Hamilton squeezes home Winter for Aviators victory

By DN WRITING STAFF | August 4, 2022

Aviators’ Will Winter scores the go-ahead run on Sean Hamilton’s squeeze bunt. 

By Sean Reilly 

It’s been quite awhile since Sean Hamilton was asked to bunt. 

Hamilton was one of the top players on Long Island this spring at Rocky Point High School, and he’s headed to Hofstra in the fall.

He was also the third hitter in the lineup for the Eastend Aviators on Wednesday afternoon against the Northeast Pride 24 Scout at the 17/18U Blue Chip Prospects showcase at Diamond Nation. 

Yet when he came to the plate in the top of the seventh inning, with the score tied, runners on first and third and one out, he got the bunt sign from coach Jason Galbraith. 

“I haven’t done it in a game in a couple of years,” Hamilton said. “But it’s something we always work on. You’ve got to be ready. Any hitter in any part of the order has to be ready to sacrifice.” 

Hamilton got the job done. His bunt scored Will Winter from third base with the go-ahead run. The Aviators were able to reload the bases, and Devin Lane ripped a three-run double past third base and down the left field line for major insurance in what became an 8-4 comeback victory in Flemington.

Hamilton also pitched the final two innings to earn the win. After allowing a leadoff single to shortstop in the sixth, he struck out the next three batters. He then struck out the side on a variety of pitches in the seventh to close out the game and improve his team to 3-0 with one game remaining at the event.

The Aviators, who’ve outscored their opponents, 24-5, came back from a 4-0 deficit to beat the Northeast Pride 24 Scout (1-2). 

The Pride, with players from mostly upstate New York and Pennsylvania, scored an unearned run in the bottom of the first. It then added three more runs in the second, off an RBI groundout from Jake Holbert, single from Austin Droge and wild pitch. 

Errors hurt the Aviators in both of those innings, but the Long Island team settled down defensively afterward, and its offense began to chip away as the game moved along. 

The Aviators got a long RBI single off the left field fence by Luciano Lorefice in the fourth, and Winter hit a sacrifice fly to center in the fifth. Mike Schleider was hit by a pitch with one out in the sixth, and came around to score on a wild pitch.

Then came the game-deciding top of the seventh. 

The first batter struck out, and Danny Gagliano was able to reach on an infield error. With the top of the order now up, Winter hit an RBI double to right center to tie the score. 

Winter stole third and A.J. Walker drew a base on balls to put runners on the corners for Hamilton. And when he looked toward Galbraith in the third base coaches box, he got the sign to bunt. 

“He’s usually a three hitter and really not a bunter,” Galbraith said. “It was a 4-4 game, and rather than us ground into a double play or take a risk there, I’m going to trade an out for a run. It’s just A-B-C baseball. I get a tie and then I go up. It’s the little things. With these kids, it’s not about them, it’s about the team. If a kid can sacrifice himself to get a run in to elevate the team, that’s what we need to do.”

Justin Bono of the Aviators slides safely into third base against the Northeast Pride 24 Scout. 

The bunt was fielded by the pitcher, but Winter was able to score the go-ahead run after his dash toward the plate. 

“I was a little surprised, but in a tight game like that anything can happen, so I was ready for it,” Hamilton said.

After that, Schleider was safe on a fielder’s choice and Lorefice was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Lane. He ripped his three-run double to make it an 8-4 game.

The hit made pitching the bottom of the seventh a lot easier for Hamilton, who was throwing primarily fastballs while mixing in some curves and sliders.

“Will is always clutch,” Hamilton said. “He’s been solid the whole year. Whenever he’s up, I always expect a hit. When it’s 5-4, it makes it a little bit easier, and when it’s 8-4, it’s a lot easier and gives me more breathing room. But I trust my stuff and defense, so one run was enough.” 

And the Aviators have plenty of trust in Hamilton. 

“Sean’s a good pitcher with a bright future,” Galbraith said. “That was expected from him.”

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