BLUE WAVES 11, EAGLES 3
The forecast in Orlando, Fla. next week calls for temperatures in the mid to high 70s with plenty of sunshine. It couldn’t have been any further from the conditions Riverhead faced Thursday in their League IV opener.
Three days before boarding a plane for Florida and a week of scrimmages, the Blue Waves had to persevere through one game in winter-like conditions. On a bone-chilling afternoon with snow flakes drifting from the sky, the Blue Waves kicked off their season win an 11-3 victory over visiting West Babylon.
“This is my 13th year and this is the worst day ever,” said Riverhead coach Bob Fox.
A come-from-behind victory went a long way toward making up for it.
The chilly weather wasn’t the only adversity facing the Blue Waves going into the game. They were without starting pitcher Amanda Graziano, a senior who’s dealing with tendinitis in her elbow.
Riverhead’s No. 2 pitcher, Stephanie Falisi, received the start, but she had just gotten back recently from missing nearly a week with an illness. So Fox planned to limit her to around 50 pitches and then turn to sophomore Joscelin Morrow, the younger sister of former standout Julia Morrow (’10), who pitches for the University of Tampa.
Morrow made the most of her first varsity outing on the mound, pitching four innings in relief to earn the win. She gave up one run on two hits with four walks.
“I told her yesterday that we had to have somebody pitch,” Fox said. “It worked out great.”
The Blue Waves trailed 3-2 before a nine-run fifth inning blew the game open.
It was another sophomore who fueled the offense. Danielle Napoli, in her first varsity start, batted 4-for-5 in the leadoff spot. When she stepped to the plate in fifth inning, the Blue Waves led 4-3. A wild pitch brought in another run before Napoli belted a triple to right-center to score two more runs.
And just like that, the Blue Waves had a 7-3 lead.
“She plays on my summer team and she’s my leadoff batter,” Fox said. “She’s just a phenomenal player.”
Napoli singled in her first three at-bats before finally making an out in the seventh inning.
Having Napoli at the top of the lineup could be a huge boost for a team that already returns strong hitters in seniors Megan Weiss and Alex McKillop.
“She’s going to be really, really good,” Fox said of Napoli before correcting himself. “She is really, really good.”
McKillop had a strong all-around game. She was 3-for-5 with a double and was sharp in the field at shortstop.
The game turned in the fifth inning after West Babylon pitcher Brianna Ortiz began struggling with her control. She walked four of the first five batters she faced, allowing the Blue Waves to tie the game at 3.
By the time the inning ended, 15 batters had come to the plate. The Blue Waves only had four hits, but the walks, plus a hit-by-pitch, were enough to propel them to a huge inning.
“We tell them, take, take,” Fox said. “I hate doing that but [the pitcher's] struggling. You don’t want to swing at a pitch and pop it up and then we’re out of the inning.”
The Blue Waves fell behind 2-0 in the third but bounced right back to tie the game in the bottom of the inning. McKillop blooped a ball into right with Napoli on second. Napoli got caught between third and home, but was able to score after the Eagles couldn’t execute the rundown.
McKillop later scored on a wild pitch.
West Babylon shortstop Brianna Scotto was 3-for-4 with a double and RBI. Riverhead second baseman Sara Tucci walked three times. Sarah Freeborn reached three times, with a single and two walks for the Blue Waves.
After returning from Florida the Blue Waves resume league play April 2 at Half Hollow Hills West.