First-inning miscues prove costly for Riverhead

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead shortstop Jesse Patriss tries to apply the tag on Dean Cicciari, who got caught between first and second on a pickoff. The ball squirted out and Cicciari was ruled safe.


The blueprint for success this season for Riverhead has been built on strong pitching and defense. Behind ace Matt Crohan, the Blue Waves had given up 3.3 runs per game before Wednesday’s game against North Babylon.

For the first time on the season, the wheels came off for the Blue Waves and a bevy of errors cost them in a sloppy 19-10 loss. The beauty of baseball, though, is the slate is always cleaned the next day.

When the Blue Waves returned to their home field Thursday for the final game of the series, they hoped to put Wednesday’s game behind them.

Only the mistakes piled up again.

A four-error inning put the Blue Waves behind 3-0, and while they fought back, the Bulldogs pulled away in the seventh to win 9-5 and take two of three in the series.

“It just transfered over to today,” said Riverhead coach Scott Hackal, who replaced coach Rob Maccone in the second inning following an ejection. “It got better, but it’s hard when you’re playing like that. You lose all your confidence. Because we were playing good defense.”

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead first baseman Josh Brewster picked up two hits Thursday against the Bulldogs.

As rough as things were at the start, the Blue Waves were still within a run heading to the seventh inning, with their 2-3-4 hitters due up in the bottom half.

But the Bulldogs (6-9 League IV) piled on four runs in the inning, capped by a two-run double to right-center by Kenny Fils-Aime, who was gunned down trying to stretch it into a triple.

“If we could have gotten out of there, I think we would have had a good chance,” Hackal said. “We had a little momentum going.”

The Blue Waves did punch a run across in the seventh when Crohan doubled to left field with two out. But that was as far as the rally went.

The Blue Waves got a strong game on the mound from Ryan Gaffney. The left-hander made his first start of the season after the Blue Waves’ usual No. 3 starter, John Wendt, sprained his ankle during Wednesday’s game.

“It threw a wrench into everything,” Hackal said.

Gaffney pitched into the seventh and was replaced after giving up a leadoff double. Joe Napoli relieved Gaffney for the final three outs. Two out of the outs came at third base.

Joe Baker, the Bulldogs’ starting pitcher, laid down a bunt on a suicide squeeze that brought in a run and made it 6-4. The runner on second got caught coming around third, and tried to scramble back but could not.

Hackal said Gaffney threw a “great game.”

“He gave us a chance to win,” he said. “If that didn’t happen in the first inning, it may be a different story.”

The Blue Waves (7-7, 6-6 League IV) scored twice in the third to get back into the game. Josh Brewster singled to center with two out and the ball got past the North Babylon center fielder for a two-base error. That allowed both runs to score easily and Brewster advanced to third.

The Bulldogs added two runs in the fifth before the Blue Waves answered with a pair of their own in the bottom half. The Blue Waves benefitted from another North Babylon error in the inning. Brewster (2-for-3 with a walk) singled in a run that made it 5-3. Crohan (2-for-3 with a HBP) doubled to left to bring in another run.

Brewster and Crohan were the only Blue Waves with a multi-hit game.

In the second inning Gaffney nearly picked off a base runner who took off from first. But on the throw down to second from Brewster at first, the ball popped out of shortstop Jesse Patriss’ glove as he swung his hand up after the tag. The field umpire ruled the runner safe and Maccone came out of the dugout to argue that the drop came on the exchange from the glove to the hand.

Maccone took exception to a comment the umpire made about the Riverhead player not being able to catch the ball. Maccone was trying to back his players, but the escalating argument ended with an ejection.

Maccone would have to sit out the team’s next game per Section XI rules. He may look to appeal, however, Hackal said.

The Blue Waves will look to bounce back beginning Tuesday with the start of a series against Newfield. The Blue Waves need to win four of their final six games to make the playoffs.

[email protected]