04/27/13 3:56pm
04/27/2013 3:56 PM
ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead catcher Megan Weiss receiving a throw as Sydney Bernard scores for Deer Park on a close play at home plate.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead catcher Megan Weiss receiving a throw as Sydney Bernard scores for Deer Park on a close play at home plate.


Deer Park scored six runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to break open a close League IV softball game and went on to record an 8-3 victory over visiting Riverhead on Saturday morning.

Shortstop Sabrina Riley, who led off with a double and scored, sparked the Falcons with two hits while scoring three runs.

Deer Park (8-3, 8-3) solved Riverhead ace Amanda Graziano for six runs on five hits during the decisive fourth inning.

Sophomore first baseman Danni Napoli drove in two runs and scored the third for the Blue Waves (9-4, 8-4).

Riverhead returns to action at West Islip on Tuesday.

04/27/13 3:00pm

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead Little League players kicked off their 2013 season Saturday morning.

Nearly 500 Little League ballplayers helped dedicate the ballfields in Calverton Saturday morning that are now named after two fallen soldiers from Wading River.

It was a day to bring together families and honor two sons who gave their lives for America’s freedom. Georgia Gabrielsen began the dedication with a beautiful rendition of “God Bless America.”

The ballplayers, who make up 38 teams, paraded around ‘Field One’ with their coaches (dedicated to Army Sgt. Jonathan Keller) behind the Color Guards of the VFW and American Legion of Riverhead and the Boy Scouts.

[Related: Memory of two fallen soldiers to be honored at ballfield.]

Councilman George Gabrielsen, who worked hard for seven years to get the ballfields completed, spoke at the opening.

“I’m so proud to be here today for our veterans who have given so much to our country for our freedom. It is overwhelming for me to be at this historic event at our beautiful 62-acre Veterans Memorial Park.”

He added, looking over a sea of ballplayers wearing many colors, “You guys are so lucky to be the first to play on these fields.”

Supervisor Sean Walter said the fields are dedicated to Army Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Venetz Jr. and Sgt. Keller.

“Because of their sacrifices we stand here today on these fields. Every time you step on them you know this is sacred ground. Play your hearts out for these young men, for it is a memorial to them.”

After the fields were dedicated, the parents of the two fallen soldiers unveiled the signs bearing their names.

Linda Keller and Marion Venetz threw out the ceremonial first pitches on each field.

Sky dive instructor Patty Schneider of Sky Dive Long Island, landed perfectly in the outfield of ‘Field 2′, which is named after Sgt. Venetz. And finally a Wading River pumper truck sprayed the outfield of Sgt. Keller Field as some players ran out to catch the water spray.


04/09/13 8:46pm
04/09/2013 8:46 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Ali Hulse swung for two hits and two runs batted in for Bishop McGann-Mercy in its comeback win over Southold/Greenport.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Ali Hulse swung for two hits and two runs batted in for Bishop McGann-Mercy in its comeback win over Southold/Greenport.


For Southold/Greenport, an away game against Bishop McGann-Mercy has been something to look forward to. Stotzky Memorial Park, McGann-Mercy’s softball home in Riverhead, is one of the nicer venues on Southold/Greenport’s schedule.

For the Clippers, though, Stotzky Memorial Park is fast becoming a house of horrors.

McGann-Mercy, which trailed by as many as seven runs, turned in a four-run rally in the bottom of the seventh inning to triumph, 9-8, on Tuesday.

Ali Hulse’s bunt single brought in Victoria Pace for the tying run, and Shannon Willmott followed her home on the play as a result of a throwing error for the come-from-behind victory. It was McGann-Mercy’s first and only lead of the game.

“I can’t remember a time when we had a game like this in a while,” said Willmott.

Willmott was immediately reminded by a reporter of the last time these teams played at Stotzky, almost a year ago to the day. In last year’s game, two errors sandwiched around a Karlin McIntyre double in the bottom of the seventh enabled the Monarchs to salvage a thrilling 2-1 triumph.

Miscues (including six errors) by Southold/Greenport also contributed to this latest collapse.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Irene Raptopoulos of Southolod/Greenport watching the single she slapped to start the game.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Irene Raptopoulos of Southolod/Greenport watching the single she slapped to start the game.

