If it’s Tuesday, it must be time for yet another Aidan Crowley no-hitter.
That had been the pattern for much of April, but Crowley’s remarkable string of no-hitters has come to an end.
The high drama of Crowley bidding for a fourth successive no-hitter ended early Tuesday, after the game’s first batter rapped a hit off the Shoreham-Wading River High School pitcher. That didn’t mean there wasn’t plenty of drama to follow, though.
A fourth straight no-no wasn’t in the cards for Crowley, a junior righthander who had tossed no-hitters in his previous three starts, a Long Island record. But the Wildcats got to enjoy something else — a walk-off, two-run double by senior Mike Smith for a 6-5 Suffolk County League VII triumph over Miller Place at Moriches Athletic Complex.
Smith slotted his game-winning double to rightfield, bringing home D.J. Brown and Peter Minneci to end things in dramatic fashion in the bottom of the seventh inning. Both Brown and Minneci had opened the inning by drawing full-count walks. They were moved forward on Nick Bettenhauser’s sacrifice bunt before Smith stepped into the batter’s box.
“I tried to stay aggressive,” said Smith, who slammed the first pitch he saw, an outside fastball.
Smith came up big in a big situation.
“With Mike, that stuff doesn’t really get to him,” Crowley said. “Whether we’re up by 10 or losing by 10, it’s still just the same approach. He definitely does not let the pressure get to him.”
Crowley knows a thing or two about handling pressure, having fired no-hitters against Eastport/South Manor on April 2, Elwood/John Glenn on April 9 and Hauppauge on April 16.
With scouts among the interested observers, the question of whether Crowley had a fourth straight no-hitter in him was answered on the game’s second pitch when Gavin McAlonie smashed a hard bouncer that grazed Crowley’s glove before going past him for a hit. That kick-started a 3-for-3 game for McAlonie, who scored later in the inning when Tom Nealis knocked a single up the middle.
It also stopped Crowley’s string of consecutive hitless innings at 25.
“I don’t think it really affected me at all, just because I wasn’t expecting to throw a fourth no-hitter in a row,” Crowley said. “It just doesn’t happen. I figured, if it happens, cool but I really cared more about winning this game.”
Crowley allowed eight hits and five runs (four earned) without issuing a walk over six innings. He had six strikeouts as part of his 97-pitch performance before Blake Osness (2-0) handled a scoreless inning in relief for the win.
“I definitely didn’t have my best stuff,” Crowley said. “I left a lot up. My curveball was not sharp at all … It was just not my best.”
SWR coach Kevin Willi, a former pitcher himself, can relate. “Some days you don’t have your best stuff, and I think this was one of those days, but I think it showed his grit as a pitcher to come out there and keep us in the game the whole game,” said Willi.
For the season, Crowley is 4-0 and has allowed nine hits and 11 walks, with 46 strikeouts in 32 innings.
It was an appetizing pitching matchup, with Miller Place sending Nealis to the mound. The senior recorded nine strikeouts against four walks and four hits in five innings. Two of the four runs scored against him were earned.
Both starting pitchers also showed they can handle a bat, with two hits and two RBIs apiece.
Crowley banged a two-out, RBI single for a 3-2 SWR lead in the fourth.
But Miller Place (7-2, 3-1) retaliated with a three-run fifth. McAlonie crushed an RBI double off the fence in rightfield and both Nealis and Nolan White delivered run-scoring infield singles.
SWR (8-0, 4-0) pulled within 5-4 when Everett Wehr worked a bases-loaded walk with two outs in the fifth.
“We fight till the end,” said Smith.
“It was a great game,” said D.J. Brown, who took an outside 1-and-2 pitch for his first home run of the season, slicing it just inside the rightfield foul pole 300 feet away and tying the score at 1 in the first. “We didn’t play the best we could, but we hung in there and got it done at the end.”
So, there was no fourth straight no-hitter for Crowley, but the Wildcats can’t complain.
Willi said, “It would be crazy if he pitched a fourth one in a row but, you know, it worked out great, let’s put it that way.”
Photo caption: Mike Smith is swarmed by Shoreham-Wading River teammates after his two-run double won the game for the Wildcats. (Credit: George A. Faella)