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Aug 12, 2019 11:07 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Westhampton's Harrison Cohen Named HCBL Pitcher Of The Year; League Also Names MVP, Top Reliever

Westhampton Aviator Harrison Cohen was named the HCBL's Pitcher of the Year. DREW BUDD
Aug 12, 2019 12:43 PM

Prior to making his debut with the Westhampton Aviators on June 3, Harrison Cohen hadn’t pitched in a meaningful, competitive game in eight months, making what he accomplished this summer all the more impressive.

After arthroscopic surgery on his right throwing arm to remove bone spurs in January, Cohen, a Syosset native, was forced to redshirt his sophomore year at George Washington University. Prior to going down with the injury, Cohen had pitched in two fall games in October 2018. Before that he last pitched for George Washington in April 2018.

Cohen successfully put his injury behind him this summer, putting together an All-Star season for the Aviators in which he went 4-1 with a 1.79 earned run average, striking out 45 batters and walking only 11 in 40.1 innings pitched, leading the Aviators to their fourth championship and to being voted the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League’s Pitcher of the Year last week.

Cohen found out he won the award just prior to making his first appearance for the Cotuit Kettleers of the Cape Cod League, where he won his second league championship of the summer on Saturday.

“That was pretty surreal,” he said. “I’m honored that the coaches voted that I was worthy of the award. I thought my numbers were good enough, but I know there were some other good pitchers in the league.”

Cohen was named on all seven HCBL coaches’ ballots with a pair of first place votes, three second place votes and two third place votes. Riverhead’s Bobby Vath (NYIT), who led the league in ERA and strikeouts, finished in second place, while Cohen’s Aviator teammate Erubiel Candelario (Marist) finished in third place.

Cohen is the second Aviator to be selected as the HCBL Pitcher of the Year joining Reiss Knehr (Fordham), who took home the honors during the Aviators’ third championship season in 2016.

“From day one, Harry just stepped up as a leader on our pitching staff, and seeing the way he’s matured and developed, not just as a pitcher, but even as a better person, has been really something,” Westhampton manager Alex Brosnan said.

Brosnan said that Cohen’s work ethic has been what’s made him into a formidable arm. “Not once have I ever had to ask him to do something, in fact, he was very up front with me and asked my opinion on a few things and he’s willing to be coached. His willingness to learn and get better is unparalleled. He set goals years ago, and he keeps working toward those goals.”

Cohen admitted he didn’t know what to expect of himself when he stepped on the mound in Westhampton for that first start on June 3 against the Shelter Island Bucks. Even though he gave up a few runs in a few innings, he knew he was back.

“I really hadn’t tested anything before that start — I didn’t know where my velocity or breaking balls were at — but I knew that I would be out there with some adrenaline,” he said. “I found out after that game that I was hitting numbers more consistently before I had surgery. Everything was pretty sharp, and since it was my first outing I was on a 60-pitch limit, so I made the most of that.

“Pitching in the Hamptons League, I was able to come back and do something really good for my mentality,” Cohen continued. “I wouldn’t say it was a confidence booster, but it really helped me realize that I was back, that I could do this and surgery was the right thing to do.”

Cohen, along with a few other players, headed to the Cape directly after the HCBL season was over. He went there not knowing what to expect, if he would even see some playing time. But he made his debut for the Kettleers in relief, made another relief appearance in which he was able to strand runners on base, and then he was called upon to start the first game of the Cape Cod League Championships. The plan, Cohen shared, was that he would pitch the first three innings of the game and leave with the lead. He did just that, leaving the Kettleers with a 3-2 lead when he was pulled, and even though it took 15 innings, they went on to win game one, 7-6. They then won the best-of-three series with a 10-3 victory in game two.

“Because they were so important to me when I pitched in the Hamptons, I would come out for starts nervous, and I thought I would come out for the Cape start out of breath, but everything kind of relaxed, and I think it was because in my heart I felt like I belonged there. It was a really a cool thing to experience,” Cohen explained. “All I can say is it’s the happiest I’ve ever been playing baseball. That was, in a way, the cherry on top of the whole summer. It was so amazing playing with guys like that.

“To have a feeling to know that I was able to come up there for 10 days, didn’t know what role I was going to be in, how I was going to pitch — I didn’t really expect to be contributing — it’s an experience I’ll never forget for the rest of my life.”

Riverhead Pair Win MVP, Reliever Awards

Riverhead Tomcats Jason Coules (Fordham) and Joshua Becker (UMass-Lowell) won the HCBL’s Most Valuable Player and Reliever of the Year awards, respectively.

Coules won the HCBL batting crown, finishing with a .407 average, to go along with three home runs, 22 RBIs, 28 stolen bases and a new HCBL single-season record of five triples for the league finalist Tomcats. Coules, a Bellmore native, is the second-straight Riverhead player to take MVP honors after Eduardo Malinowski (Pennsylvania) won it last season, and he’s the fourth Tomcat to win the league’s top honor, joining Peter Greskoff (Brown) in 2009 and Mike Donadio (St. Johns) in 2014.

Westhampton’s Daniel Franchi (Binghamton) finished in second place of the MVP voting, being selected on all seven coaches’ ballots. Robert Gallagher (UMass-Lowell) was right behind Franchi in third place with a pair of first place votes. Westhampton’s Bailey Peterson (Michigan State) and Southampton’s Johnny Hipsman (Richmond) rounded out the top five.

Becker (UMass Lowell) was one of the top closers in the league this summer and had to beat out his Tomcat teammate Joseph Murphy (NYIT) by four points to win the reliever award. In 16 appearances, the native of Burlington, Massachusetts, tied Westhampton’s Logan Verrino (Florida Southern) for the league lead in saves (seven), tying a Tomcats single-season record in that category, and finished with an ERA of 1.98. Becker joins 2012 Tomcat Nick Johnson (Southern Mississippi) as the only two Tomcats to win the top reliever award.

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