Claire Sullivan started the winning rally for the Monarchs (3-1 overall, 3-1 League VIII) when she was hit by a pitch before later scoring on a groundout by Cassie Densieski. Katie Nolan, who had bounced a single through the infield, scored herself on a single by Pace, slicing Southold/Greenport’s lead to 8-7. After a Willmott single, Michaela Zebrowski turned in what might have been the at-bat of the game. Zebrowski fouled off six pitches from Courtney O’Sullivan before striking out. The third strike was dropped, however, and as a result of two errors on the play, the rally stayed alive as Hulse stepped up to the plate with one out.

Willmott said she liked games ending this way. “It keeps everyone in suspense,” she said. “It keeps everyone on their toes, and no one’s getting bored.”

Of course, the Clippers might have had a different opinion.

“I always tell the girls, ‘Don’t get comfortable’ ” with a lead, Southold/Greenport coach Lori Marra said. “I don’t think they did here. I can’t even put it on that. I think that both teams were making really great plays.”

The game started so promisingly for Southold/Greenport (0-2, 0-2), which put up six runs in the first inning and led, 7-0, after two.

“I think once it hit really everyone hard that we were losing 7 to 0, it finally kicked in and we did what we had to do,” said Willmott.

McGann-Mercy pulled itself back in the game. Jackie Zaweski singled in McGann-Mercy’s first run in the third. Then the Monarchs followed that with a four-run burst in the fourth. They undoubtedly got a shot of confidence that inning as Pace, Willmott (two-run double), Zabrowski (run-scoring single) and Hulse (run-scoring single) strung together four straight hits to bring in those runs.

“That inning gave us a lot of confidence,” McGann-Mercy coach Frank Baker said, “and at the bottom of the seventh inning, I called them all together and said to them: ‘We can win the game. All you’ve got to do is put the bat on the ball and be strong. Swing harder.’ ”

When Southold/Greenport was clinging to a 7-5 lead, one could sense a momentum shift. Willmott said, “I kind of noticed that the other team’s confidence was slowly shattering.”

McGann-Mercy’s leadoff batter, Willmott, had a three-hit game as did Pace. Willmott scored three runs. Altogether, the Monarchs totaled 16 hits.

Kim Bracken went 4 for 4 and drove in three runs — all on infield singles — for Southold/Greenport. She also scored a run and stole a base.

“I’m disappointed,” Southold/Greenport first baseman Nicole Busso said, “but I think that we were very equally matched teams, and I honestly can’t wait to play them again because I know that it will be a good game no matter what.”

McGann-Mercy had been involved in only one-sided games before this. The Monarchs had beaten The Stony Brook School, 26-4, and Port Jefferson, 30-7, in addition to suffering a 15-0 loss to Babylon. Pulling out a win in a close game brought value.

Baker said he felt good about his team’s chances in the bottom of the seventh.

“I felt very strongly that they were going to do something because they had to do it, and it was just a matter of putting the bat on the ball and hustling on bases,” he said. “Under pressure, they seem to get stronger.”


04/05/13 6:55pm
04/05/2013 6:55 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River's all-time strikeout leader, Chelsea Hawks, recently tied her school record for strikeouts in a game (20). She fired 15 strikeouts against Mattituck on Friday.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River’s all-time strikeout leader, Chelsea Hawks, recently tied her school record for strikeouts in a game (20). She fired 15 strikeouts against Mattituck on Friday.


Chelsea Hawks has only one letter “k” in her name, but she had 20 Ks after her name the other day.

Shoreham-Wading River’s softball coach, Christina Shiffman, said she can tell early in a game if Hawks, her standout pitcher, is on or not. There was no question that she was on Wednesday. Hawks mowed down one Bayport-Blue Point batter after another before finishing with 20 strikeouts and a 5-1 victory. That equaled the school mark of 20 strikeouts in a game she set last year against Mount Sinai. It’s a remarkable achievement, especially considering there are only 21 outs in a seven-inning high school game.

Hawks said she didn’t realize she had that many strikeouts until after the game when assistant coach Ed Price told her. She also learned that she had become Shoreham-Wading River’s all-time strikeouts leader, passing Keri Bettenhauser.

On Friday, Hawks pretty much picked up where she left off two days earlier, The senior recorded 15 strikeouts in a 2-0 win over visiting Mattituck in a double two-hitter. Her former teammate, Sara Perkins, pitched for the Tuckers.

With her tally from Friday’s game, Hawks (3-1) has 533 career strikeouts. She has registered 48 strikeouts in the last 19 innings.

“Every time we watch Chelsea pitch, she does a great job,” Shoreham-Wading River coach Christina Shiffman said. “It’s fun to just watch her break some records and really make her mark here at the school. She just keeps getting better and better. That’s great for us.”

