While an actual osprey soared above the baseball field at Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic, making its presence known with high-pitched squeals, the North Fork Ospreys were making noise of their own down below.
For a good deal of this Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League season, the most likely sounds to emanate from the Ospreys’ dugout might have been those of dismay. Consider the team’s horrendous start. The Ospreys lost their first six games and were 1-11 at one point.
“It was rough,” leftfielder Tyler White said. “We were kind of scratching our heads, but we knew it would kind of turn around because we got a good group of ballplayers that all know how to play the game and are smart, and we all have the right attitude going out every day.”
Perhaps the character of the team was forged during those difficult days. It has proven to be a character full of heart and perseverance. Look at what the Ospreys have done lately. With their 4-0 victory over the Sag Harbor Whalers Friday night, the Ospreys are winners of five of their last six games and the world looks a lot sunnier for them. Their resiliency is bearing fruit.
Sure, the Ospreys still sit in sixth place among the league’s seven teams with an 8-16 record, one place away from a playoff spot, but things have gotten better for them.
What does that say about the team?
“It shows that we have a little bit of grit to us and we’re not ready to pack it in,” said second baseman Drake Peggs.
Peggs said the start to the season was “very difficult. Starting the year, you have high expectations. You see maybe the potential of the team. To show up to the park every day and just keep continue to lose, day in and day out, it’s tough mentally.”
Josh Rovner, Joe Pizzingrillo (5-1, 5.32 ERA) and Angus McCloskey (first save) pitched three scoreless inning each to share the five-hit shutout. McCloskey, who like Rovner did not allow a hit, struck out six.
“Hats off to our pitchers for a great staff game, up and down,” said Peggs.
For offense, White celebrated his 21st birthday by smoking a two-out triple to the centerfield fence, good for two runs in the eighth inning.
The teams had managed only one hit between them through the first three innings. Then Peggs connected on a first-pitch fastball in the fourth for his second home run of the season.
“I knew I hit it well,” he said. “I was just trying to have a really simple approach and was sitting on that fastball and he left it in a good spot for me to hit and I took advantage of it.”
Moments after the osprey made his appearance over the field in the seventh, Nick Jones knocked a two-out single to left, scoring White, who had been hit by a pitch. That made it 2-0.
Peggs, Jones (.324 batting average) and Tyrese Clayborne had two hits each for the Ospreys.
“Offensively, it’s starting to click,” the Ospreys’ first-year manager, Patrick Riley, said. “… We’re getting contributions throughout the entire lineup, which is something that we really haven’t been getting before.”
The only loss by the Ospreys during this 5-1 stretch came Thursday in the second game of a split doubleheader with the Westhampton Aviators. That came by a 22-3 score.
But the Ospreys got back on track Friday for Southold Public Library Night. One didn’t need to read between the lines to see how much the team has progressed.
“A season can definitely go south pretty quick when you get off to a bad start, but we’ve been able to piece it together, win by win,” said Riley. He added, “Obviously, we got a long ways to go. We still got to scratch out some wins to get back in the playoff picture, so we just got to continue the momentum.”
Asked if he had confidence in the Ospreys’ ability to rebound from that 1-11 hole, Peggs offered a candid response.
“It’s kind of tough to be confident in a team you don’t know all that well,” he said. “Summer ball, some of these guys I never heard of, some of these schools I never even heard of, so it’s interesting to see how teams react when faced with a little adversity and I think it’s really cool what we’re doing right now.”
It’s something the osprey might want to squawk about.
Photo caption: Joe Pizzingrillo winds up against Sag Harbor at Cochran Park. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)