KINGS PARK — They say we shouldn’t sweat the details.
But the Riverhead High School baseball coach, Rob Maccone, does just that. He knows those little things could mean the difference between winning and losing.
Take, for example, the Blue Waves’ 7-5 season-opening loss to the Kings Park Kingsmen on Tuesday.
Had the Blue Waves made a few plays — not walking the No. 9 hitter with two outs, allowing a catchable fly ball to drop later in the inning and getting picked off second base with two outs in a comeback attempt — Maccone believed Riverhead could have won the non-league game at Craig Biggio Field.
“Two outs and a runner on third and you make an error in the field, that hurts,” Maccone said. “It gave them a run. Walking the nine batter hurt. Those are fixable things. As long as the kids are learning.
“This is a non-league game. It’s the first game of the season. We’ve got 18 games to go. If they build off of this and they understand the mistakes and they fix it, we’re going to have a good season.”
Second baseman Jon Tucci agreed. “That’s what he emphasizes in practice to us — do the little things right,” he said. “Unfortunately, today we didn’t do them and it cost us the game.”
Maccone was heartened that Riverhead battled back from a 5-0 second-inning deficit. Afterwards he told the team: “You lost, 7-5. Down 5-0 in the second inning, you easily could have canned it and it could have been a 15-0 blowout.”
“They fought back,” Maccone told a reporter. “We’re right in the mix. We’re right there. I’m happy with that. We just got to shore up a couple of things here and there.”
The Kingsmen grabbed that five-run lead, scoring their runs after two outs. Pitcher Glenn Patriss walked the ninth batter, second baseman Pat Pucci, with two out.
“It definitely killed me for sure,” Patriss said. “If I got that guy out, it would be a whole new story. I’ve got to get the job done. I’ve got to get these guys out when I’m supposed to. I made a mistake. I threw out of the zone.”
Nick Bertowski and Shane Leary laced run-scoring singles and pitcher Nick Vernier added a two-run double. A fifth run scored when an outfielder allowed Henry Baker’s fly ball to drop.
Before each inning Maccone got the Blue Waves together to talk about what had transpired on the field, strategy and for some inspiration. He reminded them that the game was far from over.
The Blue Waves responded, adding two runs in the third on Gabe Rice’s run-scoring single and Tucci’s RBI double, although the latter was picked off second with two out.
Riverhead rallied for three runs to pull to within 6-5 in the top of the sixth on run-scoring singles by Rob Pisano (2 for 2 and a walk) and Patriss and a wild pitch. The Kingsmen scored an insurance run in the bottom of the inning.
The Blues had a potential rally squelched in the fourth. With Pisano and Matt Crohan aboard via walks with one out, Patriss hit a pitch off his left shin that he thought was a foul ball. A hobbling Patriss did not run to first, but the umpires allowed Kings Park to complete an inning-ending double play.
“It hit the ground,” Patriss said. “It hit right off my shin. It wasn’t enough obviously [to] roll around. I felt it. It hurt. That’s how the game goes. They missed it. Umpires are not perfect. They make mistakes. They make good calls. I’m not going to blame them for that.”
Maccone wished he had the play back.
“It should have been a foul ball,” he said. “It was a bad call. Umpires are human. They make mistakes, so you can’t get too bad about it. It did ruin an inning. … Umpires did not cost us the game. It hurt us, but that wasn’t the reason why we lost.”
The reason was those little mistakes, which are fixable before Riverhead visits West Babylon on Tuesday.
“I know for sure what we’re going to do,” Tucci said. “We’re going to work on some ground balls, pop flies, balls that should have been caught. We’re just going to repeat them.”
So the Blue Waves won’t repeat their mistakes.