Zilnicki is sharp, but Riverhead’s defense isn’t

Riverhead Coach Bob Maccone said his team had its chances against Bellport.

It was a heartbreaking way to lose a game.

For five innings, the Riverhead Blue Waves baseball team was locked in a scoreless pitchers’ duel at Bellport High School on Tuesday afternoon. Riverhead hurler Greg Zilnicki and Bellport’s Clark Garrett matched zeros.

But after the Blue Waves finally broke through and scored a run in the top of the sixth inning when Glenn Patriss doubled and came in on Steve Kimmelman’s run-scoring single, the Riverhead defense suddenly unraveled. An infield error by the Blue Waves led to Bellport’s tying run in the sixth.

Then, after Riverhead squandered golden scoring chances in the seventh and eighth innings, sloppy fielding in the eighth by the Blue Waves’ infield and outfield lifted Bellport to a 2-1 victory. Justin Honce wound up scoring the winning run for Bellport after leading off with a walk. Dylan Kern followed with a single. Riverhead’s defense then threw the game away.

Honce had scored the tying run in the sixth inning when he stole home.

“This was a tough one to lose,” Riverhead Coach Rob Maccone said. “We had our chances. The kids were swinging the bats well. We had runners in scoring position. We just didn’t get the big hit when we needed it.”

The final two innings were particularly frustrating for Maccone and his Blue Waves (1-1, 0-1 in Suffolk County League IV). It was Bellport (1-1-1, 1-0) that took full advantage of all the little things to pull out the win.

Riverhead loaded the bases in the seventh with one out as Mike Napoli, Patriss and Nick Renck all rapped singles. But Bryan Palermo smacked into a double play to end the threat. The Blue Waves again put together a scoring threat in the eighth when Kimmelman was hit by a pitch and Zilnicki drew a base on balls with one out. But again, Riverhead failed to take advantage and score.

The Blue Waves’ defense came apart the last three innings. Riverhead wasted a good pitching performance by Zilnicki, who pitched seven-plus innings, gave up four hits, two unearned runs, walked four and struck out six.

Maccone called Bellport “a good, scrappy team that is getting better each and every year.” Still, he knew this was a game Riverhead could have won.

“Greg threw a lights-out game,” Maccone said. “The errors cost us. Greg kept them at bay. He was simply dominating. I feel bad for him. He pitched a good game and deserved to get the win.”