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Baseball: Riverhead’s run in state tourney ends

Mike Mowdy was able to retain his sense of humor, even while being on the wrong end of a blowout. While his team of Riverhead 11-12-year-old baseball players were absorbing their worst loss of the summer, the coach turned to a nearby reporter and asked him, tongue in cheek, to look for the silver lining. (The score was 17-1 at the time in New City’s favor.)

Both laughed.

It might not be easy for Riverhead to find a silver lining in a 17-2 loss to New City, but the fact that it came in the New York State Little League All-Star Tournament was silver lining enough. Thursday’s defeat at the Anthony Amarosa Baseball Complex in the Bronx eliminated Riverhead from its first state tournament. The game was stopped after three innings in observance of a 15-run mercy rule.

The ride is over, but what a ride it was.

In winning their first District 36 and Section 4 East titles, Riverhead compiled a 10-0 record before dropping their two state tournament games (on Tuesday, Riverhead had lost to Massapequa Coast, 4-0).

“I feel like it’s an amazing experience,” said Riverhead leftfielder Luke Pilon, who along with his coaches and teammates took part in the opening ceremony earlier in the afternoon. “It’s just once in a lifetime experience that many kids don’t get to have.”

Riverhead could have done without the blowout, but that’s baseball.

It didn’t take New City bats long to heat up in the sweltering heat. New City, which is from Rockland County, cranked out 12 hits, including a grand slam and five RBIs by Robert Kramer and a three-run homer by Robert Proctor. Dylan Henshaw went 3-for-4 with three RBIs for New City, which blew the game open with an 11-run third.

Meanwhile, New City pitchers Anthony Costello and Brad Hauser held Riverhead to two hits, both in the first inning.

One of those Riverhead hits came off the bat of Mike Mowdy, the coach’s son, for a solo homer, cutting New City’s lead to 2-1. It was Mowdy’s second homer for the Riverhead All Stars after slugging 10 during the regular season.

“I did think it was going to be a good hitting day, but I thought it would be a little two-sided, you know,” said Coach Mowdy.

Henshaw doubled in a run and Kramer singled in another for an early 2-0 New City lead.

That lead expanded to 6-1 in the second. Henshaw shot an RBI single to leftfield before Proctor followed with his three-run blast to right.

A nightmarish third inning, however, sealed Riverhead’s fate. New City made 15 plate appearances and produced seven hits in that inning alone. They included Kramer’s dagger of a grand slam over the leftfield fence and a two-run triple by Sean Clinton.

“I didn’t expect them to come out and hit as they did,” said Pilon.

Aside from Mowdy’s homer, the only other hit Riverhead had was Connor Saville’s single immediately after it.

“I thought it was going to be a close game the way it started,” said Riverhead’s Mark Gajowski, who started the game in rightfield before pitching in relief. “We just fell apart.”

Coach Mowdy said: “I’ve been the hammer, but just as many times I’ve been the nail, so I know the feeling. I’ve been on both ends of this. We didn’t make some plays we usually make. We had a few walks. You add it all together, and also they had some big hits, too.”

No tears were seen when it was over, though, and for good reason. Riverhead had their greatest season ever in this age group and stirred up excitement with each win, followed by a loyal group of fans.

“It’s just an honor to have everybody behind us, all of Riverhead,” said Gajowski.

Coach Mowdy had praise for his players.

“They’re all just really nice kids,” he said. “They’re turning into fine young men. I foresee great things for every one of those kids. I think they are the epitome of youth baseball. I never see them get angry at the umpire. They’re always gracious in defeat, they’re humble in victory. They’re just great kids.

“I told them, the saddest thing, I wasn’t sad about the game, I was sad that this is the last time I get to coach them because it was a privilege to.”

He continued: “This was the time of our lives. They are the boys of summer. We ended up playing our last [regular-season] game June 14th. It’s now July 26th. Six weeks of extra baseball, 12 games. Our Little League season was 12 games. It’s been incredible. This was all bonus play and it was just a fantastic experience.”

Now how’s that for a silver lining?

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Photo caption: After receiving the ball for a forceout at second base, Riverhead’s Noah Dufour attempts a late throw to first in the first inning. (Credit: Bob Liepa)