Riverhead's Matt Crohan is dominant and hard-working
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Matt Crohan can't be rattled.
After pitching 19 innings of hitless ball, the Riverhead lefthander had just been tagged for his first hit of the season, a low line drive obscured by the sun that might have been caught earlier or later in the afternoon.
A large crowd hoping to witness history -- a third consecutive no-hitter, something that never has been done on Long Island -- groaned with disappointment and then cheered Crohan.
On the outside, he was unfazed by the moment; on the inside, he was taken aback by the attention.
"I knew it was going to happen at some point," Crohan said. "I really didn't feel any pressure. But the hit eliminates all the possibilities and all the chatter about it. Me and my team enjoyed it while it lasted."
The senior finished with a 10-0 win, his third straight shutout, and had 15 strikeouts in a two-hit performance. His 90-mph fastball and location of his curveball and changeup impressed major- league scouts who came to see him.
"This is a kid with a good breaking ball and a 90-mph fastball," said Sal Agostinelli, the international scouting director for the Philadelphia Phillies. "It's difficult for hitters to track his pitches because he hides the ball well.''
"He's getting more and more attention from the professional scouts," Riverhead coach Rob Maccone said. "Reps from the major-league organizations are calling the school for video of him for the draft and he's been filling out all the draft questionnaires. It's an exciting time for everyone."
Crohan, 6-2 and 195 pounds, is one of those diamonds uncovered on the East End of Long Island. He has thrown 21 consecutive scoreless innings, struck out 48, allowed two hits and walked 10.
His next start is Tuesday against visiting Rocky Point.
With another dominant performance completed, Crohan walked to the Copiague parking lot with his parents, Stephanie and Ed, and tucked himself in the back seat of the family car for the long ride east.
But he wasn't heading home to bask in his success. He was off to ensure that the success continues. Crohan had a scheduled workout with his personal trainer, Russ Taveras of Infiniti Performance in Bellport.
"We go after every game for a maintenance workout," Crohan said. "I've never felt better between starts. I'm coming back for each start, even in this brutal weather, and I feel great."
Crohan's work ethic and humble demeanor have served him well and should be an asset in the coming years when he plays in college or in the professional ranks.
"There are a few excellent pitchers on Long Island and Matt Crohan is certainly one of them," Agostinelli said. "Where he gets drafted depends on his signability. The college experience could enhance his draft value."
Crohan said he set his sights on a baseball future as early as 13 years old. He pointed to his two years with the PAL Rangers and coach Jon Zaturn as the key influence in his young career.
"Midway through my second year with Coach Z, I realized that we had something," Crohan said with a laugh. "He was so supportive and gave me big-time confidence . . . He builds character in young people, teaching them how to be men and how to act in public places like restaurants and hotels.''
Crohan needed that foundation as he traveled all over the country and to the Dominican Republic during the past four years. He was offered scholarships at 70 Division I schools before settling on Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., a suburb of Charlotte that also hosts the Chicago White Sox's Triple A Charlotte Knights.
"I really liked the coaching staff," Crohan said. "They're building the program and I want to be a part of something special."
"We always flew under the radar and never wanted to make a big deal out of what he was doing," Ed Crohan said. "We've followed a fairly well-thought-out plan.''
The pitcher laid out his goals for 2013. In order, he said he wants to lead Riverhead into the playoffs, be recognized as an All-Suffolk player, win the Gibson Award as Suffolk's best pitcher and hear his name called in the MLB amateur draft in June.
"He's in the home stretch now,'' Ed Crohan said. "There are two different directions right now and both are really good."