BLUE WAVES 6, BULLDOGS 0
If there was a sense of optimism in the air around the Riverhead Blue Waves this spring, it started with pitching. Notably, starters Kenny Simco, John Wendt and Nick Herzog.
The trio gave the Blue Waves a reason to believe that a long playoff drought could come to an end. The Blue Waves had been on the outside of the postseason for the past six years, a streak the seniors were eager to see finished.
Over the past six weeks of the regular season, the pitching staff delivered on that promise. And on Tuesday, on the road at North Babylon, the Blue Waves could finally exhale after clinching their ninth League IV win of the year, assuring themselves a spot in the Class AA playoff bracket.
On Wednesday, the Blue Waves returned home a relaxed group and it showed on the field. The Blue Waves played a near flawless game, defeating North Babylon for the second straight day, 6-0, behind a 2-hit shutout from the right-handed Simco.
“It was an amazing feeling finally being a part of a [playoff] team,” said Simco, who’s in his third year on varsity. “This is a great team and I’m really proud of everybody.”
Thanks to a change in the playoff format, the Blue Waves had a playoff spot locked up with win No. 9, guaranteeing themselves a .500 league record. When the single-elimination bracket, which featured a best-of-three county championship, was changed to a double-elimination tournament several years ago, teams were required to finish one game above .500 to qualify.
This year, the format changed again. Now, each league champion qualifies for the championship round, comprised of the final eight teams. The remaining teams must win at least twice to advance into the championship round. The final four and championship rounds are then a best-of-three.
The Blue Waves will close out the league season Friday at North Babylon. They’ll play two non-league games Monday and Tuesday before preparing for the playoffs.
With three quality starters, Riverhead coach Rob Maccone said it will be a tough decision to determine a game-one starter.
While the Blue Waves are assured of a playoff spot, there’s still work to be done. By sweeping North Babylon, the Blue Waves (10-7) will likely keep themselves out of an out-bracket game.
In a single-elimination tournament to start, adding an extra game into the mix is never ideal.
Simco (3-1) pitched a gem against the Bulldogs, throwing 90 pitches and striking out six. His defense was sharp behind him.
The Blue Waves led 2-0 after three innings, scoring both runs on wild pitches. Herzog added another run in the fourth with a home run down the left-field line. Herzog went 2-for-3 on the day.
Catcher Cody Weiss was 2-for-3 as well with two singles and a walk.
The Blue Waves blew the game open with three more runs in the sixth inning.
North Babylon fell to 5-9 in league and 5-11 overall.