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Top Sports Stories 2018: Magical journey for little leaguers

On a sunny Saturday morning in April, the Riverhead Little League celebrated its 66th opening day. Players from T-ball through the majors for both softball and baseball marched during a parade of teams at Stotzky Park in Riverhead.

It was the start of what turned out to be a season to remember for the boys who made up the all-star team that competed for a chance to advance to the famed Little League World Series.

The all-star team of 11- and 12-year-olds had many of the same players who had a deep run in the younger age group two years earlier. Now, with an experienced and talented group, the all-stars were ready to make their farthest run in the tournament in years.

In the District 36 semifinals, the team defeated Moriches, 7-1, to make their second straight appearance in the finals.

In mid-July, pitcher Mike Mowdy flirted with a no-hitter as Riverhead downed the East Hampton All Stars, 4-1, to win the District 36 championship. It was the second title in that age group for Riverhead and first since 2008. Mowdy struck out 12 and drove in three runs.

Riverhead then won in dramatic fashion in the Section 4 East championship, pulling out a wild 3-2 win against Plainview. The victory sent the team to the state tournament. The team trailed 2-0 entering the final inning before staging a rally as catcher David Raynor hit a walk-off, two-run single to win it.

The magical ride for Riverhead ultimately came to an end in late July in the state tournament. Riverhead had been 10-0 before dropping two games in the state tournament.

“I feel like it’s an amazing experience,” said Riverhead leftfielder Luke Pilon.

Photo caption: Coaches and teammates congratulate catcher David Raynor of Riverhead after his walk off hit in the Section 4 East Playoff victory over Plainview. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)