03/25/14 7:48pm
03/25/2014 7:48 PM

Riverhead third baseman Kenny Simco fields a ground ball on a frigid afternoon Tuesday in the Blue Waves’ season opener. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

KINGSMEN 11, BLUE WAVES 4

By the middle of the fourth inning Tuesday, the music that accompanied brief intermissions between innings and at-bats ceased. On a wintry day in Riverhead, the festive vibes of opening day had already been swept away by that point.

A six-run third inning by Kings Park was enough to put a damper on the Blue Waves’ non-league opener. Kings Park scored the game’s first 11 runs and cruised to an 11-4 victory.  (more…)

03/19/14 6:00pm
03/19/2014 6:00 PM

Riverhead senior Cody Smith returns at catcher this season in his third year on varsity. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

For nearly a third of Riverhead’s games last season, towering lefty Matt Crohan mowed through opposing lineups with seemingly effortless ease. Crohan went on to become the first Riverhead baseball player to win the Carl Yastrzemski Award as the top player in the county.

Now a year later, with Crohan pitching in college at Winthrop University, the Blue Waves are left to rebuild their pitching rotation. In a season where nearly all their position players are returning, the Blue Waves’ biggest question mark centers around the pitching staff.  (more…)

04/02/13 9:05pm
04/02/2013 9:05 PM

DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | As scouts point their radar guns behind home plate, Riverhead senior Matt Crohan fires a pitch against Keith Gurciullo of Centereach Tuesday.

BLUE WAVES 4, COUGARS 0

Riverhead coach Rob Maccone stepped out of the dugout for a brief moment during the fifth inning Tuesday against Centereach. When he walked back toward the bench, the Riverhead fielders were already jogging back into the dugout.

“That was the inning?” Maccone said incredulously.

When senior Matt Crohan is on the mound, there’s always the chance an inning can end very quickly. In the fifth he struck out the side on 12 pitches, part of another dominant performance in front of a handful of scouts as the Blue Waves blanked the Cougars 4-0 in the first of a three-game League IV series.

In his second start of the season, Crohan fired off his second no-hitter while fanning 18 batters at Riverhead High School.

Including a no-hitter against East Islip March 27, Crohan has 33 strikeouts in 14 innings without giving up a hit.

DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Matt Crohan struck out 18 batters in Tuesday’s win, his second no-hitter of the season.

“I don’t even know if this has been done before at Riverhead,” Maccone said. “If it has, it hasn’t been in a really long time.”

Crohan overpowered Centereach (2-2) with his fastball on a chilly afternoon, mixing in an occasional curveball or change-up. But for the most part, all he needed to do was pound the strike zone and the Cougars were helpless to even make contact.

“You just got to go out there and play every team like they’re the Yankees,” Crohan said afterward as he held a rake by the third base bag.

Riverhead’s 6-foot-3 lefty struggled with his control at times and he finished with five walks on 123 pitches. The Cougars got two runners on in the fourth via walks before Cohan came back to get two strikeouts.

In the seventh he walked the first two batters and the Cougars loaded the bases with one out to bring the tying run to the plate. Once again, Crohan had an answer by striking out Joe Soutar and Mike Mongiori to end the game.

“I just had to finish more on everything,” Crohan said. “I wasn’t getting out enough. When it came down to runners on base all I have to worry about is my mechanics because I know Cody [Smith] is back there. He’s going to block everything for me.”

When the Cougars were at the plate, Riverhead’s fielders were mostly spectators. There was one sacrifice bunt to field in the fourth. And in the sixth third baseman John Wendt snagged a nasty hop on a grounder to throw out leadoff hitter Nick Dixon. Second baseman Kenny Simco scooped up a grounder to throw out the next runner for the only other out recorded in the field.

While the two no-hitters were an electrifying start to the season, Crohan said the only thing that mattered was that the game got the victory.

“If we had won 2-0, 2-1 or even a 7-6 game I would have been happy with that,” he said. “It doesn’t matter about the stats as long as you’re getting the Ws.”

The Blue Waves (2-2) grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second inning by playing some small ball, which isn’t necessarily their style, Maccone said.

“I just wanted to get on the board early,” Maccone said.

After two walks to lead off the inning, Brian Brenton laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners up. Bobby Dilworth followed with a perfectly executed squeeze bunt to bring home Crohan with the game’s first run.

The Blue Waves added another run in the third after a double play call was overturned. With the bases loaded Crohan grounded to short for what appeared to be a double play. But the relay throw to first took the first baseman off the bag. The home plate umpire overruled the call after the umpire in the field asked for help.

The Blue Waves added two in the sixth, capped by an RBI single to right from shortstop Jesse Patriss.

Riverhead returns to the field Wednesday at Centereach for the second game of the series. They’ll hope the momentum from Tuesday’s dominant performance from Crohan can carry over.

“If you get a win early it puts the other team into a hole,” Crohan said. “They have to come back to try to win the series and they’re on their toes.”

joew@timesreview.com

03/25/13 1:30pm
03/25/2013 1:30 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead senior pitcher Matt Crohan has drawn attention with his strong left arm.

His team a year older and a year wiser, Riverhead High School baseball coach Rob Maccone hopes the experience his returnees accrued will boost the Blue Waves into the playoffs.

Riverhead (8-12) missed the postseason by three games last year.

“The experience they got last year, that’s a big plus,” Maccone said. “We’re a year older, a year stronger. We’ll be so much stronger. We should be a playoff team.”

Part of the optimism comes from Riverhead’s pride and joy: senior left-handed pitcher and outfielder Matt Crohan. Crohan, who is already committed to attend Winthrop University (S.C.) this fall, led the Blue Waves with a .500 batting average and in runs batted in last year, but Winthrop was more impressed with his arm. He throws in the 88- to 92-miles-per-hour range.

