If history has anything to say about it, the Southampton Breakers are in a prime spot to win their third Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League Championship this week.
The Breakers swept the Sag Harbor Whalers in the HCBL semifinals, taking game one, 3-0, at home on Saturday before defeating the Whalers, 9-4, in 11 innings at Mashashimuet Park on Sunday. Southampton has won an HCBL Championship each year its reached the series, both in 2012 and 2014.
The Breakers will be facing the Riverhead Tomcats, who swept the Westhampton Aviators in the other semifinal series, and who have been the league’s definition of success recently, reaching the finals three seasons in a row, the third team in the history of the league to accomplish that feat.
Game one of the series began Wednesday, with game two taking place this Thursday, July 29, at Veterans Memorial Field in Calverton at 4 p.m. If a third game is needed, it’ll be played the following day at Southampton High School at 4 p.m.
Southampton manager Rob Cafiero — who has been at the helm of all of the Breakers championships — said “you never know” regarding his team’s chances of coming through with another one this week. But he did say how much he likes this year’s crop of players.
“This is the first time since that  group where I couldn’t be happier to go to the championships with. They’ve been playing hard every day, all the kids get along, the team chemistry is so good,” he said. “In the summer time, you don’t know what kind of team you’re going to have, but not only is this a good group of guys, but they’re talented baseball players, too.”
Southampton starting pitcher Matt Jachec (Indiana State) shut down Sag Harbor in game one of the semifinal series on Saturday, hurling a complete game shutout with 11 strikeouts, allowing just two hits and two walks. The Breakers scored all three of their runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, the first coming off the bat of Will Gale (Seton Hall), who drove in Thomas Eitniear (Toledo).
It was Gale who came through in game two of the series as well. With the game knotted up at 4-4, and Eitniear on second base, Gale dropped down a bunt that the Sag Harbor third baseman fielded cleanly but threw wide of first, pulling the first baseman off the bag. Gale was safe at first and Eitniear scored for what was the eventual game-winning run.
Gale eventually came around to score in the inning, which also included a bases-clearing triple by Tyler Robinson that broke the game wide open.
Gale said he spoke to Cafiero just before his big at-bat and told him his plan was to swing if it was a first pitch fastball. If it wasn’t, he was going to take the pitch, then try and lay down a bunt.
“That’s exactly what happened, I bunted the second pitch, trying to get the base runner into a better position to score,” he said. “I put the ball in play and got a little lucky. If the throw was a little more on line, I probably would have been out. Either way it was a bad throw and Tommy was able to score from second. It worked out perfectly.”
The Whalers had the final at bats, though, and have shown throughout the season, and even in Sunday’s game, having been down, 4-1, before clawing their way back to tie it in the seventh, that they’re never really out of it. But Michael Ciminiello (Seton Hall) had other plans. After allowing a lead-off walk to D.J. Perron Jr. (UMass-Dartmouth), Ciminiello struck out the next three batters to end the game and clinch a spot in the HCBL Championship series for the Breakers.
Ciminiello had entered the game in relief in a tough spot, with Sag Harbor having the go-ahead run on second base in the bottom of the eighth and two outs. He struck out the next batter, one of Sag Harbor’s most potent bats in Ryan Mullahey (LIU), on five pitches.
Ciminiello got the win for his efforts, allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out nine in three and a third innings of relief work.
“When I came in I knew I had to get a big out there. I didn’t want to let any of that pressure get to me,” he explained. “I knew that if we get that out, the guys behind me would get some runs in, so I just went in with the mentality that I had to bulldog my way through it. And the big part was that I had trust in my catcher. I throw a curveball and a slider and our catcher Andrew Primm really knows how and when to utilize both of them in different situations, and I know he can block them very, very well.”
After striking out Mullahey in the eighth, Ciminiello said his teammates “only needed to get me one. They got me plenty. It was awesome. Tyler Robinson hit a nice triple, which was huge having those extra runs. It sort of takes all of the pressure off your shoulders and now you just go out and pitch.”
The players are excited for a shot at a championship.
“We’ve played them a couple of times. I know they’ve lost a couple of pitchers due to injury,” Gale said of the Tomcats. “They’re a good team, but I think we can come together as a team, play hard and hopefully come out with a few wins.”