The District 36 Little League tournament began well for East Hampton’s 11 and 12-year-olds, who defeated Westhampton Beach 4-2 here in the opening round on June 28, but then the going got rough as Hampton Bays shut Bonac’s all-stars out 16-0 at Red Creek Park last Thursday, and Moriches Bay finished them off 13-1 at Pantigo on Saturday morning.
Brian Nedley Sr., whose son Brian Jr., an 11-year-old who was one of the all-star team’s pitchers, had predicted the kids had it in them to go all the way to the district final this year, and, despite the lopsided losses of the past week, he remains high on these young players.
“The talent is definitely there,” Nedley said during a telephone conversation Monday. “Our defense is tops. Offense is where we need the work. We had to get them ready fast — we only had a week — for tough fastball pitching. The bottom line in those losses to Hampton Bays and Center Moriches was that we didn’t hit.”
Adam Wilson, who, with Tim Garneau coached the 11-12s, said, “We had good hitting in that first game with Westhampton, and we had opportunities in each of the next two games — we loaded the bases once or twice against Hampton Bays, and we loaded the bases once or twice on Saturday, but we couldn’t get timely hits. . . . The main thing, though, is that the kids had fun, we went one game further in the playoffs than we did last year, and, as for the program, we plan to continue to build it with clinics and workouts in the off-season.”
“Little League here used to be from March to June and after that nothing. It was obvious that the kids from Hampton Bays and Center Moriches are playing a lot. They had really good pitching and outstanding hitting. We want to strive for that too; we want to keep the interest level up here so that the next time our kids pick up their gloves it won’t be March.”
Garneau, when questioned concerning the Hampton Bays and Moriches Bay games, said, with a laugh, “There’s really not much to talk about. Both of those teams were really solid.”
“That win over Westhampton,” he continued, “was as much fun as I’ve had in Little League ever. It was a defining moment. Westhampton beat us 12-2 last year, they ‘mercied’ us, so we were a little nervous going in. But we played a crisp game, with no errors, and we had timely hitting. It was very exciting.”
East Hampton was trailing 2-1 when it went to bat in the bottom of the fifth inning, but Jack Boyland and Sebastian Raebeck sandwiched singles around a strikeout, Auggie Schultz, following a conference on the mound, drove in Boyland from second with the tying run, and Philip Zablotsky, the cleanup hitter, doubled to score Raebeck from third. Schultz also tried to come home on the play but couldn’t beat the relay, which resulted in his being tagged out up the line by Westhampton’s catcher.
After a pitching change, Nedley blooped a two-out single over first base that scored Zablotsky with the team’s fourth run.
Nedley gave way to Zablotsky with a runner on first and one out in the top of the sixth, and the latter got the save. The first batter Zablotsky faced singled to right field, putting runners at the corners. A few moments later, as the result of a stolen base, there were runners at second and third with one out and East Hampton’s 4-2 lead was in jeopardy. But Zablotsky then snagged a hot line drive hit toward him and doubled up the runner at third to seal the big win.
Nedley, Boyland, and Raebeck each went 2-for-2; Schultz and Zablotsky each went 1-for-3, and Chris Murray had a base hit as well. Nedley, Boyland, Schultz, and Zablotsky, who had the game-winner, each had a run batted in.
Westhampton played the game under protest (and East Hampton countered with a protest of its own), maintaining that, contrary to Little League rules, a player who’d subbed in — one of 14 on East Hampton’s roster — had not had an at-bat.
“The rules are,” said Wilson, “that all the players have to have at least one inning in the field and one at-bat. The player in question, who played six outs in the field, would have come to bat in the bottom of the sixth, but we didn’t get to that point; the game was over by then.”
Garneau and Wilson countered that not all of Westhampton’s players were wearing the official Little League patch on their uniforms and, also contrary to the rules, the visitors’ batting helmets didn’t have faceguards.
The district powers that be subsequently let the win stand.
Garneau said Monday that East Hampton is fielding two 9 and 10-year-old teams that are to play in a league this summer with teams from the Southampton and Sag Harbor-Bridgehampton Little League organizations.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we have a 9-10 all-star team next year,” said Wilson, who added that “for the first time in a long time, we also had an entry this year in the Little League softball playoffs.”
“We won one playoff game this year,” said the elder Nedley, who confessed to having been “shocked” by the two tournament losses. “Maybe we’ll win two or three next year.”