After sweeping Amityville in a pair of non-league games to start the season, the Hampton Bays baseball team had a prime opportunity to continue its winning ways going into its first League VIII three-game series against Smithtown Christian, a Class D school that did not field a varsity team last season.
The Baymen, however, were only able to take one of the three games, and while they sit with an overall winning record of 3-2, it wasn’t what their head coach, Pete Meehan, was hoping for going into what will now be the teeth of their schedule.
“That was a five-game stretch against Amityville and Smithtown Christian where I thought we could come out of it 5-0, so even at 4-1, I would have been disappointed—and we’re 3-2. We should be better than that,” Meehan explained.
To the Knights’ credit, they gave the Baymen an extremely competitive series, one in which the two teams scored the same number of total runs (11), so it came down to which team made the least number of mistakes.
In game one on April 1, the host Baymen extended their winning streak to three games to start the season with a 4-1 victory behind a strong pitching performance by junior Jaden Ottati, who threw a complete game and only allowed an unearned run in the final inning.
He struck out 10 and allowed six hits, but didn’t allow a walk, the third-straight game in which Hampton Bays pitchers achieved that feat. There wasn’t much offense on either side, but the Baymen were paced by senior Joe Sapio, who went 2 for 3 and drove in three of his team’s four runs—a two-run base hit in the third inning and a run-scoring base hit in the fifth. With both teams’ pitchers throwing complete games and the offenses being a little stagnant, the game was finished in a blistering hour and 15 minutes.
The very next day, the two teams met in Smithtown with the Baymen seeking to take the series with a victory. But the Knights scored four runs in the first inning and Hampton Bays chased the lead the entire game, eventually suffering its first loss of the season, 6-4.
Hampton Bays pitchers Kai Leporati and Jordan Adelson combined for 11 strikeouts, meaning the Baymen defense only had to make seven outs in the field, but it made three errors, all of which came back to haunt it.
Ottati went 3 for 4 with two runs scored and Sapio’s lone base hit drove in two runs, but overall, the offense left a number of runners on base, leaving the bases loaded on two separate occasions.
“We made some mistakes and paid for every single one,” Meehan said. “We made a couple of defensive miscues that resulted in runs. We had a bad baserunning mistake that cost us a run. It seemed like every time we made a mistake in this series, it always came back to hurt us.”
The two teams reconvened on Friday in Hampton Bays for the rubber game of the series, even though the weather was poor—as it turned out, it was the only baseball game played in the county that day, according to Meehan.
Nonetheless, it was another close contest. The Baymen got a shot in the arm when senior Jordan Hanes made his return from a concussion he suffered in one of the Amityville games. He started on the mound, and along with Leporati and Adelson, combined for 12 strikeouts. They did walk five batters and hit another pair, but the defense was solid. The issue was the Baymen’s offense.
Hampton Bays had a 2-1 lead after the first, thanks to run-scoring singles from Hanes and Sapio, but Smithtown Christian scratched across an unearned run in the sixth inning to take the 4-3 lead. The Baymen had runners on first and second with no outs, and eventually those runners advanced to second and third, but they couldn’t capitalize, and the Knights went on to win the game, 4-3, and take the series.
“Basically, in the whole series, we scored 11 runs against their three pitchers, who all pitched complete games,” Meehan said. “We had good enough pitching in all three games. Our pitchers had way more strikeouts than theirs, which usually bodes well, but we didn’t hit in all three games, and we especially didn’t get clutch hits. There was some bad luck involved, in that we hit so many balls right at people, but it was real, real disappointing. I don’t remember feeling as disappointed as I was after that last game. We had a real good opportunity to give ourselves a real good start and really build our confidence.”
Now the Baymen’s schedule takes what Meehan described as a “drastic turn,” in that they will be playing largely successful programs of late in Babylon this week, Southampton the following week, and then defending Class C champion Pierson/Bridgehampton the week after that.