As far as farewells go — not to mention birthday celebrations — this was about as good as it gets.
The final baseball game for Riverhead Little League All Stars coach Mike Mowdy and many of his players at Stotzky Memorial Park in Riverhead was a memorable one.
The coach’s son, also named Mike Mowdy, flirted with a no-hitter entering the sixth and final inning. He also had 12 strikeouts and drove in three runs as Riverhead downed the East Hampton All Stars, 4-1, to win the District 36 championship for 11-12-year-olds Thursday evening. This is part of the tournament that leads to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
It is the second time Riverhead has won the district title for this age group, the first time being in 2008, said Coach Mowdy. He also said he was told by Riverhead Little League president Jeremy Savio that this is the first team in Riverhead history to win district titles both as a 9-10-year-old team (two years ago) and at the 11-12 level.
“It was probably the best birthday gift ever,” said Coach Mowdy, who also celebrated his 49th birthday.
No doubt, it was a big day for the Mowdy family.
Mike Mowdy the pitcher — and batter — was on top of his game, that’s for sure. Not only did he overpower with his fastball, but he was efficient, throwing 78 pitches. The righthander twice struck out the side and had eight strikeouts through three innings. He did not issue a walk, and hit one batter.
Offensively, Mowdy, batting second in the order, drove a two-run double to left-centerfield in the second inning for a 3-0 lead and made it 4-0 by slicing an RBI single to right in the fourth.
Not bad for a day’s work, huh Dad?
“He did alright,” the elder Mowdy said, tongue in cheek. “He did OK. We might keep him around.”
As for himself, the younger Mowdy was a player of few words afterward. What was his reaction?
“Happy,” he said.
Mowdy said his teammates had told him he had a no-hitter going before he headed out to the mound for the sixth inning. Did it affect him in any way?
“No,” he said.
Mowdy can be dominant. Early in the season he pitched a no-hitter with three walks, striking out 17 of 18 batters.
Mowdy retired the first batter he faced in the sixth on a groundout. Then Milo Tompkins spoiled the no-hit bid by belting a clean single to right and advancing to second base on an error. The next batter, Tyler Hansen, banged a single to drive him home and cost Mowdy the shutout.
“He was a good little pitcher, and he threw strikes,” East Hampton coach Kenny Dodge told reporters. “It wasn’t like he was mixing it up too much. He wasn’t throwing curveballs. He wasn’t changing speeds. He was throwing fastballs right down the middle and the kids just couldn’t catch up to it.”
Riverhead gave itself a 1-0 lead in the first, which K.J. Duff opened by bouncing a single through the left side. Two outs later, Noah Dufour delivered an RBI double.
Riverhead, coming off a 7-1 pasting of Moriches in the semifinals, brought its record to 7-0. The team is 21-1 over the last three years in district pool play.
East Hampton (6-2) was seeking a fourth district title.
Asked what it was like playing in a game with a no-hitter on the line, Dufour said, “It’s more nerve-wracking for the pitcher than it is for everyone else.”
Apparently, it wasn’t nerve-wracking for the pitcher.
“He surprised me,” Coach Mowdy said. “I think the only one who was nervous about this game was me. He actually put me at ease. When we were driving here, I was telling him that I was nervous, it was normal to feel nervous … And he’s telling me on the way here, ‘Dad, I’m not nervous at all.’ So, he actually put me at ease.”
Riverhead doesn’t have much time to dwell on this victory. Their next game will be Friday against West Islip at Otsego Park in Dix Hills as double-elimination play for the Section IV title begins.
But this was the final game at Stotzky for Coach Mowdy and many of his players, who had been together for years.
“This is my last game at Stotzky,” the coach said, adding, “I’ll smile every time I drive past this park.”
Photo caption: Mike Mowdy took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and recorded 12 strikeouts in Riverhead’s victory for the District 36 championship. (Credit: Bob Liepa)