Featured Story
07/13/18 9:47pm
07/13/2018 9:47 PM

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. READ

06/25/18 12:25am
06/25/2018 12:25 AM

A pitcher is more than just an arm. After all, he has a glove for a reason.

Austin Smith is fully aware of that. He put both his pitching arm and glove to good use Sunday night, helping the North Fork Ospreys to a 3-1 defeat of the Westhampton Aviators in a Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League game cut short by lightning. The game was stopped one out into the bottom of the eighth inning when the home-plate umpire ordered both teams into their dugouts at Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic after a lightning strike. Moments later, the game was called. READ

Featured Story
07/16/17 8:17pm
07/16/2017 8:17 PM

Planes were flying high over Aviator Field, one after another it seemed, on Sunday afternoon. But planes haven’t been the only things flying around the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League this season. Aviators and Ospreys have been flying as well.

The first-place Westhampton Aviators have been enjoying a tremendous season as they go about defending their league championship. The third-place North Fork Ospreys started the day having won eight of their previous 10 games.
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07/31/13 7:31pm
07/31/2013 7:31 PM
ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | North Fork right fielder Ryan Solberg making a catch for a long out.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | North Fork right fielder Ryan Solberg making a catch for a long out.

HCBL SEMIFINALS, GAME 3 | OSPREYS 3, AVIATORS 2 (12 INNINGS)

Armed with a broken bat, Ryan Solberg shattered the championship dreams — and hearts — of the Westhampton Aviators. At the same time, he gave his own team, the North Fork Ospreys, a boost, like a warm wind current upon which to soar to greater heights.

And it all came from a broken bat.

When a hitter breaks a bat while making contact with a pitch, it often results in a foul ball, a shallow popup or a weak grounder. But what may have been the most memorable broken bat of Solberg’s career resulted in a single that is sending the Ospreys to the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League finals.

“It makes it a little special,” Solberg said. “I have to keep that bat, for sure.”

With one out, two runners on base and two strikes against him in the top of the 12th inning, Solberg muscled the ball over second baseman Ryan Spaulding and into right-center field, scoring Jim Pjura for the go-ahead run in a 3-2 triumph over the Westhampton Aviators in the decisive third game of their semifinal series on Wednesday evening.

“I had a nice Texas Leaguer there,” he said after the game at Aviator Field in Westhampton. “That’s how baseball is. You just need a lucky break.”

Solberg said the pitch jammed him a little, but he thought the ball would clear the infield, so when he saw Pjura running back to second base, he yelled at him to go home.

Aviators manager Lou Bernardi said the single summed up a series in which hits “came at a premium.”

The Ospreys advance to the best-of-three finals against the Center Moriches Battlecats, who had swept their semifinal opponents, the Sag Harbor Whalers, in two games. That series will start Friday night in Peconic.

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Dalton Curtis was the second of three pitchers North Fork used in its 12-inning victory over Westhampton.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Dalton Curtis was the second of three pitchers North Fork used in its 12-inning victory over Westhampton.

The Ospreys have made quite an about-face. They started the season with a 2-8 record and were at the bottom of the standings at one point before gradually working their way up the ladder. They have turned their season around. Wednesday’s result was their 13th win in 15 games, and now the fifth-year club is two wins away from what would be its second league title. The Ospreys were Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League champions in 2010. Like that 2010 team, these Ospreys certainly know how to win.

“We do a lot of different things to win games,” said Ospreys manager Bill Ianniciello.

On Wednesday there wasn’t much that the Ospreys didn’t do well. Their pitching and defense were top-notch.

Ospreys reliever Anthony Rosati entered the game in the bottom of the 12th after Cole Miller had led off with a stand-up double. But Rosati retired all three batters he faced, with the help of a fine stop by third baseman Ryan Burns of a hard-hit grounder by Darius Washington, who was thrown out on the play for the first out. The first baseman, Mike Hayden, did well to pick the ball out of the dirt.

“That’s the stuff that wins and loses games,” said Ianniciello.

All of the Aviators’ runs came in the first inning when J. C. Brandmaier, a strong candidate for the league’s most valuable player award, catapulted a two-run homer for a 2-1 lead.

Brandmaier, a superb talent from Dowling College, nearly won the triple crown this summer. He led the league in batting average (.382), was tied for first in home runs (6) and tied for second in runs batted in (28).

Bernardi knows who is getting his MVP vote.

“He had a tremendous season,” the manager said. “He was the guy that every pitcher circled in the lineup and said, ‘We don’t want this guy to beat us.’ There was no hot or cold streak for him. He stayed consistent for two months.”

But after Brandmaier’s homer, the pitching of Joe Salanitri, Dalton Curtis and Rosati kept the Aviators scoreless the rest of the way. Salanitri was economical, needing only 83 pitches over the eight innings he worked. The right-hander gave up three hits, one walk and had three strikeouts.

