The scene at Mashashimuet Park in Sag Harbor on Sunday evening was electric with fans lining the left field line, Jerry Seinfeld signing autographs and throwing out the first pitch and games for children between innings. The Hampton Whalers added to that atmosphere with a convincing 3-0 victory over the Peekskill Robins and will now face Metro NY in the Kaiser Division Championship Series.
The series will start on Monday at St. John’s University with the second game taking place on Tuesday at Mashashimuet Park. The third game, if necessary, is scheduled for Thursday, August 7, at St. John’s.
Whalers starting pitcher Andrew Guarrasi tossed eight and a-third innings of two-hit, shut out baseball. The lefty out of New York Tech was more than prepared for the game, finishing with eight strikeouts and one walk.
“I knew a few days ago that I was going to be pitching this game,” he said following the win. “I was just telling myself to throw early strikes, just be aggressive and that’s it. I felt strong early. I threw a lot of my pitches for strikes and Chris [Walker] called a real good game behind the plate.”
The Whalers got on the Robins early, scoring two of their three runs in the first inning. After Alan Parks singled with one out, Walker hit a routine double-play ball to Peekskill third baseman Sean Allaire, but Allaire made an error, throwing the ball into right field, and all runners were safe. Parks advanced to third and Walker stayed put at first. Kyle Crean then hit a single which drove in Parks and pushed Walker to second. Mark Houck Jr. would then ground out to shortstop Alex Cabello advancing Walker and Crean to second and third. Tom Coulombe then singled in Crean for the second run.
Whalers head coach Julio Vega said he was very happy with the win but was not at all surprised with the end result.
“This is no different than the past couple of weeks,” he said. “We’ve been playing great defensively, we played another great game today. Guarrasi, couldn’t ask for a better start from that kid. He came out and threw well. Offensively we hit the ball hard and we had timely hitting. We had to get guys on base and that’s what we did.”
Walker drove in the third and final run of the game with a single after Karl Derbacher walked and then reached second base on a wild pitch. The hit was Walker’s first of the game, but the freshman catcher from Fordham has been an anchor in the middle of the lineup since his bat warmed up a couple of weeks ago.
“Every time I go up to the plate I just want to square up and hit the ball hard and just try and make things happen,” he said. “I started off the season in the sixth, seventh spots in the lineup, and then I started getting hot and got put in the three, four spots. I’ve been hitting good still so I’m just stuck in the three and four hole in the lineup now.”
Almost every player was on base on Sunday with the Whalers totaling eight hits. Derbacher and Houck were the only two in the lineup without a hit, but Derbacher walked twice. Mike Connors got the last two outs in the ninth inning for the save.
Seinfeld signed autographs and watched the Whalers for a few innings. Team president Rusty Leaver organized dizzy-bat races and a race around the bases with Wally the Whaler, the team’s mascot, for children in between innings. With all of the activities going on, one might think that they would take away from the game and make it harder for the Whalers to concentrate on the task at hand, but Vega dismissed that right away.
“The guys deserve it,” he said. “For Jerry to come out and throw out the first pitch, with all these people out here, it was great. The team has been out here all summer battling and it’s good for people to come out here and support them.”
Leaver could not have pictured a better scenario for the game and its activities.
“If I had taken a photograph at the beginning of the season it would have been this,” he said. “The fact that everything counts at the end, the kids are playing with a great attitude with large supportive crowds and then have Jerry come out and support them it was great. ”
For updates on the Whalers’ march through the playoffs, visit 27east.com.