BASEBALL: Tucci’s first home run helps Riverhead win ugly

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead pitcher Gabe Rice entered the game in relief and allowed only one run over the final five innings.

It sure wasn’t pretty, but at this point in the high school baseball season the Riverhead Blue Waves cannot afford to be concerned with style points. Wins and losses are what count.

With every game precious in their pursuit of the playoffs, the Blue Waves must have breathed a collective sigh of relief Tuesday when the final out was recorded in the opener to their three-game series against the Comsewogue Warriors. Despite trailing by 7-2 and seeing their No. 1 pitcher pulled before the first out was recorded in the second inning, the Blue Waves salvaged an ugly win. Jon Tucci’s first home run of the season snapped an 8-8 tie and sent host Riverhead on the way to a 10-8 triumph that knocked Comsewogue out of playoff contention.

“It was not the way you thought it was going to happen, by any means, but, hey, a win’s a win, so I’ll take it,” said Riverhead Coach Rob Maccone.

Riverhead (6-6, 5-5 in Suffolk County League IV), which needs to win five of its eight remaining regular-season games in order to get into the playoffs, won with the aid of a 12-hit attack.

In a game in which both teams are hitting (Comsewogue had 11 hits) and both teams are making errors (three apiece), just about anything can happen.

“It was a wild game, the craziest game we’ve had this year,” said Riverhead left fielder Connor Carroll.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead second baseman Nick Prete tried to barehand this bouncing ball.

Trailing by 7-2 in the second inning, Riverhead recovered to go in front, 8-7, in the fifth by using some smart baseball. Carroll reached base when his ground ball scooted under the shortstop’s glove, allowing James Porco to score, tying it at 7-7. One out later, the Blue Waves traded an out for a run when Carroll purposefully became involved in a rundown. He wasn’t tagged out before his brother, Tyler Carroll, scored the go-ahead run from third.

Comsewogue (1-11, 1-9) used some small ball to even things up in the sixth. Clay Moosemueller led off with a bunt single. After him, Riley Shea delivered a sharp single and Vin Aprea walked to load the bases. Chris Friedl then hit into a fielder’s choice that brought home the equalizing run.

Tucci, the designated hitter who has been dealing with elbow trouble, led off the bottom of the sixth by driving a ball deep over the left-center-field fence. Maccone “makes us sprint [on home runs], but I knew it put us in the lead, so I had a little extra adrenaline,” said Tucci.

Maccone said: “I told him, ‘You need to get on.’ I didn’t tell him, ‘You need to hit a bomb,’ but, whatever, I’ll take it.”

Later that inning, Jordan Demchuk cracked a double, advanced to third base on a groundout and scored an insurance run on a wild pitch.

Gabe Rice, who relieved starter Jamie Fox in the second, retired three of four batters in the seventh to wrap up the win. After Riverhead’s disastrous second inning, when it gave up seven runs, Rice surrendered only one run the rest of the way.

“A lot of sloppiness,” Comsewogue Coach Mike Bonura said. “It’s just disappointing, very disappointing. It’s been a disappointing season. We’re young and we’re just making a lot of mistakes.”

The second game of the series will be at Comsewogue on Wednesday, with the third game back in Riverhead for Senior Day on Friday. Given Comsewogue’s struggles, Riverhead is contemplating a sweep, which would make its path to the playoffs easier.

“We needed this game,” Connor Carroll said. “This is a big series.”

One of the positives Riverhead could take from the game was its offensive production.

“We put the ball in play, we hit balls hard. That’s a big plus,” Maccone said. “We find ways to score runs, we find ways to get on base. We haven’t hit balls as hard as we did today. Today was the best offensive day that we’ve had.”

The Carroll family was responsible for four of Riverhead’s hits as Connor Carroll and Tyler Carroll banged out two hits apiece. Connor Carroll knocked in two runs. Demchuk and Porco also supplied two hits apiece for the Blue Waves.

Friedl and Pat Meyer drove in two runs each for Comsewogue.

Did the Blue Waves learn anything from this game?

“Even when we’re not playing our best baseball,” Connor Carroll said, “we can still pull out a win.”

Sounds like a playoff team.

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