Whether a high school baseball team reaches the playoffs or not could come down to a couple of runs here or there. No team knows that better than Riverhead.
The Blue Waves missed out on the playoffs the last three years, but they have come so close. They went 9-11 in each of the past two years. Consider this: Sixteen of the team’s 22 losses over the past two years have been by two runs or less.
“We got to find a way to just get a couple of those close ones,” coach Rob Maccone said. “If we had won just three of those last year, we would have been in the playoffs.”
Last year Riverhead missed the playoffs by two games. On the final day of the regular season, the Blue Waves were swept by Bellport in a doubleheader, losing one game in 10 innings and the other in the final inning.
To help Riverhead pull out the close ones, the Blue Waves will count on Matt Crohan, an all-league junior who led the team with a batting average around .350 last year. Crohan is the team’s pitching ace, and can also play in the outfield.
Jesse Patriss, a sophomore shortstop, and Conor Carroll, a senior outfielder/pitcher, were starters last season.
Also returning are Carroll’s brother, first baseman/pitcher Tyler Carroll, third baseman/pitcher Mike Hinchy, pitcher/outfielder Tim Clement, pitcher/first baseman Jake Maccagli, second baseman Nick Prete and his brother, catcher/designated hitter Joe Prete.
Outfielder Brian Funfgeld, pitcher/outfielder Joe Napoli, catcher Kyle Trypuc and first baseman Ryan Schroeher are newcomers.
Four underclassmen — catcher/second baseman Cody Smith, pitcher/outfielder Josh Brewster, pitcher/outfielder Brian Brenton and pitcher/third baseman John Went — could stay with the varsity team or be assigned to the junior varsity team.
Crohan, Hinchy and Clement make up the starting pitching rotation. Napoli is expected to be a top reliever and occasional starter.
Maccone said the team has the most question marks it has had in his three years as coach. Riverhead lost its entire infield and two-thirds of its pitching staff from last year. The team graduated nine seniors, including seven starters. Maccone said he is looking for a fourth outfielder, and both the catching and second base positions are up in the air.
“We‘re going to be young, we’re going to make some mistakes, but overall I think we’re going to be O.K.,” Maccone said. “We’re probably going to start four or five underclassmen on a regular basis. On the plus side, the seniors, for the most part, got some playing time last year.”
Like all teams in Suffolk, Riverhead will need to adjust to the new BBCOR bats, which have less life in them and have a similar affect to wooden bats. The bats will undoubtedly bring down scores, make games quicker — and closer.
The Blue Waves know a thing or two about close games.