“Momentum is only as good as today’s pitcher” isn’t a baseball adage, it’s a truism.
The Long Island Road Warriors learned the lesson anew on August 1, when their quest for a second consecutive Hamptons College Baseball League championship fell one game short.
The losers ran into a buzz saw in the person of Casey Aubin, who brought his A game to the hill, tossing six innings of one-hit ball to silence the explosive bats of the Road Warriors.
The Riverhead Tomcats, meanwhile, manufactured runs in a variety of ways, with Luke Oliphant the main catalyst. Their swarming, unyielding attack seemed to wear down the resolve of the defending champs as the Tomcats chipped away to build an early lead.
Oliphant walked to lead off the bottom of the first, advanced on a two-strike single off the bat of Alex Baratta, and scored when Louis Antos doubled. Eduardo Malinowski reached on an infield single and Matt Daller drew a base-loads walk.
After, the Warriors went down without incident making it 4-0.
In the bottom of the fourth, the pesky Oliphant was up to his old tricks again as the visitors scored a run without the benefit of a hit. He was hit by a pitch with one out, stole second, moved to third on an error, and scored on a fielder’s choice.
Aubin, meanwhile, was dazzling. The righty out of U-Mass Amherst had full control of his arsenal including a pinpoint fastball and a nasty slider.
When Josh Greene drilled a two-run double that chased Chris Tessitore, the Warriors’ second pitcher, it was a 6-0 affair.
With the damage done and the deficit daunting manager John Galanoudis lifted his starter, all the players labored with the intense humidity and went to the pen.
After a Chris Stefl two-run blast made the score 8-0 the Road Warriors, just as they had in the second game of this three-game series, reached down deep and found a fresh well, rallying against the Cats excellent closer Beau Keathley, who had relieved Joe Murphy.
Matthew Stepnoski, Eric Rouba,l and Thomas Colombo (Adelphia) all delivered run scoring hits and the deficit was cut in half, 8-4.
But Keathley, battle tested, returned in the ninth to protect the 8-4 advantage despite issuing a pair of walks. Players and the ecstatic fans swarmed the field at Veteran’s Park in Riverhead.
Oliphant made a compelling case to be named tournament Most Valuable Player, going four for 10, reaching base eight times, scoring five runs and swiping five bases.
The Tomcats won the opener of the series on July 30 at Veteran’s Memorial Park, but the Road Warriors, needing a win to stave off elimination, pulled out a gripping 11-10 victory the following day in Southampton. Roubal swung the big bat with three hits including a homer for four ribbies.
Malinowski and Chris Stefl shared the MVP award. Malinowski went 7-for-13 with a home run, a triple, six RBI and four stolen bases through the three-game series. He finished the playoffs with a .462 average after finishing fifth in the regular season batting standings. Stefl was 7–for-12 with three doubles, a homer, and six RBI in the series. The St. Johns lefty also led all postseason players with 16 strikeouts and hit .435 in the playoffs.