The right-hander, who is headed to Molloy College, struck out every Mattituck batter she faced at least once and five multiple times. She did not allow a walk. Hawks caught the Tuckers looking at called third strikes on four occasions and fanned six straight batters during one stretch.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Brittany Tumulty of Mattituck making contact on a pitch from Shoreham-Wading River's Chelsea Hawks.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Brittany Tumulty of Mattituck making contact on a pitch from Shoreham-Wading River’s Chelsea Hawks.

“It was warm out,” Hawks explained. “It’s always a good day when it’s warm.”

Perkins, a senior right-hander, did not allow an earned run, struck out seven and walked none. She called it her best outing in a while, crediting catcher Brittany Tumulty for framing pitches for called strikes. “My curveball was working very well,” she said.

Perkins didn’t seem fazed, either, after Shoreham-Wading River’s first batter, Caitlin Mirabell, socked a hard-hit ball that struck the inside of her right thigh, near her knee, in the first inning.

Asked to assess Perkins’ pitching, Mattituck coach Kelly Pickering said, “Spot on, probably the best I’ve seen her pitch so far.”

When they were youngsters, Hawks and Perkins both played for the Long Island Sharks travel team, and their softball paths have crossed more than once ever since. On Friday, they ended up in a pitchers’ duel.

Hawks had something, though, that Perkins didn’t. She had an errorless defense behind her. Mattituck made five errors, and that made the difference.

Both of Shoreham-Wading River’s runs in the fifth inning were unearned. Erin Whelan, who started things off by reaching base on a misplayed fly ball in the outfield, later scored on a dropped fly. Then, with two outs, Brittany Mahen clocked a double to right-center field, scoring Mirabell to make it 2-0 for the Wildcats (3-1, 3-0 League VII).

“When you have two strong pitchers, it really becomes who is going to make the least mistakes and who’s going to put the ball in play,” Shiffman said. “We were able to do that, not as much as I would have liked, but we got the job done.”

Mattituck (1-3, 1-2) was missing two regular starters, shortstop Melissa Siegfried and center fielder Alex Chowbay. Val Hommel was moved from left field to shortstop, which she had never played before. She responded by supplying the Tuckers with both of their well-struck hits. Hommel clubbed a double to the left-field fence in the second inning and ripped a single past the third baseman in the fifth.

Afterward, Pickering could not help but rue the errors that proved so costly. “That is killing me right now,” she said.

At the same time, the Tuckers could be encouraged by their ability to give Shoreham-Wading River a competitive game.

“I was a little concerned today,” Perkins said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I knew they have a lot of girls who play travel [ball]. They’re all experienced and stuff. With girls out of position, I was a little concerned, but everyone came out and played their hardest. Unfortunately, we didn’t come out on top, but everyone’s happy with the way we played because we honestly did not expect to run with them seven innings.”

What could be expected, though, was the difficulty Hawks posed.

“Her focus and determination are really the two things I think she has every single time she steps on the field,” Shiffman said. “You can’t be totally on every single day, but her determination to get the job done keeps us in every single game.”

Hawks throws a rise ball, a curveball and a few screwballs. She didn’t have a rise ball last year, but it has become her go-to pitch while the curveball remains her favorite.

“This season we just want to go as far as we can, play as hard as we can, and just leave it all out there,” she said. “I worked hard all winter, and I’ve been waiting for this for a while now.”

Keep counting the strikeouts.


03/30/13 4:00pm
03/30/2013 4:00 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River center fielder Haley Tilton tries to lay down a bunt against Sayville Saturday.


As a sophomore last year Kristen Bricker only saw time in the field for the Sayville Golden Flashes. On a team loaded with talented hitters, Bricker never got the chance to step into the batter’s box.

A year later, after the graduation of several key players from the lineup, Bricker has gotten her chance.

As Shoreham-Wading River found out Saturday afternoon, the Sayville first baseman can crush the ball.

Bricker hit a pair of home runs in a 7-2 Sayville victory at Shoreham-Wading River High School on opening day for the Wildcats. After winning the first state championship in program history last year, the Golden Flashes have picked up right where they left off with two strong victories to open the season.

The Golden Flashes have been the road block for Shoreham to get to the county championship series in each of the past two seasons. Sayville won 6-1 in the Class A semifinals against Shoreham last May.

“We have a good healthy rivalry,” said Sayville coach Tiffany Rowan.

