Coming into the season Shoreham-Wading River coach Sal Mignano felt confident junior Danny Luppens could provide some offense for the Wildcats. The question was how to get him into the lineup.
With nearly every starter returning from last year, the Wildcats had few openings.
“He’s kind of forced himself into the lineup by swinging the bat so well all preseason,” Mignano said.
Luppens earned his first start April 14 against Sayville and promptly went 3-for-4 with two doubles. Against Amityville Monday morning at Shoreham-Wading River High School, Luppens further cemented his spot in the lineup with a pair of home runs.
Batting eighth, he smoked a grand slam to left-center in the first inning to make it 8-0 Shoreham. The Wildcats scored all eight runs before an out was recorded and they finished with 10 in the inning. By the time it was all over, the Wildcats had cruised to a 15-0 victory the day before a pivotal third game against Rocky Point Tuesday afternoon, in a makeup from Saturday. The Wildcats and Eagles split the first two.
Luppens added another home run in the second inning, another shot to left center that put the Wildcats ahead 12-0. Luppens finished the day 2-for-4 with 6 RBIs.
“His bat’s going to stay in the lineup,” Mignano said. “The question is whether you leave him down [eighth] or slide him up. That’s a good problem to have.”
Luppens was the designated hitter Monday, but he can play first base or the outfield. If not for the Wildcats’ depth, he would be an everyday fielder as well, Mignano said.
The Wildcats’ offensive eruption — their previous season high was 11 runs — was a welcome sight for starting pitcher Ryan McAlary. He came into the game with an 0-2 record despite pitching two strong games. In his two losses, to East Hampton and Sayville, he got a total of one run in support.
Against Amityville he had three runs in his pocket by the fourth batter when Matt Kneisel stroked a two-run double to right-center.
McAlary helped himself at the plate as well with a 2-for-4 day. He scored three runs and hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning to complete the scoring.
On the mound McAlary threw four innings and left-handed senior Joe Buchner came on to finish off the final three innings. The two combined to face the minimum 21 batters in the victory. Three runners reached base for the Warriors and all three were wiped away by a double play.
“I don’t ever remember that happening without it being a perfect game,” Mignano said of his team facing the minimum through seven.
McAlary gave up one hit in the second and walked one batter in the fourth. Buchner had one batter reach on an error. McAlary struck out five.
With the Wildcats comfortably ahead, it afforded Mignano an opportunity to give Buchner some innings.
“He doesn’t have a lot of game experience, but we feel like if we need a tight relief situation down the road in a tough game, you got to find out about him somewhere,” he said. “He was able to come in and throw strikes today.”
Most of the Shoreham starters got a rest midway through the game to give some of the bench players a few at-bats. Freshman Nick Bottari started at first base and had three at-bats. He went 3-for-3 with a home run, double, single and 4 RBIs. Mike O’Reilly, who started at third, went 2-for-2 with a double, 2 runs and 2 walks.
With a game looming Tuesday against Rocky Point, the Wildcats came out focused against a team they should beat. Mignano said it was something they talked about before the game.
“You want to set the tone early and just maintain that focus,” he said. “It’s easy for the guys to fall into a mind-set of ‘Oh, we have Rocky Point tomorrow.'”
In the first inning the Wildcats had 14 batters come to the plate, aided in part by four walks and two errors. McAlary and second baseman Andrew Nicchi both walked to start the game before the big bats started driving them home.
The Wildcats will turn to their ace tomorrow in Dan Sperruzzi.