CLASS A TOURNAMENT | WILDCATS 13, GOLDEN FLASHES 8
Shoreham-Wading River senior Hailey Tilton stood near the dugout amid a jubilant group of teammates when a spectator yelled for her attention.
“You played some game, kid!” the man said to her.
“Thank you!” she replied.
Rarely before have the Wildcats ever walked off the field in Sayville as exuberant as they were Friday. In a Class A Tournament game, the third-seeded Wildcats shocked the defending state runner-ups, 13-8, behind a six-run first inning.
Tilton played a huge role, hitting two doubles, driving in four runs and making several outstanding plays in left field.
For Tilton and her fellow seniors, a playoff win in Sayville was long overdue.
“This is like the best feeling ever,” Tilton said.
The Golden Flashes have been a constant nemesis in the postseason for the Wildcats. A large billboard behind home plate at Sayville’s field honors the team’s 2012 state championship, a constant reminder for any pitcher that steps into the circle just what kind of program she’s up against.
After Shoreham opened the playoffs with a win over Comsewogue, first-year coach Amber O’Malley said she was confident in her team going into Sayville (18-3). Still, even after racing out to a six-run lead, there was still an uneasy feeling.
“There was not a minute in that game that I was comfortable,” she said. “I’m aware of their talent levels.”
The Wildcats chased Sayville starter Leighann Gensch in the first inning after retiring only one batter. Gensch appeared under the weather and the Golden Flashes had to quickly turn to Maddie Tyson to try to keep the team in the game.
The Wildcats kept on coming though, scoring runs in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings. Shoreham pounded 10 hits in the game to advance to play Islip at home Tuesday in the next game of the double-elimination tournament. The Wildcats will play at least two more times, possibly even against Sayville again as soon as Wednesday if the Golden Flashes win their next game Tuesday against No. 1 Mount Sinai and Shoreham loses.
Two more wins would give Shoreham its first county title since 1997.
“It’s probably the best game I’ve ever experienced,” said senior Caitlin Mirabell. “I’m going to remember this forever.”
Mirabell helped add some insurance late in the game when she led off the sixth inning with a home run. On an 0-2 pitch, she launched the ball into right field. On a field with no fence, the ball got past Sayville’s right fielder, allowing Mirabell to circle the bases.
It was the first home run in her varsity career, she said.
“It took five years,” she said.
“We were all so happy for her,” Tilton added.
The Wildcats needed the insurance as the Golden Flashes came surging in the seventh inning. They scored four runs before the game finally ended on a double play. Tilton, in left field, raced in to catch a line drive and doubled a runner off second base to end the game.
It was the second double play of the game for the Wildcats, who were superb in the field.
Second baseman Nickey Ness made several tough plays, including snagging a liner in the second and doubling a runner off second.
In the first inning, Tilton gunned down a runner at home plate on a perfect throw to end the inning and keep the Golden Flashes at just one run.
Tilton said she could remember possibly one other time she threw out a runner at the plate.
“It feels good to do it now knowing this is such a big game,” she said.
Tilton’s strike to home plate came as no surprise to O’Malley.
“My left fielder has the best arm I’ve ever seen in my life,” she said. “Ever in my life. And the most accurate arm.”
The Wildcats relied on their defense all game just as they’ve done throughout the season. Shoreham freshman Victoria Coman earned the win, pitching all seven innings. She did not record a strikeout.
“She’s pitched every single game this season,” Tilton said. “I give her a lot of credit.”
The Wildcats got contributions at the plate from all over their lineup Friday in what was easily one of their best offensive outings of the season.
Catcher Melissa Marchese hit a bases-clearing triple in the first inning that made it 5-0. Mirabell was 2-for-4 with a walk and right fielder Kaitlynn McGivney was 2-for-4.