The Red Team defeated the Blue Team, 4-3, in the seventh annual Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League All-Star Game at Jean Cochran Park in Peconic on Saturday evening, but for all parties involved, the final outcome of the game was really secondary.
The league’s Mid-Summer Classic is really a showcase of its best talent and showing it off to the dozen or so major league scouts who were in attendance for the game while continuing to provide free entertainment for East End families. In all of those regards, it was a successful night, Sandi Kruel, the HCBL’s president, said on Sunday.
“We provide free, family fun entertainment with world class baseball. That was our goal and we produced that last night,” she said. “There were 13 scouts there, a few from the Yankees and Pirates, who all said the quality of players was really good. I had a lot of people contact me and say what a great night it was, not just for baseball, but overall. And I had a few of the scouts text me giving me great feedback.”
Kruel, a Sag Harbor native, admitted she was nervous, being that it was her first All-Star Game since taking over the league’s top post. It was the first time in a few years that the league used Cochran Park, home of the league’s North Fork Ospreys, as the site of the game after having played it in Baseball Heaven in Yaphank the past few years. The move, Kruel said, was to have a more centralized location for the scouts, many of whom were coming from the New England area and could hop on a ferry and reach the game quicker than they could if the game was up the island.
Another reason why Kruel was nervous was because the Blue Team ended up having players from the league’s top two teams, the Riverhead Tomcats and Westhampton Aviators, along with the hometown Ospreys and Southampton Breakers, leading her, and many others, to think it was going to be a lopsided affair. But the Red Team, made up of Sag Harbor Whalers, Shelter Island Bucks and Long Island Road Warriors, certainly held its own and had an answer for everything the Blue Team did.
Team Blue took the first lead of the game in the bottom of the first when Riverhead’s Jason Coules (Fordham) hit a fly ball that fell in shallow left field, allowing Westhampton’s Daniel Franchi (Binghamton), who led off the inning with a double, to score the game’s first run. Team Red fired right back in the top of the second though. Long Island’s John Marti (Delaware) tripled to deep center field and was eventually brought home when Sag Harbor’s Matt Woods (Bryant) grounded out to second base.
In the bottom of the third, North Fork’s Joe Tardif (SUNY Cortland) ended the inning when he threw out Sag Harbor’s River Town (LSU-Eunice) trying to score on a base hit. That kept things scoreless until the bottom of the sixth, when Riverhead’s Bryce Willits (St. Mary’s) clobbered the first pitch he saw into the roller hockey rink beyond the fence in right field for a home run. But the Red Team answered right back in the top of the seventh.
After Sag Harbor’s Peter Marren (Bucknell) singled and Shelter Island’s Eddie Satisky (Chattanooga State) walked, both runners moved up a base on a wild pitch, and Shelter Island’s John Shields (Lipscomb) came through with a two-run single to put the Red Team ahead, 3-2. After Shields stole second base, his Shelter Island teammate Dylan Judd (UMass-Amherst) drove him in on a base hit to make it 4-2.
Westhampton’s Chaney Dodge (Northwestern State) singled in the bottom of the seventh and stole second base and was brought home by Southampton’s Johnny Hipsmann (Richmond) to make it a one-run game, but that was all the Blue Team could muster. Dodge bunted his way on to lead off the bottom of the ninth, but Long Island’s Mike Mirando (Hofstra) struck out the side to end the ball game.
Shields, who had won the home run derby earlier in the day, was named the game’s Most Valuable Player for driving in two of the Red Team’s four runs and stealing a key base in that three-run seventh.
Sag Harbor manager Jim Pereira was the skipper on the winning side, but he didn’t care much that his team won.
“I’m happy for the kids that they won. But whether they won or lost really isn’t important. What is important is that we had the best of what the league had to offer, and it was a very, very good show of our talent in the league,” he explained. “I got everybody in the game. I came out with the lineup two days beforehand so everybody knew what their role was going to be and I just told them before the game to go out, have fun, take your photos in the dugout, take video—because for some of them this is their last All-Star Game—so go play and enjoy the moment. It was a great opportunity for all the kids. Nobody embarrassed themselves and it was a really good game. The kids battled. They represented themselves, their school and the league very, very well.”
The league’s fifth annual Home Run Derby was held prior to the All-Star Game on Saturday. It was held at Cochran Park for the first time. The first four years it was held at Baseball Heaven.
Shelter Island’s John Shields and North Fork’s Anthony Fontana (Chipola) were the top two hitters in the qualifying round with five and three home runs, respectively, so the two advanced to the championship round. Fontana hit four homers in his championship round, but Shields tied that mark in his first four swings. Using only two of his six outs, Shields hit his fifth home run to be the first Buck to ever win the derby.
Southampton’s Robbie Holmes (Monmouth) also competed and hit a pair of home runs in the qualifying round while Riverhead’s Louis Antos (Queens), Sag Harbor’s Andrew Bates (South Alabama), Westhampton’s Landon Gray (Tennessee) and Sean O’Keefe (Western Michigan) and Long Island’s Eric Roubal (Queens) each hit one. Gray edged Sag Harbor’s Matt Woods by 28 votes to win the fan vote and earn a spot in the competition.