Well, that was a short junior varsity baseball career. It lasted all of two games, and it is highly doubtful that Bryce Grathwohl will ever play another JV game in his life.
In Grathwohl’s two games with the Mattituck High School JV team, all coach Gene Rochler can remember is the freshman hitting home runs and doubles. When Rochler had seen enough, he told the varsity coach, Steve DeCaro, that Grathwohl was heading up to the big team and would be Mattituck’s third baseman for the next four years.
Grathwohl has been nicknamed “Thriller” because he wears one glove (like Michael Jackson did) when batting. The nickname could also be applied to the excitement he generates when he steps into the batter’s box. The ball seems to jump off his lively bat.
Grathwohl proved himself at the JV level and he is proving himself as a varsity player, hitting well over .400, according to DeCaro.
Batting in the No. 3 spot, Grathwohl showed what he can do with a bat in his hand Friday, producing three hits, driving in two runs and scoring three times in a 9-4 victory at Center Moriches High School.
“I’m surprised he’s actually hitting that well on the varsity level,” DeCaro said. “He hits to all fields with power.”
Grathwohl said: “I didn’t expect to be doing this well. I had to prove myself to this team and I feel like now I’m starting to do that.”
Grathwohl is so highly regarded that there has been talk of him one day being mentioned along with teammate Joe Tardif, last year’s New York State Class B player of the year, Steve Ascher, who is playing for the Tampa Bay Rays’ Double-A team, and Brett Moyer as among the best all-around players Mattituck has ever produced.
Asked about Grathwohl’s potential, senior Victor Proferes said, “He could definitely be a New York State player of the year in the near future.”
Grathwohl also pitches. He pitched in a scrimmage against Shoreham-Wading River. DeCaro said Grathwohl will make his varsity pitching debut next week.
How does Grathwohl like playing varsity ball?
“I love it,” he said. “There’s a lot of good mentors, too, like Joe Tardif and Michael Onufrak.”
Grathwohl wasn’t around to see Mattituck lift its first state baseball championship plaque last year, but he wants the Tuckers to duplicate the feat this year.
“I love this team,” he said. “This team is looking good. As long as we stay together and have a good mentality, we’ll be good.”
Mattituck (12-2, 10-2 Suffolk County League VIII) was good Friday, taking charge of the game with a five-run burst in the fifth inning to turn a 4-3 deficit into an 8-4 lead. Jon Dwyer turned on a 3-and-1 pitch for a double that scored Grathwohl, snapping a 4-4 tie. The inning also saw run-scoring singles by Grathwohl and Jon Lisowy, a bases-loaded walk by Joe Graeb and a sacrifice fly by Tardif.
Mattituck totaled 14 hits, including two apiece by Matt Heffernan, Dwyer and Proferes.
Proferes pitched four scoreless innings in relief of Brendan Kent, allowing only two hits with one walk and two strikeouts.
Leadoff hitter David Francini went 3 for 4 for Center Moriches (4-8, 4-8), which defeated the Tuckers the day before, 4-0. Mattituck had won the first game of the series, 5-1.
Friday’s result prevented Mattituck from suffering its first series loss since 2013 when it lost a set to Southampton, according to DeCaro.
DeCaro likes what he is seeing from Grathwohl, his freshman with a bright future. The coach said, “It makes me feel like sticking around for a couple of more years.”
Photo caption: Mattituck’s Bryce Grathwohl slides home for one of his three runs while Center Moriches catcher Anthony Maag looks for the ball. (Credit: Garret Meade)