WILDCATS 2, RED DEVILS 1 (13 innings)
As each opportunity to win the game came and went, the game dragging from one inning to another as the daylight began to fade, the tension and frustration in the Shoreham-Wading River dugout continued to grow.
For 11 innings Friday, the Wildcats and Center Moriches Red Devils played to a stalemate, neither team unable to push a run across the board as the League VII title hung in the balance.
As Shoreham senior Chelsea Hawks mowed through the Red Devils’ lineup, Center Moriches’ ace Kiley Nolan matched her in a less dominant manner, inducing well-placed pop-ups to record critical outs.
Even after the Red Devils finally scratched across a run in the 12th inning at Shoreham-Wading River High School, the game was far from over. The Wildcats answered with a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning to send the game into the 13th.
With the bases loaded and one out, it was senior Erin Whelan who finally put an end to it all. Whelan struck a well hit ball to center field as sophomore Alex Hutchins tagged up from third after the catch to race home with the game-winning run as her teammates mobbed her at home plate.
After nearly three hours and 400 total pitches, the Wildcats had themselves an epic 2-1 win and with it, the League VII championship.
“I got two games in one for my senior day,” Hawks said afterward, an ice bag tightly wrapped around her right arm.
Hawks was brilliant throughout, striking out a school-record 27 batters while throwing 194 pitches. She pitched four innings with a runner starting on second base because of the international tie-breaker rule, and still allowed only one run.
“I know her arm was killing her and she was tired, but she just doesn’t give up,” said Shoreham coach Christina Shiffman.
It took a monumental effort for the Wildcats (15-2, 14-1 League VII) to escape each jam in the top half of the inning with a runner starting on second. In the 11th the Wildcats got back-to-back outs at home plate as the Red Devils’ tried squeeze bunting a runner in from third.
“When that happens you just have to be ready for it,” Hawks said. “And we were ready for it.”
Center Moriches (12-3, 11-3 League VII) grabbed the lead in the 12th when cleanup hitter Erin Creen clubbed the first pitch she saw from Hawks to deep left field. The ball narrowly missed leaving the park and Alexa Andersen easily raced around from second to score.
Hawks, who struck out 20 in a seven-inning game earlier this season, buckled down to strike out the next three batters and keep the Wildcats within a run.
Jade Joannou started the 12th on second base for Shoreham and advanced to third on a groundout. Hailey Tilton brought her in with a single to center field off Nolan, who pitched all 13 innings for Center Moriches in the loss.
In the 13th the Wildcats got a sacrifice bunt from Hailey Wehr to start the inning, moving Hutchins to third. The Red Devils intentionally walked the next two batters to set up a force at every base.
But Whelan, one of only two seniors along with Hawks, delivered the sacrifice fly in the next at-bat.
Whelan’s approach at the plate was simple: “Just kill the ball,” she said.
“We needed to win,” she added. “It needed to be over.”