Proctor’s Slump-Busting Base Hit In The 12th Advances Whalers To HCBL Semifinals

Myles Proctor (LIU) singles to center field to drive in the eventual game-winning run. RON ESPOSITO

Myles Proctor had been scuffling at the plate prior to a key at bat in the top of the 12th inning of Thursday’s wild card playoff game between his Sag Harbor Whalers and host South Shore Clippers at Bellport High School.

Hitless in his previous nine at bats, and just 2 for 21 since July 11, the Long Island University product had a chance to make all of that a distant memory with the go-ahead run on second base, and Proctor came through.

Anthony Panissidi (Rhode Island) scores a key insurance run in the top of the 12th inning to put the Whalers up, 4-2, which wound up being the final score of Thursday’s wild card game. RON ESPOSITO

The Yorktown, New York, native singled a line drive to center field, driving in Luke Napolitano (Hofstra), who had doubled earlier in the inning, giving the Whalers a key 3-2 lead with both teams in an offensive stalemate up until that point. Cole Hebble (Swarthmore) drove in Anthony Panissidi (Cincinnati) with an insurance run, and Jason Acker (Nova Southeastern) pitched around some trouble but nonetheless scoreless bottom half of the inning for the save, and the sixth-seeded Whalers defeated the third-seeded Clippers, 4-2, to move on in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League’s postseason.

Sag Harbor will now take on top-seeded Southampton in a best-of-three semifinal series starting Saturday at 4 p.m. at Southampton High School. The fourth-seeded Riverhead Tomcats — who needed some heroics of their own on Thursday, scoring three runs to come from behind and defeat the fifth-seeded North Fork Ospreys, 5-4, in the other wild card game — will play at the second-seeded Westhampton Aviators in the other semifinal series which also starts Saturday at 4 p.m. at Westhampton Beach Elementary School. Game two of each series will take place Sunday, with game three, if necessary, on Monday.

Proctor said it was a “big relief” to get that hit and come through for his team in the 12th.

“A big opportunity to break the game wide open, hopefully come out of my slump and just help the team any way I can,” he said.

With just nine position players at his disposal due to injuries and the usual end-of-season issues, Sag Harbor manager Tom Walker was proud of the way a number of his players came through. Hebble was 0 for 5 before providing the Whalers with that key insurance run, and Grant Manning (Chapman) had pitched all summer but entered Thursday’s game as a designated hitter, and he kept the 12th inning going with a base hit just prior to Hebble coming to the plate.

Tyler Cortland pitched five scoreless innings of relief to earn the win for the Whalers on Thursday. RON ESPOSITO

Walker was also appreciative of the work of his three All-Star pitchers on Thursday. Justin Sinibaldi (Rutgers-New Brunswick) started on the mound and only allowed two runs, one earned, in six innings, before giving way to Tyler Cortland (Dartmouth), who struck out nine in his five innings of scoreless relief.

“It was just a lot of guys just playing their behinds off,” Walker said. “That’s what you play ball for, to be a competitor, and I’m proud of them and how hard they competed.

“It’s always good to move on and keep playing,” he added. “I told them, ‘look, I’m happy one way or the other, I get to keep coaching you if we win, if not, I get to go home, see my wife.’ But I’m glad we’re still playing because they’ve had a lot of adversity here lately. Guys just fought.”

South Shore held a 2-0 lead after three innings thanks to a pair of RBI singles by Alec Maag (Adelphi/Center Moriches), who went 4 for 5 at the plate. But the Whalers tied the game in the top of the fourth on a double by D.J. Perron Jr. (UMass-Dartmouth) and a single by Napolitano. The game remained scoreless before Proctor’s base hit in the 12th.

“I just love the game of baseball. I want to be out there with my team,” Proctor said of advancing. “We’re the underdogs, we’ve always been, so we’re here to compete, here to win.”