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Jun 24, 2019 4:58 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Aviators Overtake Whalers Atop HCBL Standings As Season Is About To Hit Its Midpoint

Joe Valentino (Suffolk CC) on the hill for the Breakers in Westhampton on June 9. DREW BUDD
Jun 25, 2019 10:17 AM

After winning their first seven games of the season, and eight of their first nine, it looked as if it was going to be a runaway season for the Sag Harbor Whalers in this summer’s edition of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League.

But there’s a reason why the regular season is two months long.

Since their blistering start, the Whalers (10-8) have only won three of their last 11 games, as of Monday morning, allowing teams such as the Shelter Island Bucks (11-4) and Westhampton Aviators (12-4-1)—who were neck and neck with Sag Harbor to start the season—to stay atop the league standings. The Aviators have really picked things up as of late, having gone unbeaten in their last five games and winning seven of their last nine games, one of those games being a tie. That’s led them to being ranked 22nd out of the top 25 teams in the country, according to the latest Collegiate Summer Baseball rankings released on Monday.

In a key mid-season matchup, Westhampton defeated Sag Harbor, 4-2, at home on Saturday evening behind what was, and has been all season, a solid pitching performance from Harrison Cohen. The George Washington product out of Syosset limited the Whalers to one unearned run on three hits and a walk while striking out seven.

It was more than enough for the Westhampton offense, which got on the board on back-to-back run scoring walks by Nick Bottari (Southeastern) and Landon Gray (Tennessee) in the top of the first. A run-scoring double by Chaney Dodge (Northwestern State) and a run-scoring single by Bailey Peterson (Michigan State) in the seventh added some insurance.

Sag Harbor looked to get back on track against a struggling Southampton team on Sunday, but the Breakers (5-12-1), looking to turn their season around, swept the doubleheader, taking the first game, 9-2, following that up with an 8-1 victory. It was Southampton’s third consecutive win, making it the team’s longest win streak of the season, and the Breakers hadn’t lost a game, as of Tuesday morning, since June 20, having tied the Long Island Warriors in the second game of a doubleheader that day after having lost the first game, 13-12.

The Breakers took game one of Sunday’s doubleheader behind a five-run second inning, which included a perfectly executed suicide squeeze bunt by Isaiah Winikur (Towson). And it was more than enough for Rob Lucano (Hofstra), who allowed just two earned runs in six innings of work in what was his best outing thus far this summer.

The Breakers kept things rolling in game two, scoring all eight of their runs through the first three innings. Reed Babin (LSU-Eunice) drove in a pair of runs on a base hit in a five-run third for Southampton, which got another solid pitching performance from Joe Cinnella. The Seton Hall left-hander out of Mahwah, New Jersey, allowed one earned run on five hits and struck out five without allowing a walk. A solo home run in the third off the bat of Brock Franks (Northwest Florida) was Cinnella’s first earned run in 14 innings pitched this season.

Local Players Among League’s Elite

Sag Harbor Whaler River Town (LSU-Eunice) is one of HCBL’s top hitters so far this season, batting .362 in 69 at bats. Only Shelter Island’s Mike Guanci Jr. (Trinity) and Long Island’s John Marti (Delaware) have higher averages, but in fewer at bats, and Town is also among the league’s best in RBIs with 13, tied with two others for third. Westhampton’s Daniel Franchi (Binghamton) has more at bats (72) and also appears in the top 10 for hitting. He’s batting .333, good enough for eighth in the league, and he’s tied for second in the league in RBIs with Aviator teammate Bailey Peterson. Both have driven in 15.

Westhampton’s Harrison Cohen is an early candidate for this year’s Pitcher of the Year Award. He’s allowed just four earned runs in just over 22 innings pitched which equates to a 1.61 earned run average, and he’s struck out 26. Sag Harbor’s Ryan Taurek is right there with Cohen. The California native out of St. Mary’s is 3-0 with a 1.86 ERA and has struck out 18 in just over 19 innings.

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