Defense lets Waves down against Bellport

The first and third games of Riverhead’s baseball series against Bellport were eerily the same.

The Blue Waves had the same crucial lapses on defense, opening the gates to give up enough unearned runs for the Clippers to beat them.

Two costly errors and an inability to drive home runners in scoring position led to a 5-3 loss for Riverhead at Bellport High School on Saturday morning. The result left Bellport 2-2-1 overall, 2-1 in Suffolk County League IV. Riverhead dropped to 1-2, 2-2.

The Blue Waves led, 3-0, in the top of the fourth inning, and were looking to blow the game open. There were runners on second and third and nobody out. But Riverhead was unable to score a run as Bellport’s winning pitcher, Justin Honce, set down the next three batters in order. Honce pitched a complete game, giving up five hits and recording nine strikeouts.

But even with the offense struggling to produce in run-scoring situations, Riverhead Coach Rob Maccone was confident his team could pull through with a victory.

“Our pitching has kept us in games,” Maccone said.

Riverhead pitcher Mike Napoli had not given up a run going into the bottom of the fourth inning. He gave up one earned run, but with two outs and runners on second and third, Napoli looked as if he had pitched his way out of a jam. He induced a ground ball to second baseman Jon Tucci, but Tucci’s throw to first went over Mike Hejmej’s head. Both runners came around to score, tying the score at 3.

“You expect errors to be made,” Maccone said. “Our errors are more at critical times.”

The situation virtually repeated itself in the fifth inning. Again there were runners on second and third with two outs. Again Napoli got what looked to be an inning-ending ground ball, this time from Bellport’s Dylan Kern. But third baseman Rob Pisano’s throw sailed past Hejmej, and two more runs scored, putting Bellport ahead, 5-3.

They will also have their memories of the fourth and fifth innings on Saturday, replays of the seventh and eighth innings of the teams’ first game of the season on April 6. Riverhead had its chances to score more than one run and take advantage of Greg Zilnicki’s pitching gem. Neither run he gave up in a 2-1 loss was earned. Bellport won the game in the eighth inning on a walk-off error. “Those innings have killed us,” Maccone said. “Hopefully we can cut down that inning and we’ll be fine.”

Maccone certainly has no complaints about his pitching staff, and on Monday night he was confident that the Blue Waves could start their three-game series against West Babylon on a good note. They did, scoring a 6-5 victory.

“Hopefully we’ll have a good week and get back on track,” Maccone said.