GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO
Riverhead pitcher Julia Morrow tossed her third no-hitter this season on Friday against Bellport.
BELLPORT — The only time Riverhead Blue Waves pitcher Julia Morrow’s third-no hitter was in jeopardy came in the bottom of the fourth inning on Friday afternoon.
Bellport catcher Cat Basilicato lofted a shallow fly ball towards Kelly Zilnicki in left field. There was nothing to do but watch what looked like the Clippers’ first hit of the game against Morrow at Bellport High School.
“I was like, oh boy,” Morrow said. “Then she showed up, and I was like, yes.”
Zilnicki dove and snared the ball to preserve Morrow’s no-hitter. She stayed splayed out on the ground for a moment before limping slightly back to her position. Two batters later, Rebecca Allen hit a sharp grounder up the middle, but second baseman Colleen Dougherty backhanded it and threw Allen out to end the inning for Riverhead (15-3 overall, 14-3 in Suffolk County League IV). The game ended early because of the 12-run mercy rule.
The Blue Waves have already clinched a spot in the playoffs and one of their preseason goals, winning League IV, remains in sight.
Riverhead eliminated West Babylon on Tuesday afternoon with a 3-1 victory. Smithtown West fell from league title contention after falling to Half Hollow Hills West, 3-2, on Tuesday.
Riverhead must win one more game or Deer Park must lose one more game for the Blue Waves to clinch the league title outright. The two teams were scheduled to play each other at Deer Park yesterday.
In the fifth on Friday, Morrow struck out the first two batters before concluding her five-inning 12-0 shutout of Bellport (6-12, 5-12) with a popout.
“I feel really confident, but it’s not just being confident in myself,” Morrow said. “I have confidence in my teammates. They’re really good this year.”
So was Morrow, who struck out seven batters while throwing 65 pitches. The only blemishes on Morrow’s no-hitter were a walk and two errors, one of which she made. Earlier this year, Morrow struck out 19 against William Floyd and 18 against Smithtown West.
“Of course I want to strike people out so nobody gets on base,” Morrow said. “I like to strike people out.”
Her previous two no-hitters came against Copiague and Half Hollow Hills West last month.
“She’s been pitching excellent all year,” Riverhead Coach Bob Fox said.
Against Bellport, Morrow proved she could hit as well. She came to bat with Dougherty on second and two outs in the first inning. It seemed that Clippers pitcher Katie Cohen might have a chance to get out of the inning unscathed, but Morrow lined a 2-0 fastball down the left-field line for a run-scoring double. The next batter, Ali Barthalt, drove Morrow in with a single. Before she even set foot on the mound, Morrow had a 2-0 lead and more runs than she would ultimately end up needing in order to win.
Cohen settled down in the second, retiring the side on 13 pitches. But she ran into trouble again in the third, giving up consecutive singles to start the inning before having to face Morrow again. Cohen did not let Morrow beat her with a hit again, walking her on four straight pitches. That left it to Barthalt to drive in another run, lining a single into right field, scoring the first of Riverhead’s two third-inning runs.
That was just the beginning of the Blue Waves’ onslaught. They batted around in the fourth, sending nine batters to the plate, the first four of whom reached base safely. They were helped by two Bellport errors. The Clippers committed two more in the fifth. In those two innings, the Blue Waves sent 16 batters to the plate and scored eight runs.
The first five batters in the Riverhead lineup drove in runs, led by Barthalt’s four runs batted in. Emily Commins scored three runs and Beth Zilnicki and Yvonne McKay each scored two.
The Blue Waves stole six bases and their aggressiveness on the basepaths was evident from the start. With Morrow on second and two outs in the first, Barthalt singled to left field. As soon as the bat hit the ball, Fox was waving Morrow home. That decision did not change even though Christy Desmond had the ball in her glove as Morrow reached third base. Morrow kept going, and Desmond, with no cutoff man to throw to, held the ball. That split-second hesitation before throwing home gave Morrow all the time she needed as she managed to slide home safely under Basilicato’s tag.