Softball Preview: Blue Waves eye return to playoffs

03/25/2015 2:00 PM |
Riverhead sophomore Casey Plitt pitched nearly every inning last season for the Blue Waves. (Credit: Robert O'Rourk, file)

Riverhead sophomore Casey Plitt pitched nearly every inning last season for the Blue Waves. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, file)

Pitching and defense can carry any softball team a long way, especially in high school. At Riverhead, coach Jeff Doroski is confident the Blue Waves have both.

“I think one of our strengths last year was defense,” Doroski said. “I don’t see any letdown there. I think we will be as good defensively as we were last year.” 

The Blue Waves return a young but experienced pitcher in Casey Plitt, along with a balanced lineup that features some added bonuses this season. After finishing just shy of the playoffs a year ago, the Blue Waves appear poised to make a run for the postseason this year in Doroski’s second season.

Plitt, who threw 121 innings last year as a freshman, returns to anchor the Blue Waves (8-12 last year) in the circle. The Blue Waves will rely on her for nearly every inning this season.

Plitt throws a screwball and curveball as secondary pitches, which are key, Doroski said, because she’s not an overpowering pitcher.

“We expect a lot from her,” he said. “We know she’s going to keep us in games. We’re excited about what she’s going to be able to do in her sophomore year.”

In the field, all-county shortstop Dani Napoli returns for her senior season. Napoli is expected to contribute in all facets of the game, with a strong bat and excellent defense.

Senior Kayla Ormandy returns behind the plate, although she’s not yet 100 percent after undergoing surgery on her shoulder last year, Doroski said. Karla Vanston returns to play first base.

The Blue Waves got a boost with the return of two former players for their senior seasons: Maria Dillingham and Katie McKillop. Both are athletic kids who will hold down outfield positions — Dillingham in center and McKillop in left. Both girls ran track during the spring last year.

“They’ve come back and it seems like they haven’t really missed too much,” Doroski said.

Junior Jess Freeborn will see time at second base and in the outfield.

“I think we’re a more complete team,” Doroski said. “I don’t think we have to rely on one or two bats to get things done. I think we’ll be a little more balanced throughout the lineup.”

The poor weather has kept the Blue Waves indoors much of the first three weeks of the season and has already caused postponements. Doroski said he was hopeful the team could get its first regular-season game in Friday against Bay Shore.

The Blue Waves will face plenty of tough competition up in League II this year, including West Islip and Walt Whitman.

Shoreham-Wading River senior Caitlin Mirabell returns to anchor the Wildcats' lineup and play center field. (Credit: Garret Meade, file)

Shoreham-Wading River senior Caitlin Mirabell returns to anchor the Wildcats’ lineup and play center field. (Credit: Garret Meade, file)

A lot can change in a short time. In 2010, Amber O’Malley was a senior on the Sachem East softball team. Five years later, she’s now the head coach of the Shoreham-Wading River softball team.

“From when I was in high school, everything is so much different,” O’Malley said.

Last year O’Malley coached the middle school team at Shoreham. When the varsity position opened up this year, the 22-year-old O’Malley, who played softball and tennis at Dowling College, jumped at the chance.

“I got very lucky,” she said of the opportunity at Shoreham.

O’Malley takes over a program that went through a rare down year last season. The Wildcats will feature a mix of seniors and underclassmen this year.

The core of the team is the senior trio of Alex Hutchins, Caitlin Mirabell and Hailey Tilton.

Hutchins was thrown into the pitching circle last year after the Wildcats (7-13 last season) graduated a four-year starter in Chelsea Hawks. This season, she’ll play her regular position of shortstop.

“She’s a great shortstop,” O’Malley said.

Mirabell will anchor the outfield in center field and Tilton will play in left.

The Wildcats will turn to a freshman in the circle. Victoria Coman will get the nod and O’Malley said she has a good change-up that catches batters off guard.

Four eighth-graders were pulled up to varsity, so the Wildcats will rely on some youth to fill out the lineup.

Shoreham opens the league season April 9 at home against Miller Place.

McGann-Mercy senior Victoria Pace will split time in the circle this season. (Credit: Bill Landon, file)

McGann-Mercy senior Victoria Pace will split time in the circle this season. (Credit: Bill Landon, file)

A new coach takes over the Bishop McGann-Mercy softball team this season after the Monarchs advanced to the Class B playoffs a year ago. Rich Schaub, who spent nearly 20 years coaching at Seaford as well as working as its athletic director, takes over the program.

Schaub said he retired as an administrator and was looking to get back into coaching. When he saw the Mercy opening, he said it seemed like an ideal fit.

So far, Schaub has liked what he’s seen from the Monarchs.

“They’re very enthusiastic,” he said. “They work very hard. They’re very responsible. They give 100 percent each and every day.”

The Monarchs (9-11 last year) return a big core of last year’s playoff team, starting with both pitchers. Senior Victoria Pace and freshman Nicole Gravagna will both see time in the circle. Pace is a team captain who also can play the outfield. Gravagna also plays first base.

The two pitchers bring different styles to the circle, with Gravagna more of a power pitcher, Schaub said.

Ali Hulse will be on the receiving end of those pitches behind the plate. Schaub said Hulse is a standout defensive player with a good arm.

Claire Sullivan, a captain along with Pace, will play third base. Schaub said she has a good arm and speed and is a line-drive contact hitter.

Micaela Zebroski is another captain who will anchor the team up the middle at shortstop. She can hit for power, Schaub said. Jamie Lessard will play second base and she brings some pop to the lineup.

“I’d say we have, overall, good team speed, a good amount of depth, good pitching and a couple girls with power,” Schaub said. “If we can put it all together, which I think we will, I think we’ll have a very good season.”

The Monarchs were able to open their season Monday with a game at Babylon that ended in a 12-7 loss.

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