Baseball: Riverhead sophomore pitches like a senior on Senior Day

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Matt Crohan, the only non-senior starter for Riverhead on Senior Day, did not allow an earned run and gave up two hits in six innings for his first career win.

On Senior Day, the Riverhead Blue Waves put the ball in the hands of a sophomore and never regretted it.

Matt Crohan, the only non-senior starter for Riverhead on Friday, did not allow an earned run and gave up two hits in six innings as he picked up his first career win. It was a big one, too, a 6-1 defeat of the visiting Comsewogue Warriors that could have been seen as a virtual must win for the Blue Waves. In order to make it into the playoffs, Riverhead (7-7, 6-6 in Suffolk County League IV) must win four of its remaining six games, three each against the North Babylon Bulldogs and the Bellport Clippers.

“It was just an honor just to go out there and playing with the seniors for one of the last times, a really special day,” said Crohan, the only 10th-grader on Riverhead’s 17-player roster. “I felt like I had to go out there and get a win for them.”

Riverhead Coach Rob Maccone started all eight of his seniors, who escorted their parents onto the field during a pregame ceremony. They were joined in the starting lineup by Crohan (1-2), a left-hander who struck out six and walked two as part of an 83-pitch performance before being relieved by Gabe Rice.

“He’s been lights out all season,” Maccone said of Crohan. “He’s dominating and we know it and the kids know it, and the kids rally behind him. He hasn’t thrown a bad game yet this year.”

Unlike previous outings, Crohan received offensive support. Jordan Demchuk drove in three runs from a home run — his first of the season — and a double. Jon Tucci and James Porco added two hits apiece.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Jordan Demchuk, who later homered, brought Riverhead a 5-1 lead when he socked a two-run double to right-center field in the second inning.

The only hits Crohan allowed Comsewogue (2-12, 2-10) were a leadoff single by Vin Aprea in the second inning and a leadoff single that T. J. Riccio lined off Crohan. Crohan still kept his focus on that later hit and covered first base while the first baseman, Demchuk, fielded the ball and tossed it to him on a close play.

“He always gives a grade-A performance,” Demchuk said of Crohan. “We know we always have a chance to win when he’s out on the mound.”

Crohan makes good use of his pitching arsenal — a changeup, drop, cutter and fastball — in addition to pitching with the composure of a player beyond his years. That is why he has a place in the starting rotation along with Jamie Fox, Rice and Glenn Patriss.

Crohan looked good in the later innings, too. He struck out the side in order in the sixth, with all three batters looking at called third strikes.

“I thought he was one of the best we’ve seen, very good,” Comsewogue Coach Mike Bonura said. “He’s a sophomore and he’s only going to get better.”

Riverhead went into the three-game series against Comsewogue hoping for a sweep, but had to settle for two wins instead. A gut-wrenching 2-0 loss to the Warriors on Thursday spoiled their sweep plans.

On Friday, Crohan walked the game’s first batter, Nick Calamia, who later scored on an error.

But Riverhead bounced back immediately, scoring five runs in the first two innings. Tucci led off the bottom of the first by slugging a single; he later scored Riverhead’s first run on a throwing error. The Blue Waves went ahead later in the inning when Porco allowed himself to be caught in a rundown so that Demchuk could score from third base.

Riverhead’s three-run second saw Tucci leg out an infield single to bring in one run and Demchuk sock a double to center field to score another two for a 5-1 lead.

Then Demchuk led off Riverhead’s half of the fifth by clocking a home run over the right-field fence.

“We just played great,” Crohan said. “Everyone did the right thing and we come out with a W.”

While the playoff implications are considerable, so is any win on Senior Day.

“The seniors, man, this is what they live for,” Maccone said. “You can go 1 and 15, but if you win Senior Day, it’s a special moment.”

One of those seniors, Demchuk, regards it as one of the biggest games on the schedule.

“We’ve all been together since we were 12 years old,” he said of his fellow 12th-graders. “We played on the same fall ball and summer ball teams for years. … We all have a bond.”

They want to extend that bond into the postseason. The Blue Waves are bidding to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. What are their chances?

“If we play like we did today, we’ll make it,” Maccone said, “and if we play like we did yesterday and the day before, it’s going to be tough.”

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