys?
Answered Brady, “It means we get to play baseball for another week or so and get to prove that we’re one of the best teams in the league.”
Photo caption: North Fork players lined up for the playing of the national anthem before their playoff-clinching victory over Sag Harbor. (Credit: Bob Liepa)