SUFFOLK COUNTY CLASS AA TOURNAMENT | THUNDERBIRDS 10, BLUE WAVES 0
For the Riverhead High School baseball team, the thrill and excitement of qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in seven years met a jarring reality on Saturday. Reaching the postseason is one thing, but winning a playoff game is quite another.
Riverhead’s long-awaited return to the playoffs was a harsh one. The Blue Waves were blasted, 10-0, as Half Hollow Hills East played a virtually flawless qualifying-round game in the Suffolk County Class AA Tournament in Dix Hills. Hills East will next play either No. 7 Sachem East or No. 16 Bellport for the right to advance to the championship round.
The Blue Waves (12-9) faced a steep enough climb when they fell behind, 4-0, in the third inning, but when Hills East (14-7) tacked on five runs in the fifth for a 9-0 lead, one could sense the life slipping out of the game.
The teams weren’t separated by much in terms of record or seeding (Riverhead was the No. 13 seed and Hills East No. 10), but they sure were separated by a lot on the field.
Hills East had everything working — pitching, fielding, hitting. Brandon Bonomo tossed the three-hit shutout, with some sterling defense behind him. The Thunderbirds did not make an error. At the plate, they were just as impressive, banging out 13 hits.
Hills East’s designated hitter, Spencer Stein, was on, going 4 for 4, with a run-scoring single and a double. The leadoff hitter, Mike Palazzolo, had three singles with a run batted in and scored twice. (Palazzolo would have had four hits if not for a fine leaping grab by center fielder Joe Cunningham in the fourth.) Noah Kershner was the only Hills East batter with more than one RBI. He delivered a sacrifice fly and singled in another run.
Meanwhile, Bonomo (6-1) was masterful. Riverhead didn’t get a hit off the right-hander until Cody Weiss led off the fourth with a single. The only hits Bonomo allowed after that were a chopped infield single by Tanner Lindsay to lead off the fifth and a hard-hit single through the middle by John Wendt in the sixth.
Bonomo struck out seven and issued three walks.
Hills East’s glove work was stellar at times. In an unusual play, right fielder Matt Taylor threw Cody Dilworth out at first base after Dilworth struck a sharp one-bouncer his way. Third baseman Matt Forelli made a nice sprawling stop of a grounder hit by Cunningham before throwing him out. Forelli later made a similar play on a ball hit by Kenny Simco. Shortstop Mike Palazzolo fired a strong throw to first from deep in the hole to get Nick Herzog out.