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Jul 28, 2018 1:40 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Westhampton Aviators Fall To Long Island Road Warriors In Semifinal Series

Tyler Thorington (Western Michigan) delivers a pitch against the Long Island Road Warriors. DANIELA DETORE
Jul 31, 2018 9:43 AM

The offensive inconsistencies that hurt the Westhampton Aviators at times this summer reared their ugly head at the worst time in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League’s best-of-three semifinal series with the Long Island Road Warriors last week. It’s what ultimately led to the Aviators’ demise, said head coach Charlie Barbieri, as the Road Warriors took the final two games of the series to eliminate Westhampton and advance to their second straight HCBL Championship.

After winning the first game of the series, 5-3, at Southampton High School on Thursday, July 26, Westhampton had hopes of ending the series on its home field the following day, but the Road Warriors wouldn’t allow that to happen and instead forced a third game by winning game two, 6-2. In game three of the series on Saturday, back in Southampton, Long Island scored five runs in the second inning to take an early 6-0 lead, but Westhampton slowly chipped away at it. After David Hogarth’s (William & Mary) double drove in Ryan Steckline (Monmouth) in the top of the third, Curtis Robison (Penn State) scored Hogarth and John Russo (Post) on a base hit to cut the Warriors’ lead in half at 6-3. Russo drove in Steckline in the fourth on a base hit, then Tristan Welch (Louisiana State-Eunice) scored on an error in the fourth to make it a one-run game at 6-5.

That was as close as the Aviators would get. Long Island scored two runs in the fifth, two in the sixth and two in the eighth to break the game open. Robison swatted his second home run of the postseason in the ninth but that was all the Aviators could come up with in their final at-bats.

Long Island defended its title against the top-seeded Riverhead Tomcats in a best-of-three championship series that started on Monday at the Veterans Memorial Complex in Calverton.

“I knew it was going to be really tough to beat Long Island. Their lineup is so deep and they just wear out opposing pitching staffs because they draw deep counts, but we definitely went into it giving it our all, especially after we won the first one,” Barbieri said. “We were hoping to finish the job in that second game, but that Long Island team is such a resilient group. We knew we had our work cut out for us, we just kind of ran out of gas at the end.”

Trailing, 6-0, heading into the eighth inning of game two on Friday, Welch punched a solo home run, with authority, to put Westhampton on the board. Michael Amandola (Farmingdale State) responded to Welch’s push in the bottom of the ninth with a home run of his own, leaving no doubt whether that ball would clear the left field fence or not. That was all the Aviators could muster, though.

“By the end of the season I thought we had some holes in the lineup,” Barbieri said. “They were hard working kids that grinded it out, it wasn’t for a lack of effort. But the last series, and we talked about it with the team afterwards, we left a ton of people in scoring position because we had opportunities, we just lacked someone getting the big hit. And we suffered from that a little bit during the regular season, consistently driving in runs with runners on base and less than two outs.

“I thought our pitching staff was fully intact going into the playoffs, I just think our inconsistencies on offense caught up with us in the end,” he added.

Barbieri, a Floral Park resident who coaches at SUNY Maritime, said he enjoyed his first season as head coach of the Aviators and wouldn’t mind coming back next summer. He enjoyed working with the players the most.

“They never complain, they work their butts off,” he said. “This is group of guys who in game 43 of a long summer, down a bunch of runs, they’re still running a ground ball out as hard as they can. They could have, any point late in the season when we were struggling, just gave up, but the guys continually worked and their effort was incredible, it was a great experience.”

The Aviators were hoping to become the first HCBL team to ever reach the championship series four years in a row. While they failed to accomplish that, general manager Tom Pisaneschi said that it was still an enjoyable and successful season.

“I’m happy because I had a great group of kids again,” he said. “We’ve very rarely had issues. I’ll have a relationship with a handful of players who I will always be super close with, along with their families, so that part of it was very nice.

“We do like to win, and everyone else that says they don’t is lying, so that was a little disappointing,” Pisaneschi added. “We had injuries to key players who we thought we were going to have for the season who we just didn’t have.”

Pisaneschi mentioned that Nick Bottari (Southeastern), the reining HCBL MVP, along with Jordan Folgers (El Camino) played a total of 10 games this summer. Brett Pisaneschi (Post), Tom Pisaneschi’s son who is a Westhampton Beach High School graduate and played his final summer with the Aviators, also battled some injury issues, although he was able to get in the final game on Saturday.

“We thought he was going to be one of our better starters, but hats off to Long Island,” Pisaneschi said. “They’re a great team, and I know those guys Neal [Heaton] and [co-general manager] Scott June very well—they’ve known my son since he was 5 years old—so if I can’t win it, that’s the next group of guys who I wouldn’t mind seeing win it, I love competing against them.

“I love this, I would do this forever,” he continued about his GM job. “I love the game so this lets me stay in it.”

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