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Jul 27, 2019 2:51 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Aviators' Resiliency Shines In Semifinal Series Victories Over Breakers

Eric Callahan (Millersville) gets mauled by his Westhampton teammates after his base hit in the ninth drove in the winning run. DREW BUDD
Jul 27, 2019 3:01 PM

Westhampton Aviators manager Alex Brosnan has been impressed by his team's resiliency as its gone through the summer of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League, and that shined through in the best-of-three semifinal series with the Southampton Breakers.

After jumping out to a 7-2 lead through two innings on Friday in the second game of the series, the Aviators saw that lead evaporate quickly with the Breakers scoring five in the bottom of the second to knot the game at 7-7. But Westhampton scored 10 runs through the fifth, sixth and seventh innings and wound up taking the game, 17-7, in seven innings, and taking the series in two games.

Westhampton rallied in the bottom of the ninth of game one to win, 4-3, after Southampton stormed back in the top of the ninth to make it a 3-2 game.

"That’s just the culture of our team," Brosnan said. "We have very good leaders and from day one we've been fortunate enough, any time that we faced some adversity, the captains got everyone together, they had a good plan and a good approach. I can't say enough how proud I am of the guys and how they find a way to win baseball games."

Westhampton advances to the HCBL Championship Series for the fourth time in five years, matching the North Fork Ospreys who accomplished the feat from 2009 to 2013, and will make its sixth final's appearance since its inception into the league in 2009.

The Aviators will host the winner of the other semifinal series between the Riverhead Tomcats and Sag Harbor Whalers this Monday at 4:30 p.m. The Whalers and Tomcats are playing a third game on Saturday afternoon with the series tied 1-1. Riverhead won the first game, 4-3, on Thursday, but the Whalers bounced back and won game two, 9-5, on Friday to force a game three.

Friday's game between host Southampton and Westhampton started late because two of the three umpires scheduled to work the game were working a two-day tournament at Baseball Heaven in Yaphank in which the championship game went into extra innings, Brosnan explained. Once there was the minimum two umpires the game eventually started at 5:30 p.m., an hour later than it was supposed to.

While the teams waited for a second umpire, Brosnan said he and Southampton manager Rob Cafiero spoke to league officials and it was decided that they would play until sundown, whenever that may be. With 14 runs being scored in the first two innings, seven innings ended up being the cutoff, just before 8:15 p.m. Brosnan said the late start had an adverse effect on both starting pitchers, which was unfortunate, but he noted that, in what ended up being a 10-run game, it wouldn't have been fair to all players to make them come back on Saturday and finish the game.

With 24 runs scored on 26 hits and four errors between Westhampton and Southampton on Friday, offense was clearly the name of the game. Westhampton first baseman Sean O'Keefe (Western Michigan) went 3 for 4 with three runs scored and tied an HCBL record for RBIs in a playoff game with six. Mike Hayden had done it for the North Fork Ospreys in the opening game of the HCBL Championship Series in 2013. O'Keefe drove in a run on a base hit in the second, homered in the fifth to break the 7-7 tie, plated a run on a sacrifice fly in the sixth, and then he unloaded the bases with a double in the seventh. Bailey Peterson (Michigan State) also had a solid date at the plate for Westhampton, going 3 for 5 with three runs scored and three RBIs.

The first five batters in Southampton's lineup each had multiple hits, led by Gerard Sweeney (Lehigh), who went 3 for 5 and drove in a pair of runs. Robbie Holmes (Monmouth), whose pinch-hit, two-run double gave the Breakers a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth in game one, went 2 for 4 and drove in three RBIs in game two.

Westhampton was looking to keep the semifinal series to the minimum two games, Brosnan said, so he could get his team two days of rest over the weekend. Building momentum the past 12 games—going 10-1-1 since July 10—things are rounding out nicely for the Aviators. They'll have one of the top starting pitchers in the league on the hill to start game on in Harrison Cohen (George Washington), and if they need him, Erubiel Candelario (Marist), who shutout Southampton for seven innings with nine strikeouts in game one of the semifinal series, will also be available.

"Our whole plan was to go and finish the series in two. We got someone down, we wanted to step on their throat and end it there, and the guys executed that plan perfectly," Brosnan explained. "Everything is trending in the right direction, and all of that stuff is great, but we're going to be facing a very, very good time in their own rite in the next series."

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