The Ospreys took a 1-0 lead in the first. Austin Miller delivered a double before Hayden singled him home.

“These are one of those games where you’re just sitting on the edge of your seat the whole game,” Salanitri said. “This kind of game is what baseball is all about.”

It was a remarkably tight, well-played series that underscored baseball’s fickle nature. After the Ospreys took Game 1, 1-0, the Aviators replied with a 4-2 win in the second game.

“It’s been a great series,” Salanitri said. “There were a lot of points in this game where we were just like, ‘Oh boy,’ and you’re thinking, ‘This doesn’t look good for us.’ And then all of a sudden we’re back up. It’s really a roller-coaster ride, so you just have to hang with it the whole time.”

Solberg remembers the way the ride ended last summer, with him making the final out in the first round of the playoffs. He should have fonder memories of these playoffs.

“It was good to come back and redeem myself, to be able to get the big hit at the end,” he said.

After Burns squeezed Dan Parisi’s popup for the game’s final out, the Ospreys happily exchanged high-fives. They could finally breath easy again.

“Thank God it’s over,” Salanitri said. “Let’s go on to the championship.”

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07/30/13 10:25pm
07/30/2013 10:25 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | North Fork center fielder Nick Heath closing in on a  catch of a line drive hit by Westhampton's Darius Washington in the second inning.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | North Fork center fielder Nick Heath closing in on a catch of a line drive hit by Westhampton’s Darius Washington in the second inning.

HCBL SEMIFINALS, GAME 2 | AVIATORS 4, OSPREYS 2

The dominant theme so far in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League playoffs is that these games are close affairs. Just look at the final scores from the first four games in the two semifinal series: 1-0, 3-0 (in 13 innings), 3-2 (in 10 innings), 4-2.

No blowouts here. Those results indicate that runs are hard to come by, and so are wins. No one said the road to the league championship would be easy.

“You have some of the best players from around the country playing together, and no one wants to lose,” said Ryan Burns, the North Fork Ospreys captain and third baseman. “You’re either a winner or you’re not, and I think everyone here wants to be a winner.”

In tight games such as these, the slightest thing can mean the difference between victory or defeat. One pitch. One swing of the bat. One catch.

And then there is what Cole Miller did for the Westhampton Aviators on Tuesday night at Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic.

With two outs and the bases loaded in the seventh inning, Miller cleared the bases with a double that gave the Aviators a three-run lead, sending them on their way to a 4-2 victory over the Ospreys to force a decisive third game in the semifinal series.

“He definitely carried us offensively today and put some good swings on the ball,” Aviators manager Lou Bernardi said. “Cole is definitely an offensive threat. He’s a big lefty in the middle of the lineup, and it’s hard to throw a fastball by him.”

As the Ospreys learned only too well.

Losing is not something the Ospreys have been used to lately. Tuesday’s defeat was only the team’s second loss in 14 games.

Miller had a tremendous game. The left fielder, a quality player from a strong Georgia Tech program, went 3 for 4 (all of those hits were doubles) and drove in four runs.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | The osprey sculpture at Jean W. Cochran Park looking down at the North Fork baseball team named after it.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | The osprey sculpture at Jean W. Cochran Park looking down at the North Fork baseball team named after it.

“I like the spotlight,” he said. “I like the big game.”

After losing the first game of the series, 1-0, the day before, the Aviators were facing elimination. Then Miller stepped to the plate in the seventh and came through in a big way.

After Ospreys pitcher Tyler Knight retired the first two batters that inning, he walked Joey Havrilak and saw Ryan Spaulding line a broken-bat single to left field. That marked the end of the night for Knight, who gave up four hits over six and two-third innings and walked off the field to warm applause from the home fans.

His replacement, David Deliz, struck J. C. Brandmaier with his first pitch, loading the bases for Miller. When Miller saw a pitch he liked, he ripped a shot past the sprawling left fielder, Michael Fries, clearing the bases and snapping a 1-1 tie.

“Two-out hits are big,” Burns said. “That’s what wins and loses ball games.”

Miller said: “I give all the credit to my teammates to put me in that position, and I was lucky enough to get a bat on the ball, and good things happen.”

It was also Miller who doubled in the run that made it 1-1 an inning earlier.

The Ospreys have a Miller, too — right fielder Austin Miller. He was responsible for North Fork’s first run in the fifth, which he led off by looping a hit to center field. After a walk to Nick Heath and a double steal, Miller beat shortstop Rick Alessi’s throw home on Mike Hayden’s fielder’s choice.

The Ospreys’ second run came in the eighth when Hayden scored on a double-play ball.

Kyle Raleigh was the winning pitcher. Over seven innings, he gave up six hits and one run.

Ryan Solberg and Fries had two hits each for the Ospreys. Fries stole two bases and Solberg had one theft.

