As has been the case the past few seasons, the Hampton Bays baseball team continues to battle low enrollment. Coming off back-to-back single-win seasons doesn’t help. But as longtime head coach Pete Meehan pointed out, it’s a reality.
“We’re fighting low numbers and just an overall passion for the game,” he said. “We’re coming off consecutive 1-19 seasons, but on both of those rosters we had kids that were passionate about baseball.
“That being said, we’re going to field a team that’ll compete,” Meehan added. “And we’ll have a somewhat softer schedule than we’ve had in the past, which should help.”
After playing in Class A the past few seasons, Hampton Bays has dropped back down to Class B and will play in League VIII with fellow B teams along with Class C schools Pierson/Bridgehampton and Southold and Class D Smithtown Christian. Because there are nine teams in the league, about four more or so than the other leagues in the county, each team was seeded. The Baymen were seeded eighth ahead of Smithtown Christian, which didn’t field a varsity team last spring.
But that means Hampton Bays will avoid having to play some of the top teams in the league, such as Center Moriches and Mattituck, but it will have to play Babylon. Cross-town rival Southampton is also in the league, as is Port Jefferson.
Jaden Ottati, a junior, will lead the team this season at shortstop and will more than likely be the Baymen’s top relief pitcher. Because numbers are so low, just about everyone on the roster will see some time on the mound, but will be mainly led by senior Joe Sapio, who logged some of the most innings of any pitcher last season. He’ll play left field when he’s not on the hill. Seniors Jordan Hanes and Nick Terry both figure to do some pitching as well. Hanes will play second and Terry will continue in center field when they’re not throwing. Sophomore Kai Leporati, who has transferred back to the district after spending last year in Riverhead, will also pitch and be the team’s utility player. Meehan said Leporati is a nice addition to the team, being a year-round player and having the ability to play just about every position on the field.
“Kai is our wild card,” he said. “He plays all of those positions and then pitches, so he’s versatile, can play almost anywhere and hit near the top of the lineup,” he said.
Senior Kevin Eras is also returning and should continue to play mostly third base, and senior Jose Rodriguez should see more playing time in the outfield.
The rest of the team is made up of players making the jump from junior varsity. That includes juniors Eric Casale, Jamar Jones, Juan Rincon and Kevin Sheridan and sophomores Jordan Adelson and Mickey Bracken.
Hampton Bays opens the season with a non-league game at Amityville this Tuesday, March 26, at 4:15 p.m. The Baymen don’t have their first league series starting until April 1 against Smithtown Christian.