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Baseball: Ospreys get scorched in heat

While both teams tried to beat the heat, the Long Island Road Warriors beat the North Fork Ospreys, rather soundly, too.

Then again, the Road Warriors had a lot more to play for: a place in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League playoffs.

The Road Warriors turned up the heat and put an end to the Ospreys’ season as both teams labored under the baking sun on a sweltering Sunday.

Jack Liberatore and Eric Roubal both homered, accounting for six of Long Island’s runs, and starter Chris Mott was a virtuoso on the pitching mound in the 8-1 beatdown at Bellport High School. Liberatore’s blast was a grand slam that made it 6-0 in the fourth inning of the seven-inning game, shortened because of the severe conditions.

The result left the last-place Ospreys with a final record of 14-26. They went 3-8 in their last 11 games. Record-wise, it’s the worst season the last-place Ospreys have ever had in seven HCBL seasons, coming close to last year’s 14-22-4.

Not that one could tell by the smiles and hugs they exchanged following their postgame team meeting on the field.

“Saying goodbye is going to be hard now because we’re all like best friends,” said pitcher Angus McCloskey, who had the day off. “I mean, it’s weird. You get thrown into a mix with a bunch of guys you never met, play with them for two months, become best friends with them, and then you’re not going to see them ever again.”

Ospreys manager Patrick Riley said: “Yeah, it’s a weird dynamic. Guys get close, and that’s part of being a team.”

It’s an intense, compact season for all seven of the league’s teams. The Ospreys played 40 games in 51 days, and for the second straight year will sit out the playoffs. But that doesn’t detract from how shortstop Tyler Gillespy viewed the season. “It’s a huge success, in my opinion,” he said. “I think just coming out here every day, playing baseball, doing the things we love, getting better, that’s what it’s all about.”

The sizzling Road Warriors (14-22-3), winners of four straight, are one of the hottest teams in the league. They are 6-3-2 in their last 11 games.

The defending champion Riverhead Tomcats, Westhampton Aviators, Shelter Island Bucks and Sag Harbor Whalers have already secured postseason berths. The Road Warriors, who will host the Tomcats in their final regular-season game Monday, and Breakers (15-22-1) are tied with 31 points, but Southampton has two games left.

The Road Warriors had a source of motivation the Ospreys didn’t.

“We had something to play for and they didn’t, so I think you could see the difference,” Road Warriors manager Bruce Kern said. “We came here ready to play today.”

And they did.

Five Road Warriors accounted for all five Long Island hits, but two of them were long balls over the leftfield fence by Roubal (his seventh) and Liberatore (his second).

Roubal socked a 3-and-1 pitch for a two-run shot that made it 4-0 in the third inning.

An inning earlier, the Road Warriors put up a pair of runs. After a one-out walk by Jake Ford, Jake Guercio reached on an infield grounder that was scored an error and then successive infield singles by David Soto and Jack Ryan made it 1-0. Later, Daniel Palermo delivered a sacrifice fly.

Liberatore blew things open in the fourth. With the bases loaded, Liberatore cracked a 1-and-0 offering deep for an 8-0 bulge.

The Ospreys had their troubles against Mott (2-0, 2.66 ERA), who allowed two hits and two walks in five scoreless innings while registering eight strikeouts.

North Fork’s only other two hits both came in the seventh. Drake Peggs led off with a double, but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple. After consecutive walks by Joe Pizzingrillo and Domenic Cepullio, Joe Parone knocked in the Ospreys’ sole run.

Miles Kelly of Mattituck, who played for Shoreham-Wading River High School, pinch hit for the Road Warriors in the fourth and struck out.

Mattituck High School alum Joe Tardif started in centerfield and batted leadoff for the Ospreys. He fouled out and after working a full-count walk was replaced in the third. The SUNY/Cortland player finished with a .292 batting average, one homer, 19 RBIs, 33 runs scored and 12 stolen bases.

“Towards the end of the season, I think I got a little worn out, but for the most part, it was a lot of fun,” he said. “We played a lot of good baseball, a lot of good competition, so I can’t complain.”

When it was all over, it was time for goodbyes.

“This is a quick brotherhood, man,” Gillespy said. “The team really came together quick and all of us love each other. It’s sad to see them leave, but everybody’s going their own ways and doing their own big things … I loved every minute of it. I couldn’t ask for better coaches and teammates. It will definitely be something I carry with me for a long time.”

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Photo caption: North Fork third baseman Anthony Porrino makes an off-balance throw for an out. (Credit: Bill Landon)