Blue Waves maintain playoff pace

A bye week can be a blessing or a curse.

The Riverhead Blue Waves baseball team went into last week’s bye week having won just two out of three games against the West Babylon Eagles the week before. So the Blue Waves were raring to go on Tuesday with the start of a three-game Suffolk County League IV series with the Copiague Eagles.

But Mother Nature had other ideas. The opening game of the series, scheduled for Copiague, was postponed a day because of a wet field. The second game will be in Riverhead today, with the finale in Copiague (3-6, 3-6) tomorrow.

The Blue Waves (5-3, 3-3) have been led by their three starting pitchers, Greg Zilnicki (2-1, 1.30 earned run average), Steve Kimmelman (2-0, 3.10) and Mike Napoli (1-2, 3.65).

“Our pitching has been great,” Riverhead Coach Rob Maccone said. “Greg is our ace. He’s got great control. He has a good off-speed pitch and a good fastball. Steve throws hard and has a good change-up. Mike is the hardest thrower on our staff, and he has a good curve.”

Defensively, after a rough first week, Riverhead has settled down nicely.

“The first series, our defense cost us some runs that hurt us,” Maccone said. “But against West Babylon, we made a couple of errors, but it didn’t kill us. Without some of those errors, we could be 5 and 1 this season.”

While Maccone said his team’s bats have been hot and cold, Kimmelman (.500 batting average) and Jon Tucci (.425) have been hitting the ball well. Zilnicki and Nick Renck have each belted home runs.

One of the things Maccone stressed to his players in practice before the season started was the importance of doing “the little things right.” While the Blue Waves haven’t bunted much so far, Maccone likes the way they have hit and run, and stolen bases.

Maccone said his team is “a little behind where I thought we’d be at this point in the season.” Nonetheless, he believes the Blue Waves will make a run at the playoffs.

“We’ve got two tough series ahead with Half Hollow Hills West [5-4, 5-4] and Smithtown West [7-2, 7-2],” Maccone said. “But we also have Copiague and Deer Park [1-7, 0-6]. We need to go 7-5 [in league play]. We should be all right. This is certainly doable.”