David Leon became a hero on August 5 when he drove in Tom Coulombe with a walk-off single, allowing the Hampton Whalers to defeat the Metro NY Cadets 2-1 and clinch the Kaiser Division title in Sag Harbor. The win came 24 hours after the Whalers had defeated the Cadets 10-5 at St. John’s University in Queens in the first game of the three-game series.
The win allowed the Whalers to head to Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, where they lost to the winner of the Wolff Division series, the Kutztown Rockies 8-2 in the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League Championship on Saturday.
After being shut down by Metro NY pitching, Chris Walker led off the bottom of the ninth inning by getting hit by a pitch. Kyle Crean then sacrificed Walker to second base. Walker moved to third when the next batter, Mark Houck Jr., reached on an error by Metro NY shortstop Ed Brown. Coulombe then came up to the plate and hit a routine double play ball to Brown, who threw the ball to second baseman John Kahn to start the double play. Houck Jr. was out at second, but he broke up what would have been the game ending double play as Kahn threw the ball into the stands. John Flanagan, who pinch ran for Walker, scored the tying run as Coulombe went to second on the errant throw. That set up Leon to hit his division-clinching single to left center field.
Gardner Leaver started the game for the Whalers and gave up one run in the first inning, but he shut down the Cadets after that. He went six and two-third innings with four strikeouts. Tim Therrian came on in relief in the sixth inning and got Leaver out of a jam with two runners on and two outs. He then pitched the rest of the game for the win.
The first game of the series went a much different route. In their first outing against the Cadets, the Whalers jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the first inning with the help of two errors from their opponent. Metro NY came back and scored two runs in its first inning to keep the game close early. The Whalers would go on to score three runs in the fifth, two runs in the sixth, a run in the seventh and a run in the ninth to pull out the victory.
Phil Klein started the first game and had one of his toughest outings to date. He went four and one-third innings, gave up four earned runs on five hits while striking out five. Pierson graduate Dan Reiser pitched an inning of one-run relief and Therrian pitched the Whalers out of a bases loaded jam in the bottom of the ninth for the save.
“Phil has been good all summer,” Vega said. “You expect him to come out and compete and pitch well but he didn’t have his good stuff. He did everything he could to get us in the situation we were in and let our bullpen come in and do the job.”
The Whalers totaled 12 hits in the game. Karl Derbacher was 3 for 6 with three singles and a run scored while Alan Parks was 3 for 5 with three singles, a walk and four runs scored.
Vega couldn’t say enough about his team and what it had accomplished over the season.
“The team worked hard this summer,” he said. “I wasn’t easy on them and I knew I couldn’t be. I came out here with a purpose to get to where we are right now. We have one game left but they’ve worked their butts off out here.”
After starting the season 0-6, some may be surprised that the Whalers have gotten this far. Vega, however, is not at all surprised as he has been saying for most of the season that he believes his team is one of the best in the league.
“We had great pitching, great defense,” Vega said. “We just weren’t swinging the bats. Today, we swung the bats, we got some hits. Games like this, they’re hard to play because you want to do well, you want everything to work and you put more pressure on yourself. They battled and I thought our team was capable of doing this. I believed it and they believed it and that’s why we’re here.”