Baseball: Bellport, Riverhead battling for playoff spot
Rob Maccone had been through this drill before.
The Riverhead Blue Waves had fallen behind to the Bellport Clippers in the first inning, 1-0, on Monday.
“Guys, you’ve got them right where you want them,” the Riverhead coach told his team.
But not before the Blue Waves fell behind, 8-3, and not before Riverhead rallied for an improbable 11-10 victory in the Suffolk County League IV game to keep its baseball playoffs quest alive.
“It was amazing. I was shocked,” Maccone said. “It looked like we were out of the playoffs. The kids fought back. … We just lucked out in the end. We were down 8-3 and we got hit after hit after hit.”
The Blue Waves (9-9. 8-8) must win its final two games of the regular season against Bellport to clinch a postseason spot. Bellport (9-8, 9-7) needs to win one of the two games to get in. Both games will be played at the Moriches Complex on Wednesday and Thursday.
“We have a shot,” Maccone said. “It’s not going to be easy, especially because Bellport needs one to win. It’s going to be a dogfight.”
Riverhead has left little room for error.
“We backed ourselves in the corner,” Maccone said. “There’s a couple of games we should have won.”
Maccone mentioned losses to the Comsewogue Warriors, the West Babylon Eagles and the Half Hollow Hills West Colts.
“They kind of kick us in the butt right now,” he said. “It is what it is and the kids are having fun. They’re trying hard and we’ll see what happens.”
Maccone planned to use Matt Crohan on Wednesday, assuming the weather complies. If the Blue Waves are still alive, the coach said he would piece together pitchers for Thursday’s game.
“Everyone’s available but Matt,” he said. “He will [go] close to 80 to 100 pitches, so he will not be available, but everyone else is. If it’s for one out, it’s for one out. If it’s for two innings, it’s for two innings. We’ll figure it out.”
The Blue Waves were in a position to reach the playoffs thanks to their Monday heroics. Riverhead rallied for six runs in the bottom of the sixth inning — highlighted by Jon Tucci’s and Jordan Demchuk’s run-scoring triples — to grab a 9-8 advantage. But Bellport staged a rally of its own on Anthony Allegretti’s two-out, two-run triple in the seventh to take the lead.
With Tucci and Jamie Fox on base, Tucci hit the ball back to pitcher Ryan Flaherty, who overthrew first base. Both base runners came around to score, putting an exclamation point on a wild finish.
Maccone estimated Riverhead has battled back from deficits six times this season. “It tells me that they don’t give up and they don’t quit,” he said.
Of course, Maccone wouldn’t mind if the Blue Waves was not so dramatic.
“It’s a good thing that we come back, but it’s a little nerve-wracking,” he said. “You’re down and later in the game you find a way to win. The first four innings, my heart is in my throat.
“My guys have trouble in the first four innings. I don’t know why. Maybe they need to see the pitcher longer before they get comfortable. The first three innings are usually the roughest.”