When the Riverhead baseball team took the field for Senior Day in the spring of 2011, all but one player in the starting lineup was a senior. On the mound, the Blue Waves handed the ball to Matt Crohan, who happened to be the only sophomore on the varsity team that year.
Crohan, a left-hander with a versatile array of pitches, struck out six that day to earn his first varsity win. It was evident back then that Crohan had the potential to be a dominant pitcher for the Blue Waves and a player who could be throwing meaningful pitches beyond high school.
That dream became a reality when Crohan signed a National Letter of Intent this week to play baseball at Winthrop University, a Division I school in South Carolina.
Crohan was one of five Riverhead students to officially sign letters of intent during the early signing period, which ran Nov. 14-21.
Two students signed for lacrosse: Ryan Bitzer with Stony Brook and Sabina Dorr with St. Francis. Bree Ristau signed with the University of Massachusetts for rowing. And Shanice Allen signed with Pace University for basketball.
The students celebrated with brief ceremonies at the high school, where parents and coaches joined them as they signed on the dotted line.
Crohan, who also plays the outfield for Riverhead, can hit 92 mph on his fastball, coach Rob Maccone said.
“Over and above all his athletic abilities, Matt is a great kid and deserves all the recognition he has gotten and will get in the future,” Maccone said. “I’m really going to miss him.”
Crohan was an all-league player as a sophomore and junior. Last season he led the team in strikeouts and batted a team-high .500. He’s also played for a club team based in Dallas, Texas, and was selected to play on a Yankees and Phillies scout tryout team.
“I’m very excited about playing for Winthrop,” Crohan said. “I really like the coaching staff, the team, which is in a building state, and the college itself. And, the weather in South Carolina is awesome.”
Crohan plans to study business management or marketing.
Bitzer may better be known as a quarterback at this time of year, as he leads the Blue Waves into the Division II county championship this weekend. But his college sport is lacrosse and he’ll stick close to home to play for one of the rising programs in Division I.
“I really enjoy lacrosse,” said Bitzer, who’s also a standout basketball player. “It’s very physical and uses a combination of skills. I like that.”
An all-county midfielder last spring, Bitzer was the team MVP while leading the Blue Waves to one of their best seasons in years.
“Ryan is a very talented athlete,” said Riverhead coach Vic Guadagnino. “He does the job in the classroom, on the court and out on the field in multiple sports. Not only is he a great athlete, but he is a very special person who is a pleasure to coach.”
Bitzer plans to major in business.
Dorr has been a standout in the Riverhead lacrosse program since its inception when she was a seventh-grader. A midfielder/attack, Dorr was an all-division player last year and Brine National High School all-America selection.
She scored 30 goals with eight assists last year.
Dorr said St. Francis, while the smallest Division I school, is a perfect fit of her.
“When I visited campus, I immediately like the team, the coaches and the university,” she said.
St. Francis coach Gregg Gebhard is a Long Island native.
“Everyone at St. Francis is committed to giving athletes both a great playing experience and a great education,” Dorr said.
Dorr plans to enter the health sciences program with the hopes of becoming a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant.
Ristau, who competes with the East End Rowing Team, is the first Riverhead student to sign with a Division I team for rowing.
Last year at the Scholastic Nationals Ristau placed fourth in singles. She was second at the New York Championships. At UMass, Ristau will compete on a nationally ranked team.
“I feel like I’ll fit in there perfectly,” she said.
Ristau’s coach, Michelle Zaloom, described her as “intense, tough and fearless.”
“She’s just got the right proportions for a good rower,” Zaloom said. “She’s got the arms, legs, shoulders, lungs and stamina she needs. I think she’s got what it takes to excel at UMass and to eventually qualify to row in the Olympics.”
Ristau plans to major in business.
As part of the Blue Waves’ “big three” last year, Shanice Allen helped lead the girls basketball team on a thrilling ride to the state semifinals. Allen was a huge reason for the Blue Waves’ success as the team won the Long Island championship.
Allen has been an all-league player since eighth grade and is a three-time all-county player. During the county championship win against Hauppauge she surpassed 1,000 career points.
She was second-team all-Long Island.
“She is one of the top players I’ve ever had the pleasure of coaching,” said Riverhead coach David Spinella. “She has a quiet confidence and grace, leads by example and is never a problem.”
Allen plays AAU ball throughout the year and Spinella credited coach Greg Flynn for helping Allen gain exposure.
Allen said she’s excited about playing close to home.
“I’m really happy that my mom and dad will be able to come to my games,” she said. “They’ve always been there for me and it will be nice to have them so close.”
Allen plans to major in biology with a goal of becoming an anesthesiologist.