“We’ll have a bunch of Major League Baseball scouts,” Maccone said. “He’s the real deal.

“He’s such a great kid, got a great temperament. You just can’t beat that kind of kid. I’ve got one more year so I’m going to enjoy every moment of that.”

Crohan’s supporting cast also gives Maccone cause to smile.

Junior shortstop Jesse Patriss, coming off an all-league season while batting .350 and fielding his position well, gives the Blue Waves some strength up the middle. “He’s going to set the table for our three-four-five guys,” Maccone said.

Also helping are junior outfielder Brian Brenton, sophomore third baseman John Wendt, junior second baseman/catcher Cody Smith, right-handed pitcher Joe Napoli, who can play third base and the outfield as well, and senior catcher Kyle Trypuc.

Maccone said Trypuc has a good arm and blocks the ball well.

“As long as you can receive or block pitches at the high school level, I don’t care if you can’t run or hit,” said Maccone.

Also expected to help are two juniors promoted from last year’s junior varsity team, right-handed pitcher and first baseman Josh Brewster and left-hander and first baseman Ryan Gaffney.

Maccone is encouraged that he has more pitching depth, especially in the bullpen. Last year, he was forced to bring in field players cold from the field or after throwing on the sidelines between innings. Now, he’s got relief pitchers who will be properly warmed up.

“If a pitcher is struggling, instead of pushing him through the inning, we have someone on the bench,” he said. “It’s huge.”

Due to some realignment, League III champion East Islip was dropped to League IV. Maccone and the Blue Waves will have an opportunity to test their mettle soon enough as they open a three-game series and the season at East Islip on Monday.

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Bishop McGann-Mercy's Marco Pascale playing catch during the team's indoor practice on Tuesday.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Bishop McGann-Mercy’s Marco Pascale playing catch during the team’s indoor practice on Tuesday.

With so many starters graduated from last year’s 6-13 team, Bishop McGann-Mercy coach Ed Meier realizes this season will present plenty of unique hurdles.

“We’re younger this year,” he said. “It’s going to be a challenge. It doesn’t mean we’re not going to be good or successful.”

The other challenge is that McGann-Mercy has dropped down to Class C and will be only one of two in its class in League VIII along with Port Jefferson.

“That’s a little different for us, playing teams that are not in our class,” Meier said.

Much will be expected of senior first baseman Cristian Lynch, who is expected to be in the middle of the order, driving in runs and holding the line as a left-handed starting pitcher.

He will be joined by senior catcher Tony Mercuri, who should bat fifth, and sophomore shortstop Marco Pascale, who is expected to hit third after a good pre-season. Senior Ray Ellis and junior Pat Marelli are also expected to shore up the pitching staff.

Meier said he is looking forward to the challenge.

“It’s going to be fun,” he said. “The group that I had has moved on. I had them since they were freshmen.”

Now the new generation is ready to prove itself.

“We have a lot more energy,” Meier said. “Since it’s a new group, you look at it at a new angle and with more passion. You look forward to the younger guys improving, picking up the material and growing. This is a good coachable group. They’re hungry to learn. They know this is their shot. It makes it fun to go out there.”

Meier will find out soon enough as the Monarchs will start their season hosting Center Moriches on Monday.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Tyler Osik of Shoreham-Wading River receiving a throw at third base during practice.

They don’t rebuild at Shoreham Wading-River, they reload. The Wildcats’ storied baseball program has reached the playoffs a Suffolk County-record 27 times and looking at this year’s talent, No. 28 certainly would not be out of the question.

“We’ve had great kids,” coach Sal Mignano said. “They want to work hard to maintain the tradition. That’s extra motivation to them as well.”

Shoreham-Wading River (20-6) is coming off back-to-back county championship seasons, losing to Plainedge, 3-1, in 11 innings in last year’s Long Island Class A final.

“We had a pretty good run the last two years,” Mignano said. “We hope to be in the mix again this year.”

Mignano has good reasons to be optimistic. Of his top eight returning players, six are juniors.

The best of the bunch is junior first baseman/shortstop Nick Bottari, the first eighth-grader to play on a Mignano team in his 37 years as coach. Bottari, who has verbally committed to the University of Miami, has put his mark on many of the school’s baseball records. Bottari is batting .448 with an on-base percentage of .518. He also has clubbed 12 home runs and batted in an incredible 88 runs in only 225 at-bats.

“He is one off the premier players in the Northeast,” Mignano said.

But Shoreham-Wading River is far from a one-man show.

Junior third baseman Tyler Osik is the son of Keith Osik, a former Shoreham-Wading River player himself who enjoyed a 10-year career in Major League Baseball. Mignano has coached father and son.

“He’s got a lot of great attributes from his dad,” Mignano said. “When you grow up around baseball, a lot of that has rubbed off. If Tyler gets anything from his dad, it’s a plus.”

Mignano has the core of another very good team. There’s senior outfielder Drew Sterruzzi, who rapped the RBI single that boosted the Wildcats to the country title. There’s junior catcher Jack Massa, whom Mignano called “the glue to our pitching staff,” thanks to being “an outstanding defensive catcher [with a] strong throwing arm.”

Junior second baseman Kyle Pendergast, who has great speed, is a candidate for the lead-off spot. Other players that Mignano is counting on are junior outfielder/right-handed pitcher Chris Moran, junior Keven Timentel, a hard-throwing right-hander, and senior first baseman/outfielder Sean Logan.

The Wildcats, who will play in League VII, will play their season opener at Mount Sinai on Monday.