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Baseball: Ospreys’ pitching comes through

With the dog days of summer for the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League having arrived, both the North Fork Ospreys and Westhampton Aviators have cooled off in the summer heat.

In the case of the Ospreys, however, it hasn’t really been like they have been super hot at any point this season. The fact that the fifth-place Ospreys currently are positioned to nab the wild-card spot for the five-team playoffs is a testament to the team’s pitching. It certainly hasn’t been because of its hitting.

The Ospreys hold a league-best team ERA of 3.21, which stands in sharp contrast to its .235 team batting average. The only team with a worse batting average is the Southampton Breakers at .234.

“We’ve been losing the last few games because we don’t hit,” coach Bill Ianniciello said. “The pitching is good; the hitting is struggling. The defense is OK. You got to score runs to win and we’re not scoring enough runs. It’s pretty simple.”

Alex Pansini, who leads the league with a 2.33 ERA, has been part of an effective starting staff along with Austin Smith, Anthony Vano and Enzo Stefanoni. “All of our starters have been good,” said Ianniciello.

“They’re the ones keeping us in games,” said teammate Ben Terwilliger.

Friday was Smith’s turn to take the mound, and he didn’t disappoint. Smith worked 6 1/3 innings, allowing six hits and three runs in a 10-3 blasting of the Westhampton Aviators at Aviator Field. Kevin Glasser (1-0, 1.45 ERA) and Liam McDonnell then combined for 2 2/3 scoreless innings of relief, during which they allowed only one hit.

It was the right salve for a club that had gone 2-6-1 in its previous nine games.

“I felt great,” said Smith, who had six strikeouts and one walk as part of his 91-pitch effort. “I had a lot of offspeed pitches today. I felt like my splitter was doing well. I started throwing a little bit more of a curveball instead of a slider. Overall, my teammates made some really good plays behind me. It was nice to have the run support.”

That has been something that Ospreys pitchers haven’t enjoyed much of this season, but Smith maintained that hasn’t crept into his thought process when he’s pitching. “My job stays the same,” he said. “No matter what happens on the offensive side, my job is still the same thing [as] when we started the game, and that’s just to get runners out and to get hitters out.”

This time, the Ospreys (13-16-3) put up runs, enough so to make this Friday the 13th a horror for the Aviators (18-15), who used seven pitchers. It was 6-2 Ospreys by the third inning thanks to Matt Almonte’s fourth home run of the season on the game’s first pitch, a sacrifice fly by J.C. Santini, successive bases-loaded walks by Terwilliger and D.J. Gatz and a two-run single that Tyler White drove through the middle as part of his three-RBI game. Terwilliger played the entire game as a designated hitter despite getting hit in the back of the head by an Almonte liner during batting practice about 90 minutes before game time.

For good measure, the Ospreys tacked on three more runs in the eighth without the benefit of a hit and then Tom Brady clubbed his fourth homer of the summer in the ninth.

Even so, the Ospreys were still outhit by the Aviators, 7-5.

Tristan Welch had quite a game for the Aviators, going 3-for-4. It was his sliced, high-arcing double that landed beyond the reach of first baseman Brady and near the foul line, scoring two runs to tie it at 2-2 in the first.

Michael Amandola smacked a solo homer in the seventh, cutting the Ospreys’ lead to 6-3.

Why has the Ospreys’ pitching been so good?

“We have a lot of good talent out here and they work hard,” said Smith.

He continued: “It’s been pretty solid throughout the whole season, not too many up-and-downs, no roller coasters. It’s just been very consistent. Everyone kind of has the same approach, and that’s just to give our team a chance to win.”

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Photo caption: Pitching arms from players such as Austin Smith are keeping the North Fork Ospreys in playoff contention. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

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