All three of Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League’s postseason award winners hailed from teams on the South Fork.
Will Gale (Seton Hall) became the first ever Southampton Breaker to be named the league’s Most Valuable Player. Westhampton Aviator Nic Luc (Adelphi) was named HCBL’s Pitcher of the Year while Sag Harbor Whaler Jason Acker (Nova Southeastern) was named Reliever of the Year.
Gale led a potent Breakers offense from atop the lineup card all season and played as steady a center field as his manager Rob Cafiero ever saw in the league. His play ultimately helped Southampton win its third HCBL title this summer, breaking what had been a seven-year drought.
Gale, who was named the HCBL Championship Series MVP against Riverhead, was nearly the unanimous winner of the distinction, being penciled in first place on five out of six coaches’ ballots; North Fork Osprey Steven Luttazi (UMass-Amherst) was the only other player to earn a first-place ballot. Gale batted .341 in the regular season for Southampton which was second best in batting average in the league behind Riverhead’s Brian Morrell (St. John’s).
Gale accumulated 31 hits in 91 at-bats during the regular season with a home run and 10 RBIs, leading the league in stolen bases with 27. He was selected to the HCBL All-Star Game in which he went 2 for 4. In the postseason for the Breakers, Gale hit .350 with six RBIs and led the Breakers in the HCBL Championship Series against Riverhead with four hits, four RBIs and two stolen bases to earn MVP honors.
Parker Stinson (Indiana State), Gale’s teammate on the Breakers who played next to him in right field, finished second in the MVP voting, while Westhampton Aviator Matt Alifano (Adelphi/Center Moriches) finished third. Luttazi finished fourth and Southampton High School graduate Chad Pike (Suffolk CC), who played for the South Shore Clippers, placed fifth.
The Pitcher of the Year award race was a much closer affair than the MVP voting. Luc edged Southampton’s Matt Jachec (Indiana State) by two points (30-28) to earn the award. Westhampton has had the league’s top hurler in back-to-back seasons now, with Harrison Cohen (George Washington) having won it in 2019, and is Luc the third Aviator since 2016 to have won the award, with current San Diego Padre Reiss Knehr (Fordham) having first won it in 2016.
Luc held an unblemished 4-0 record for the Aviators this past summer, finishing the season with a 2.29 earned run average. He led the league in strikeouts with 53 in 31 and a third innings pitched. Luc tied an HCBL single game record with 14 strikeouts against the Sag Harbor Whalers at the HCBL Tripleheader on June 30, a game in which he pitched six no-hit innings and helped lead Westhampton to a 1-0 victory. He also started on the mound for the Red Team All-Stars at HCBL’s All-Star Game in which he struck out three batters in his inning of work.
The Reliever of the Year award voting was also close, with Acker finishing five points ahead of Southampton’s Rich Gennaro (Molloy). Acker received three first place votes to Gennaro’s one. Southampton’s Andrew Ledbetter (Stony Brook) placed third, Riverhead’s Coleton Reitan (Wesleyan) placed fourth, and South Shore’s Frankie Murphy (Vassar) rounded out the top five relievers.
In seven appearances for the Whalers this summer, Acker was saddled with a loss while also earning a save with an ERA of 1.80. He struck out 18 and only walked six in 15 innings pitched. He was named to the Gold Team All-Stars where he struck out three of the four batters he faced.
Acker is the third Whaler to be named HCBL Reliever of the Year joining Mike Connors (Southern Connecticut State), who won the award in 2008, and Jacob Bodner (Xavier), who earned the award in 2013 after setting an HCBL single season record in saves with 14.