The Riverhead baseball team hasn’t had a start to a season like this in a long time. It surely predated Rob Maccone’s ascension as the team’s coach in 2010.
As things stood Tuesday, Riverhead held a nice looking 5-1 record (overall and in Suffolk County League I) and sat in second place, right behind Patchogue-Medford (6-1, 6-1). Maccone sees that shiny 5-1 record, though, as more of a necessity than a luxury. “It’s where we need to be if we wanted a shot for the playoffs,” he said.
Maccone knows the toughest games are ahead. Patchogue-Medford, Longwood and Sachem East await.
“We did what we were supposed to do, but the heavy lifting is coming,” he said. “We’re five and one, but if we don’t take care of business in the next three weeks, we could be five and 10.”
Still, 5-1 and second place is a nice place to be at this stage.
Maccone said Riverhead needed to win the three-game William Floyd series and sweep the three-game set against Central Islip. That’s just what the Blue Waves did.
After a season-opening 8-7 loss to Floyd, Riverhead took the next two games against the Colonials, 7-4 and 3-1. And then the Blue Waves ran through Central Islip, 9-4, 14-0 and 11-1.
Asked if he saw this coming, junior third baseman/pitcher Aaron Miller replied: “No, I really didn’t. I feel like it came out of nowhere, but we’re all playing like as hard as we can and I’m really happy with it.”
A big boost has been five pitching arms belonging to Connor Levasseur, Mark Gajowski, Miller, Matt Caputo and Jackson Loper. “Those five guys keep us in almost anything,” said Maccone.
Miller, who missed the first two games of the season with a sprained ankle, had a 2-0 record with a 0.74 ERA entering Riverhead’s Senior Day Game Wednesday, a non-leaguer against Miller Place. Levasseur was 2-0 with a 2.43 ERA. Riverhead’s team ERA was 2.15.
And then there’s the offense. Riverhead’s typical batting order goes like this: Miller, Levasseur, Caputo, Terrence LeGrady, Loper, Luke Pilon, Mike Gaffney, Justin Mason and Patrick Rowland. Gajowski gets worked in there somewhere a couple of times a week.
“We have 10 sticks that we just find at-bats for,” said Maccone.
The bottom third of that order has been particularly productive, with Gaffney (.500, four RBIs), Mason (.308, six RBIs) and Rowland (.467, seven RBIs). “We haven’t had production from seven, eight and nine in a long time,” said Maccone. He added, “They’re hitting so well you want to move them up but, you know, why?”
Why tinker with something that’s working so well?
Miller (.357, four RBIs), Pilon (.350) and Caputo (.304, four RBIs) have also been in the .300 club. Riverhead’s team batting average was .295.
“Honestly, just amazing,” Miller said. “Everything just all around. We’ve been playing way better than we all thought.”
Gaffney, a senior and four-year varsity player, said “everyone’s just playing to their full potential. That’s why it’s working.”
Riverhead was hoping to win its sixth straight game Tuesday in a non-leaguer at Miller Place, but the game became a scrimmage because umpires weren’t available.
This sort of start has to be beneficial for Riverhead’s mindset.
“I think it’s huge with that stuff because they’re thinking playoffs,” Maccone said. “Now playoffs are a reality, so it puts them in a good mindset. You know, if we were at this point three and three or even four and two or two and four, I think going into the Patchogue series it would be like a doom and gloom.”
Riverhead is four league wins away from clinching a playoff berth, which may sound easier than it is. What are the Blue Waves’ chances?
“I think we’re gonna do it,” Miller said, a wide grin creasing his face. “I think we can.”