The hardest part of Scott Hackal’s job as the Riverhead High School boys bowling coach these days may be right before matches. That’s when he has to figure out what names to jot down in his five-bowler lineup.
As simple as that sounds, it’s not easy. Not with this team.
The problem — if you want to call it that — is that Riverhead, a team without standouts, has tremendous parity.
“It’s balanced,” Hackal said. “Everybody’s the same.”
Thus, the difficulty trying to figure out the lineup, which changes from day to day, even game to game.
“When you think you got it, you don’t,” said Hackal.
Of the close to 20 bowlers he has to choose from, Hackal brings nine or 10 to matches. With only three seniors, it’s a young, up-and-coming team with bowlers whose games can rise and fall, making the selection process trickier still.
As sophomore Sean Maki sees it, though, it’s not a bad situation for the Blue Waves.
“It’s because competition’s fun,” he said. “We’re always competing, trying to be the best. It’s interesting because the scores fluctuate every day.”
So, on Monday, Hackal went with this starting five in Game 1 against visiting Comsewogue: Casey Cawley, Kuba Koziol, Lukasz Karwowski, Maki and Yash Patel. In the next game, he inserted Connor Cuccia, Billy Wagner and Roman Smith into the match. Then, in Game 3, he reinserted Koziol and Patel.
All in all, it wasn’t bad maneuvering by the coach because Riverhead, which had entered the Suffolk County League IV match in sixth place among eight teams with 101 points and a 738 team average, broke 800 in two of the games.
Comsewogue coach John Romero didn’t have to do any lineup juggling, not with the team he has. For the most part, he stuck with the fivesome of Vance Sanabria, Anthony Manetta, Joshua Rivera, Alex Smargiassi and Zach Weller. The only alteration Romero made came when he substituted Chris Rivoli for Manetta in the sixth frame of the third game.
Romero had no need to tinker much, though, not with a 668 three-game series from Weller in Comsewogue’s 29-4 win at The All Star in Riverhead. Comsewogue, which before the match sat a notch above Riverhead in the standings with 48 more points, took the total wood, 2,901-2,424.
Weller, a senior who has rolled three perfect games in his life (twice for the high school team), was a model of consistency, opening his day with four straight strikes. He registered scores of 225, 233 and 210, using 21 strikes and eight spares to help his cause. Weller, who fell six pins shy of equaling his season-high series, raised his average to 216.
The high game of the match, however, belonged to Smargiassi, a junior whose season-high 258 in the second game served as the foundation for a 640 series. He had 17 strikes and made 14 spares.
Sanabria posted a 568 series and Rivera added a 529.
At the start of the day, Riverhead had eight bowlers with averages between 144 and Cawley’s team-leading 159.
Maki, a sophomore, opened with a career-high 215 game en route to a 538 series. Cawley had a 502 series. They had 13 strikes each.
Wagner threw a season-high 205 in the second game.
Comsewogue took the first two games, 1,038-818 and 987-797. In the third game, the Warriors held a 736-631 lead entering the 10th frame before winning, 876-809.
“I think we bowled really well because we usually don’t hit 800,” Cawley, a sophomore, said. “It’s good that it’s a young team. We’ll grow together.”
The All Star is the new 22-lane home for the Blue Waves, who had previously played at nearby Wildwood Lanes for years. While Hackal believes his team may have lost the home-alley advantage it enjoyed on the drier lanes at Wildwood that opposing teams sometimes struggled with, there is a flip side to that coin. Maki believes it prepares the Blue Waves for the type of conditions they face at other alleys.
It may be a while before Hackal’s lineup writes itself, but he can’t complain about the progress he has already seen since the season started.
“We’re getting better every week,” he said. “Every game we’re getting better. In two years we’ll be there.”
Photo caption: Riverhead has a young team with only three seniors — from left, Roman Smith, Josh Caskie and Yash Patel. (Credit: Bob Liepa)