“Against Sayville we’re always a little extra nervous,” said Shoreham coach Christina Shiffman. “Excited, but a little nervous. I think to start our season it’s always tough against our rival team. But we’ll bounce back.”

Bricker crushed a 1-1 pitch over the center field fence in the third inning to give Sayville a 4-1 lead. In the sixth inning she hit an 0-2 pitch to nearly the same spot for a solo home run.

Afterward Rowan was laughing at the fact Bricker never got into the lineup last year.

“She’s a very good hitter,” Rowan said. “She was younger last year and we had a lot of older kids so it was tough to get her in the lineup. But she worked really hard all throughout last year and it’s showing off now.”

Sayville (2-0) scored all seven runs off senior Chelsea Hawks.

Shiffman said she thought Hawks threw the ball well and was victimized by good hitting.

“The first [home run], that was a rise ball and that was good hitting,” she said. “[Bricker] was a good hitter and wherever we put it she was able to get to it.”

Hawks struck out 10 and gave up nine hits to a Golden Flashes team that already looked to be in mid-season form at the plate.

Getting into a groove offensively will be the focus for the Wildcats as the league season begins Tuesday. The Wildcats were solid defensively against Sayville and Shiffman said she has no worries about the team’s ability to pitch and field.

“It’s about hitting,” she said. “We’re focused on hitting and having good at-bats.”

The Wildcats got runs in the second and fifth inning, both on the benefit of some misplays in the field by Sayville. In both innings the Golden Flashes botched a rundown when a Shoreham runner got hung up between two bases. Third baseman Alex Hutchins came around to score in the second after reaching on a leadoff walk. Right fielder Alexis Biemer scored in the fifth after reaching on a one-out single.

Sayville junior Julia Simpson earned the win in her first varsity start. Following in the footsteps of Merissa Selts, who pitched the Flashes to the state title last year, Simpson and Amanda Eremita will split the pitching duties this season.

Rowan said Simpson was poised in her first start.

“She has good control, which is nice,” she said. “She doesn’t get flustered, she just goes out and does her job, which is awesome.”

Simpson gave up just three hits over seven innings and struck out four.

The Wildcats begin their league schedule Tuesday at home against Southampton. As the newest member to League VII, the Wildcats will be facing all new competition throughout the league season.

“We don’t really know what to expect,” Shiffman said. “It’s almost kind of nice not knowing the reputation of the team because we just have to come out and do whatever we’re capable of doing.”


03/21/13 9:45pm
03/21/2013 9:45 PM

DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Riverhead sophomore Joscelin Morrow pitched four innings of relief Thursday against West Babylon.


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.

DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Riverhead shortstop Alex McKillop fields a grounder against West Babylon.

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.


03/20/13 7:00pm
03/20/2013 7:00 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Riverhead senior Alex McKillop returns to play shortstop for the Blue Waves.

There’s no shortage of motivation for the Riverhead softball team entering the 2013 season.

One win has been the difference between making the playoffs in each of the past two seasons for the Blue Waves, a trend they hope to break this year with a strong core of returning players.

Tallying enough wins to reach the postseason still won’t be easy, not after League IV only got tougher with the addition of East Islip, which replaced North Babylon.

“The league is stronger because the defending county champion team came to our league,” said Riverhead coach Bob Fox.

With Half Hollow Hills West, Hauppauge and Deer Park still in the league, the Blue Waves (10-10 last year) will face a competitive schedule throughout the season. Fox said he envisions the league being one of the toughest in Suffolk County.

“You’re going to have to work for your wins,” he said.

To prepare for the season, Riverhead has a trip planned to Disney World. The Blue Waves will play five scrimmages under the warm Florida sun next week.

Fox said this will be the sixth time he took a team to Florida.

The Blue Waves will head down after they open the season today at home against West Babylon.

Riverhead returns nine players from last year. It would have been 10, but sophomore Katie McKillop will miss the season as she recovers from an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

On the mound, the Blue Waves return senior Amanda Graziano, who will play softball next year at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. She officially signed to play field hockey there as well.

Graziano has gotten off to a slow start this year as she deals with tendinitis in her elbow, Fox said.

“She really hasn’t thrown in a week,” he said. “She went to the doctor and the doctor said there’s no damage. So we’re resting her.”

Junior Stephanie Falisi, the team’s No. 2 pitcher, has had her own issues as well. Fox said she just got back to practice after missing close to a week with an illness.

One certainty is senior Megan Weiss behind the plate. A two-time all-conference player, Weiss will be a vital part of the batting order in addition to her catching duties.

