East Rockaway keeps playoff hopes alive


An anticipated breakout may be brewing at East Rockaway, whose baseball team won its first league series last week, coming two runs away from a chance at a sweep as it took the first two of a three-game set against Nassau Conference B rival West Hempstead.

The Rocks erupted for 20 runs backing solid starts by hurlers Jack Sauer and Edwin Abreu Lopez, both of whom fanned five and helped their causes at the plate in a pair of complete-game victories – the former allowing no earned runs in a 7-3 home win against the Rams Aprill 22.

Senior righthander Sauer had three RBIs to lead the Rocks in the series-opening win that ended a four-game skid, while catcher Connor O’Hagan doubled, driving in two, and shortstop Antonio Buzzetta tripled and drove in a run.

Abreu Lopez went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and Thomas Foster had a pair of hits and two RBIs as East Rockaway rolled 13-3 April 24, taking a 2-0 series lead at West Hempstead. Joseph Ventura helped account for four of the Rocks’ baker’s dozen runs in the romp, knocking in one and scoring three in a 2-for-2 day at the plate.

The series-starting offensive outburst marked East Rockaway’s greatest this season in a two-game span. The Rocks also eclipsed their highest output in a single game, set April 3 in a 12-5 win at Malverne.

“You could see it in our swings. Our bats have just gotten better in the last week or so,” said Rocks coach James Hickey, whose team – which fell 9-7 to the Rams at home in the series finale – heads into the regular season’s final week with a two-game edge on West Hempstead for the fourth and final postseason spot in Conference B.

“Guys are focused and locked in,” Hickey said. “They know they have to earn a playoff spot to extend the season. They’re getting better every single day. Now we’re just starting to get on a little streak heading into the last week.”

Making the most of its 12-man roster, East Rockaway (4-11, 3-8 Conference B) has dropped hints this season a breakthrough might be in the cards. In the Rocks’ first league series, Foster slammed the door on a late rally by current co-league leader Wheatley, striking out the last Wildcats batter with bases loaded to earn the win, 7-6, for East Rockaway.

More recently, the Rocks punched up at co-league leader Oyster Bay, falling just short in two games to the Baymen, 5-4 and 6-4, in mid-April.

“I think it showed what the potential could be,” Hickey said. “Hanging with teams a lot bigger than us in school size, very competitive teams. It showed how close we were.”

In addition to contributions from the stars of his team’s series victory last week, Hickey cites solid showings this season from freshman second baseman Mike Tizio and senior reliever Kyle Pollackov as top reasons the Rocks have stayed in the postseason hunt.

“We’re in the mix,” Hickey said. “We played a tough schedule and were in every game. The guys are excited to keep improving and keep the season going.”