Riverhead All Stars continue World Series quest with walk-off win

Staring at an 8-0 deficit just two innings into the New York State Little League District 36 championship, most 12-year-olds would get pretty down on themselves and give up — but not this team. The 12-and-under Riverhead baseball all-star team slowly clawed their way back into the game, inning by inning and eventually prevailed East Hampton, 11-10 in walk-off fashion Saturday morning at Stotzky Park.

The tide started to turn in the top of the third when Tyler Chattaway took the mound. For the first time in the game, East Hampton was held scoreless as Chattaway retired the first three hitters he faced. Even though the lead was still 8, the one-two-three inning got the momentum going Riverhead’s way.

In the bottom of the third inning, Gage Halpin nuked a ball to left field that was just short of a home run but settled for a double. Chase Kwasna followed up with an RBI double and Crosby Palmeri knocked Kwansa in to score with a double of his own. But the big blow was an absolute missile off the bat of Grayson Gradischer that cleared the right field fence by a country mile. Four runs in the inning cut the deficit in half.

The hits kept coming from there and Chattaway was in command the rest of the way, allowing only two runs the rest of the game.

“He pitched four innings and he threw 45 pitches which, in Little League, is unreal,” Riverhead head coach Jason Kwasna said. “The fact that he came in with confidence and threw strikes made all the difference. Chattaway was a complete stud for us; we can’t say enough about him.”

Riverhead (7-0) wasn’t done doing damage. In the fourth, they scored another three runs behind a Chattaway RBI triple and a run scoring single from Jason Hubbard. The East Hampton lead shrunk to 9-7. The good vibes started to grow inside the Riverhead dugout. 

“I always had nothing but confidence in our team to be honest,” coach Kwasna said. “Even down 8-0, I still felt like we had a chance. We hit top to bottom in our lineup. Every one of these ball players are great. My job is really to just stay out of the way.”

East Hampton (5-1) managed to score another run in the fifth inning to make it 10-7 but it wasn’t enough to hold off the Riverhead bats. After an RBI single by Eddie Meier, Chattaway came up with runners on first and second and laced the pitch down the line to clear the bases with a stand-up triple, tying the game 10-10.

Chattaway then shut down East Hampton in the top of the sixth, giving the home side a chance to win the game in their final at-bat. With two outs on the board and a runner on second, Tye Marelli was at the plate in a high stakes situation. 

“Baseball’s funny sometimes,” Kwasna said. “The kid makes some errors at shortstop when he usually plays second base but he gets a chance to redeem himself at the plate when the game is on the line.”

Marelli took full advantage of the moment. A high fly ball off his bat with some heavy cutting spin landed just inside the foul line to score the winning run and unleash complete jubilation for Riverhead.

“The boys can play with anybody,” Kwasna said. “We just need to keep the mental errors at a minimum. We can do this. It’s up to me to not over-coach and just simply let them go.”

Riverhead now advances to the New York State Little League Sectional double-elimination tournament where they’ll play four other Long Island district winners for a spot in the states. The sectionals will start July 14. The opponent has yet to be determined.

“I just want to thank our coaches Ed Meier and Kevin Gradischer along with our scorekeeper Leslie Kwasna and all of our parents for their support,” Kwasna said. “Without the support of everyone, none of this is possible.”