Baseball: Red-hot Ospreys trigger in romp

If their foes have learned anything two weeks into the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League season, it’s that no lead is safe when they face the North Fork Ospreys.

Case in point: Friday night’s come-from-behind win over the Shelter Island Bucks at Jean Cochran Park in Peconic.

Trailing 5-1 half-way through the third inning, the Ospreys exploded for 16 runs over the next four innings for a 17-6 triumph, capping off the victory a walk-off three-run home run by catcher Steven Kienzle with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning, and triggering the league’s 10-run mercy rule.

But then again, the Ospreys have showed very little mercy to opposing starting pitchers this season and currently top the HCBL standings with a 10-6 record.

Through Sunday’s games, their batting numbers look better suited for a Sunday softball league than a summer season of talented college baseball players.

The Ospreys boast a team average of .343 and a .463 on-base percentage. They have four batters among the top 10 league leaders. Shortstop Ty Acker (George Washington University), who was named the league’s player of the week in week 2, leads the way at .450 and third baseman Aidan O’Keefe (University of Richmond) is right behind at .448.

“They have they have some strong hitters,” said Bucks manager Vernon Hasty, whose team is 9-7. “I don’t think I’d want to be pitching to them,” 

The Ospreys have combined that good hitting with grind-it-out at-bats, power (13 homers) and speed (35 stolen bases).

“We just have so much depth,” said SUNY/Oneonta right fielder Joseph O’Dwyer, who is hitting .370 after going 3-for-4 with three RBIs and four runs scored. “One through nine gets the extra [batting practice]. It’s paying off. Everyone’s hot. We’re seeing the ball well, so hopefully we just carry on.”

The Ospreys just wear down the opposition.

“It’s exactly like that movie ‘Moneyball.’ It’s important to get people on base,” O’Dwyer said. “I think it’s a testament to our hitters. We’re just so disciplined. We don’t chase after bad pitches and we take our walks, which is really important. When they do come into the zone, we don’t miss it. We just take advantage of mistakes.”

Powered by homers from Ryan LeClair (two-run blast in the first) and John Gannon (solo shot in the second) against winning pitcher Brent Herrmann (1-0), the Bucks grabbed a 5-1 advantage before the Ospreys hitters caught fire. They tied the game with four runs in the third, before taking an 8-5 lead in the fourth against starter Logan Detty (Capital University), who dropped to 1-1. The hosts added four more in the fourth and five in the sixth, climaxed by Kienzle’s towering three-run homer to left.

“We never press the panic button because we just know how good our lineup is,” Kienzle said. “We’re never worried if we’re going to come through.”

Kienzle, who has slugged three homers in only 23 at-bats while batting .435, was one of seven batters in the lineup hitting .300 or better. He shares catching duties with another hot-hitting backstop, Connor Cornwell (Saginaw Valley State University, who is on a .412 clip.

“We’re really fortunate to have a lot of really talented guys,” Ospreys manager Vinnie Morelli said. “A lot of these guys come from really high-end programs. They have really good coaches where they come from. So, I’m just really fortunate to be gifted a lot of these guys for the summer. Just hoping that these guys can go back and be even better than they were last year and hopefully they can get into lineups and pitching rotations. It’s just a lot of fun.”

Especially for the players.

“We’re having a lot of fun right now,” said center fielder Kai Aoki (Colby College), who went 3 for 3 and is batting .436. “Winning’s fun. All the guys on the team get along. It’s just a good environment.”

The Bucks used a field player, infielder-outfielder Charlie Knighton (Washington College) in the final frame. He allowed six runs.

Coach Hasty has been around long enough to know there is always a next day in baseball and that teams can run hot and cold.

“You get to come back to the very next day when you lose or win, but we’re just going to regroup,” he said. “You know baseball. It’s just a momentum game. You got the momentum going, you’re rolling and if you’re not, you’re not. But I’m proud of these guys. No matter what, win or lose they’re always out there showing up.”

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