Fox said Weiss and Graziano have been playing together since Little League and on travel teams. “They go well together,” he said.

Shortstop Alex McKillop, the only lefty on the team, will be a key part of the lineup in the three hole. McKillop, Weiss, Falisi and Graziano will make up the core of the lineup. Fox said all four girls can hit between .350 and .375.

Danielle Napoli is a versatile player who can fill a number of different positions, from right field to second or third. Sara Tucci, who played second last year, will try to solidify the outfield in right. Sarah Freeborn will also hold down an outfield position.

Joscelin Morrow or Falisi could see time at second.

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO  |  Cold weather didn't stop Alexis Biemer of Shoreham-Wading River from working on her swing.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Cold weather didn’t stop Alexis Biemer of Shoreham-Wading River from working on her swing.

Shoreham-Wading River coach Christina Shiffman would rather not think much past this season. That’s what tends to happen when a starting pitcher reaches her senior season.

In Chelsea Hawks, the Wildcats (15-7) have had a clear No. 1 pitcher for the past three seasons. Last year Hawks threw close to every inning for the Wildcats as they advanced into the semifinals of the Class A playoffs before losing to Sayville for the second straight year.

Hawks, who signed with Molloy College, returns to lead the Wildcats at another run to the county title game.

It has been a bit of a slow start to the season for Hawks after dealing with some shoulder issues in the off-season, Shiffman said.

“We were a little concerned but in our scrimmages she’s shown she can definitely pick up where she left off last season,” Shiffman said. “She’s looking really good.”

Shiffman said Hawks’ determination is one of her biggest strengths. “She sets the tone for all of her teammates,” she said. “Not only as a senior captain, but when you have a dominating pitcher, you can set the tone.”

While Shiffman is in her second season as the varsity coach, she said she remembers Hawks from her days as the JV coach.

“Since she’s been in ninth grade she’s always been very confident,” Shiffman said.

Last year Hawks even became more of a threat at the plate.

Sophomore Caitlin Mirabell, who is in her third year on varsity, will see some time behind the plate this year after the Wildcats lost their starting catcher to graduation. Mirabell played in the outfield last season. The Wildcats will lean on Mirabell to anchor their batting order as well.

At shortstop the Wildcats return junior Brittany Mahan, who is in her third year on varsity. She will be another hitter in the middle of the order.

Third baseman Alex Hutchins returns as well. She was a key player last year and went 2 for 4 with a double and run scored in a playoff win over Miller Place.


03/06/13 8:00pm
03/06/2013 8:00 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead coach Bob Fox was happy to be able to take his team outdoors for practice on Monday.

Since last fall, the Riverhead High School girls softball team had been practicing in unofficial workouts at a local school.

But it wasn’t until Monday that the Blue Waves were able to train in the great outdoors. The weather wasn’t perfect, but temperatures were in the 40s and it wasn’t raining or snowing. The Blue Waves did some running, stretching, throwing and catching fly balls.

Coach Bob Fox did not want to push the team during the two-and-a-half-hour session.

“The first day of practice I don’t want to keep the girls out there and pull a muscle,” he said. “The ground is a little rough.”

With a storm forecast for the east end of Long Island yesterday through tomorrow, any time outdoors can be considered a treat.

Fox, who will enter his 13th season as the Blue Waves coach, was just happy getting his team together in an outdoor setting.

“It’s great to see all the girls concentrating on softball and not other sports,” he said.

Riverhead’s softball players, who participate in travel leagues during the summer, also play volleyball and basketball during the winter season.

“The majority of the girls on my team are two-sport athletes,” Fox said. “It takes a lot of time and commitment to do that.”

Fox has liked what he has seen from his team, which includes nine returning players — five seniors, three juniors and one sophomore.

“We’re looking for four more players,” he said.

Among the key players returning are an All-Conference senior battery in pitcher Amanda Graziano and catcher Megan Weiss. Graziano recently announced she would attend Mercy College this fall, playing softball and field hockey.

Junior Stephanie Falisi is slated to be the No. 2 pitcher and bat third or fourth in the order as an infielder. Other key returnees include senior shortstop Alex McKillop, senior second baseman Sara Tucci and junior outfielder Sarah Freeborn, who is also the backup catcher.

The Blues (10-10 last season) missed the Suffolk County tournament by a game last year.

Fox said he was “very optimistic” entering the season. Riverhead will play seven scrimmages before opening its season against West Babylon at home on March 21.

“I think we have a very good team,” he said. “We should be very competitive no matter who we play.”