During the game it was announced that the Center Moriches Battlecats had topped the Sag Harbor Whalers, 3-2, to sweep that series and advance to the finals. The Ospreys wanted to conclude their semifinal series, too, but Cole Miller had other ideas.

Now it comes down to Game 3, which is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon at Aviator Field in Westhampton.

“It’s going to come down to tomorrow,” Burns said. “Not a lot of us will ever get to play for a championship again. College baseball is so competitive. I know I’ve never dogpiled. I’ve never won a state title in high school. I’ve never had the chance to go to Omaha yet.”

Bernardi had to like the way his Aviators responded after a difficult defeat one day earlier. He said, “Today was a game that we knew it was win or go home, and we wanted to play one more game, and we get to do that tomorrow.”

It wouldn’t be going out on a limb to predict another close one. After all, it’s the playoffs.

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07/29/13 8:10pm
07/29/2013 8:10 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | David Jesch prevailed in a pitching duel for North Fork, allowing five hits over seven scoreless innings.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | David Jesch prevailed in a pitching duel for North Fork, allowing five hits over seven scoreless innings.

HCBL SEMIFINALS, GAME 1 | OSPREYS 1, AVIATORS 0

Good pitchers find ways out of jams, and David Jesch was in one heck of a jam.

The North Fork Ospreys pitcher saw the first three Westhampton Aviators reach base in the second inning on Monday. Cole Miller drew a walk, Darius Washington was hit by a pitch, and Mitch Montaldo put down a bunt single that first baseman Mike Hayden fielded, only to miss the tag attempt on Montaldo along the first-base line.

That is when Jesch needed a moment to collect his thoughts.

“I really dug deep,” Jesch said. “I took a step off the mound, took a deep breath.”

And then he turned in what might have been his best work of the day. With the bases loaded and none out, Jesch buckled down, retiring the next three batters. Dan Parisi lined out, Brian Lee fouled out and Rick Alessi flied out. Jesch escaped the jam unscathed and the Ospreys hung on for a 1-0 triumph in Game 1 of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League semifinals.

The hot Ospreys can take the best-of-three semifinal series with a win tomorrow night in Peconic. They have won 12 of their last 13 games and their last four meetings with the Aviators.

Jesch prevailed in a genuine pitching duel, thanks in part to his ability to pitch effectively with runners on base. Some fine fielding behind him didn’t hurt, either.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Fine defensive play, including some from third baseman Ryan Burns, helped the Ospreys win their first playoff game.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Fine defensive play, including some from third baseman Ryan Burns, helped the Ospreys win their first playoff game.

“David maybe didn’t have his best velocity today, but he competed,” Ospreys manager Bill Ianniciello said. “He got in trouble, he got himself out of innings, executed pitches, guys made plays behind him, you know, hung on. You got to make pitches. Give him credit.”

Jesch’s counterpart, Preston Brown, deserves plenty of credit himself. Brown went the distance for the Aviators, giving up six hits. The righty from Mississippi State struck out six and didn’t issue a walk. During one stretch, he retired 17 batters in a row.

For all his effort, though, he was the losing pitcher.

“It’s a little bittersweet,” Brown said of what he regarded as his best performance of the summer.

Jesch had something that Brown didn’t have: a run to work with. The Ospreys spotted him a 1-0 lead before he even stepped on the mound at Aviator Field in Westhampton. That run was the result of Austin Miller being hit by a pitch, Jim Pjura slapping a single to left field, and then Hayden slicing a two-out single to right.

The Ospreys then let Jesch handle things for the first seven innings. The right-hander from Hofstra University allowed five hits, three walks and struck out six in his 109-pitch effort before Dalton Curtis relieved him for the last two innings.

Ianniciello said Jesch has been the Ospreys’ most consistent starting pitcher. Jesch led the league in strikeouts with 52 during the regular season. He went 5-0 with a 2.38 earned run average. That record of achievement earned him the honor of starting the first playoff game.

“It’s a lot of pressure, but I try to do my best,” Jesch said. “I felt like I didn’t have my best stuff. … I feel like my location at times was a little off. It’s a struggle at times.”

But Jesch came through when it really counted, like in the seventh when the Aviators put two runners on base. Jesch fanned J. C. Brandmaier for the third out.

The Ospreys also benefitted from some nice glove work, particularly a fine running grab by Michael Fries of a hard-hit line drive to left field.

“The defense was tremendous,” said Jesch.

The Aviators were putting runners on base; they just couldn’t bring them home. Westhampton stranded 11 runners and went 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position.

“It came down to execution,” Aviators manager Lou Bernardi said. “In playoff baseball, it’s who can make the fundamental plays the most. When you get playoff baseball, it’s going to come down to good pitching, good defense and timely hitting.”

And perhaps managing to get out of a jam or two.

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