One of the coaches of the Riverhead Waves 11-and-under baseball team, Andrew Ohlbaum, had a positive message for his players when they arrived at the field for a game this fall. It went something like this, “Guys, we already won being here with the COVID and everything.”
That positive reinforcement — along with undeniable talent — helped the Waves, who became winners of something else: the Town of Brookhaven Baseball League fall championship.
The second-seeded Waves followed up a 5-1 fall regular season with a pair of playoff victories Sunday. They walloped the Miller Place Rampage, 17-5, in a semifinal before topping the Sayville Lightning, 9-3, in the final. Both games were played at the Moriches Athletic Complex.
“They played like they wanted to win the championship,” manager Jason Perez said. “They played great.”
Matthew Zambriski was the starter in the final, striking out seven in his 81-pitch performance over four innings. Bennett Smith fanned four over the final two innings of the six-inning game.
Riverhead’s 17 runs in the semifinal was one shy of matching its season-high. Conor Dietz slugged a solo home run in the third inning and Zambriski pounded a three-run homer in the sixth. Dietz was the starting pitcher, giving up one run and striking out seven in 3 1/3 innings. Smith, Brayden Williamson and Brayden Miller handled the rest of the pitching.
“We were definitely rolling,” said Perez.
The team roster also included Jaxson Binkus, Colin Chattaway, R.J. Cote, Kyle Hubbard, T.J. Lopez, J.J. Perez, Jacob Ohlbaum and Chris Ramos. The coaching staff included Joe Smith and Frank Zambriski.
The Waves went 3-8 during their summer season, but that didn’t deter Jason Perez from having high hopes for this fall. How realistic were thoughts of a championship?
“I thought it was a real possibility,” he said. “A lot of our players are 2019 District 36 champions, so you have a lot of talent, but baseball is a cyclical sport. You’re not going to win every game.”