Alex Brosnan is happy with where his Westhampton Aviators are.
And now, the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League team has a national ranking to go along with its No. 1 standing.
The Aviators (12-4-1) are ranked No. 22 according to Collegiate Summer Baseball rankings. It’s the fourth time in five years the team has earned a spot in the Top 25.
“I’m thrilled with the way the guys have performed,” said Brosnan, who was an assistant for the last two years before taking the helm this season. “They’re a great group of guys. They make my job very easy. I couldn’t be happier and couldn’t say more better things about the group of guys that I have.”
The team boasts just three returnees, and only gets two practices before the season starts, yet the Aviators remains dominant. Highlighting the returning players is Daniel Franchi, a Binghamton University’s starting left fielder who is playing center for the Aviators, and was a member of the 2016 and last Westhampton championship team.
“He leads by example. I can’t say enough good things about Daniel,” Brosnan said of his player who tied an Aviators record with three doubles during a June 20 8-5 win over the Riverhead Tomcats. “He does his job every day. He was one of the youngest guys on that 2016 team and now he’s one of the oldest. To see his transformation into the leader he’s become today is impressive.”
Chaney Dodge, a Northwestern University infielder, is back to captain the team, and Nick Bottari, a former Wading River ballplayer who competes for Southeastern University, battled some injuries and returned to compete in Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Sag Harbor Whalers. The 2017 Hamptons League MVP finished the game with an RBI and a walk. Both were on the 2017 Aviators team that was upset as the No. 1 seed heading into the championship.
“We have guys who are hungry to get over that hump, bring that championship back to where it’s supposed to be,” Brosnan said.
Harrison Cohen of George Washington University started the June 22 game, striking out seven, walking one, and giving up three hits and no earned runs across seven innings.
“It felt good out there. I sequenced my fastball and slider,” he said.
He said Sag Harbor is a good hitting team. “I was just happy to go as long as I did. I thought my stuff was there and we got enough offense to help us go out to get a win. It’s a big win against these guys,” added Cohen.
Brosnan said he’s pleased with how his team has come together considering the circumstances.
“We don’t get a lot of time, but the guys are pretty much in shape because they just finished up their school seasons,” Brosnan said. “And now you’re starting to see they’re bonding well, becoming a family.”
The Aviators picked up their 12th win of the season June 23 with a 5-0 shutout of the Long Island Road Warriors. Franchi went 2-for-5 with two runs and Dodge went 1-for-3 with a run and two walks.
Winning pitcher Chase Borowitz struck out three, walked one, and allowed one hit over five innings.
“I just got ahead of hitters, used my fastball, and just let my defense work behind me,” he said.
The team is tough to beat when the pitching is on, according to Brosnan. He added he thinks the group has an incredibly high ceiling, tossing more than 25 scoreless innings over the last four games. He considers Logan Verrino of Florida Southern College the best closer in the league, and setup man Ty Wilson of the University of North Carolina Wilmington leads the league in ERA (.93 over 9.2 innings pitched).
“Our arms give us a really good chance to win baseball games,” Brosnan said. “Every time we get dominant starts we’re very tough to beat.”
The coach is also relying on Michigan State University middle infielder Bailey Peterson.
“He’s developed into a leader, he’s a stalwart in our lineup,” the coach said of Peterson, a rising senior and collegiate All-American who is batting .323, 21-for-65, with 12 runs, 15 RBI, and six stolen bases. “We can’t take him out of the lineup. He can play short, he can play second, he can DH, he can play anywhere on the field. He’s a coach’s dream. We’re very happy to have him.”
The team is balanced and playing to its strengths, according to Brosnan, by running the bases well — leading the league in stolen bases (60) — putting pressure on other teams, playing good defense, pitching ahead, and getting timely hits.
“The best part of my job is getting the guys to buy in and creating a culture where they’re playing relaxed and having fun,” Brosnan said. “You’ll meet different people from different walks of life during this summer ball league, you can pick the brains of other players, become friends, and no matter what in college baseball, it’s tough to win a championship. That’s our goal this summer. It keeps these guys hungry and working hard to get better.”