Eight teams fought it out during grueling 40-game schedules this summer and fittingly, the two best remain.
The Riverhead Tomcats (24-13-3) and the defending champion Long Island Road Warriors (25-15) are in the midst of a best of three playoff that will decide the 2018 Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League Championship.
Both teams are tournament tested: The Tomcats survived a best of three against the Sag Harbor Whalers that went right down to the wire, while the Road Warriors topped the Westhampton Aviators in three, winning the rubber game with authority at home, 12-6 after facing elimination a day earlier.
The defending champs jumped out to a commanding 6-0 lead after scoring five times in the second stanza.
Ben McNeill walked to open the inning and with one out, Eric Roubal singled him home after two walks. Marcos Perivolaris ripped a single to drive home another run. And after yet another walk, Matthew Stepnoski doubled in two more.
Ryan Steckline doubled to open the inning and with two outs, David Hogarth doubled him home. Curtis Robinson’s single plated another run. When Tristan Welch scored on an error, the visitors had closed to within one, 6-5.
But there was no stopping the Road Warriors. Two relief pitchers, Liam Dvorak and Tim Kranz, held the Aviators at bay. Meanwhile, the Warriors scored two in the bottom of the inning on a Patrick Lagravinese single and a ground out, and two more in both the sixth and eighth innings.
Lagravinese put on a show, going five for five with three runs scored and three ribbies. Perivolaris was two for four with four RBI.
In the other semifinal, the Tomcats played a tough, disciplined game to eliminate the Whalers 4-1, scoring all their runs in the first three innings. Louis Antos set the stage with a long dinger with two outs in the first off the starter and eventual loser, Milton Vrionis. A Josh Greene single made it 2-0 the next inning, with Nick Thornquist lacing a key hit.
From there, the pitching took over. After Casey Aubin went four innings, giving up only single run, Andrew Mundy (two) Joe Murphy and Beau Keathley blanked the Whalers the rest of the way.
The two remaining teams will play for the championship. The rubber match, should it go to three games, will be played on August 1 at Keller Field at 5789 Middle Country Road in Calverton.
Here are some names to remember:
Thornquist, of the Whalers, shattered the league batting record, finishing at .421 with 53 hits in 126 at bats. The five-eight 180 pounder is a junior at the University of Texas, San Antonio.
Alex Volpi, of the Shelter Island Bucks, broke the league home run record, smashing 16, and also led the league with 46 runs batted in. The six-foot-two, 220-pound infielder is entering his junior year at Holy Cross.