The Hampton Whalers beat the Peekskill Robins yesterday, 3-0, in a one-game playoff and will face the N. Y. Metro Cadets in a best of three series starting Monday at 7 p.m. at St. Johns University. In their inaugural season with the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League, the Whalers have a chance to win their division and play for the league championship.
The win capped a late season turnaround for the Whalers, who spent most of the summer in the cellar of the Kaiser Division. After starting 0-6 and struggling throughout June, the Whalers went on to go 13-7 in July and win seven of their last eight, climbing into a tie with the Robins for second place in the division.
New York Tech sophomore Andrew Guarrasi pitched eight and a third innings for the Whalers on Sunday, giving up two hits and striking out eight batters. Mike Connors from Southern Connecticut State came in for the save.
“We had a long week off and it was great to see the guys come back and play at the level they did,” said Whalers’ manager Julio Vega. “Obviously they came out ready to go.”
The Whalers quickly got on board in the first inning when Kyle Crean, a freshman from Albany, knocked in University of Charlotte junior Alan Parks with a single. Freshman from the University of Rhode Island Tom Coulombe did the same to score Fordham freshman Chris Walker. The score remained 2-0 until the bottom of the fifth when Walker hit a RBI-single to score Southern Connecticut State junior Karl Derbacher.
Guarassi kept the Robins in check, pitching five hitless innings. In the top of the ninth, after giving up his second hit of the game and hitting a batter, Vega decided to go to the bullpen.
Connors made quick work, getting one batter to fly out and striking out another to end the inning and the game. Vega described Connors as “lights out” since he was added to the team less than a month ago.
“The great thing about [Connors] is he competes. Every time he goes out there he wants to be perfect,” said Vega. “Just having that type of guy competing at the end of the game is great.”
The day got underway as Whalers’ President Rusty Leaver paraded local celebrity and baseball fanatic Jerry Seinfeld out on to the field to meet the players and throw out the game’s first pitch. Leaver presented Seinfeld, a “grand slam” contributor and one of the founders of the team, with a personalized jersey, a team photo and a baseball signed by the entire squad. The right-handed comedian side-armed the first pitch to catcher Chris Walker as photographers and film crews postured to capture the moment.
Vega said the atmosphere Seinfeld created was “amazing” and said he was happy for his players. “Jerry coming out was great,” he said. “[The players] deserve this. They deserved a day like yesterday.”
As for the upcoming series against the Cadets, Vega is optimistic. The Whalers got the best of the Cadets in regular season play, going 5-3. Vega said Phil Kline, the freshman from Youngstown State who pitched a perfect game against the Cadets two weeks ago in Sag Harbor, will get the start Monday night.
The Whalers return to Mashashimuet on Tuesday to face the Cadets in the second game of the division championship series. Game time is 5 p.m.