SOFTBALL: Smithtown West’s five-run first dooms Blue Waves

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Alex McKillop stroked a single for Riverhead on this swing against Smithtown West.

SMITHTOWN — Somedays you have it, some days you don’t.

After securing back-to-back shutouts and a five-inning no-hitter, Amanda Graziano and her Riverhead High School softball teammates had high hopes of continuing her hot hand against the Smithtown West Bulls on Friday.

But Friday turned out to be one of those days when the Blue Waves didn’t have it because of one of those innings. They could not overcome a five-run first inning by Smithtown West in a 6-3 loss in a Suffolk County League III/IV crossover game.

“It’s a rough game to lose,” Riverhead Coach Bob Fox said. “Five runs in the first inning with [one] hit. We made mistakes and they capitalized.”

Graziano, a sophomore right-hander, had been pitching very well of late. She blanked North Babylon in her first shutout, 2-0, on April 20 and followed that with the first no-hitter of her career, a 14-0 triumph over Half Hollow Hills East, a game that was shortened by the mercy rule, on April 27.

“I was expecting to do a lot better than I did,” Graziano said. “Kind of put me down in the first inning when my team was making all the errors behind [me] and the few walks I had. I kept my head up and I kept trying to pull through and I did.”

The Bulls (9-2, 9-2) had something to do with that.

Fox said Smithtown West, which plays in League III, was a different class than than the other two opponents Graziano shut down.

“A lot depends on who you’re pitching shutouts against and no-hitters against,” Smithtown West Coach David Miller said. “There are teams that won’t put the ball in play as much as my kids will. It’s easy to pitch against that kind of team as opposed to a team that puts the ball in play.”

Add the fact that Graziano struggled with her control, giving up six walks. That included three in that first-inning marathon, which took almost a half-hour to complete; the rest of the game took only 70 minutes.

The Blue Waves (5-6, 5-6) scored three runs in the top of the inning, while the Bulls rallied for five runs in their half.

“There will not be an instructional video made [about] the first inning for either team,” Miller said.

Riverhead took advantage of a hit by pitch, a walk and a fielder’s choice to grab a 3-0 advantage behind Beth Zilnicki’s two-run single and Macey Reichel’s run-scoring hit against right-hander Catherine Heacox.

“I wasn’t happy when they jumped off with three,” Miller said. “What makes it even worse was a ball isn’t hit hard, another is not hit hard and all of a sudden they have a couple of runs. We got back into it by capitalizing on their miscues.”

Graziano faced nine batters in the bottom half. She walked three and her defense made four errors.

“We need to work on fielding the ball and just paying attention to what’s going on,” Zilnicki said.

After her last two outings, Graziano admitted she thought of her no-hitter.

“It actually came through my mind once: ‘Why am I not doing this good?’ ” she said with a laugh. “But I guess I got down a little on myself. That’s never the right thing to do. I put myself through it and kept my head up.”

Fox had no doubt that Graziano will rebound in her next start. “She’s a sophomore and she’s looking fine,” he said.

After the first inning, runs were hard to come by. Graziano allowed four hits the rest of the way. Heacox settled down and did not allow a hit through six innings.

Not wanting to tempt fate even with a three-run lead, Miller brought in closer Melissa Koster in the seventh. Koster struck out the first two hitters before she retired the final out on a comebacker to the mound.

“My assistants say to me, ‘Bring in Melissa after Catherine. Melissa throws a lot harder,’ ” Miller said. “All of a sudden it’s bringing in Mariano [Rivera] after somebody else is throwing junk or something else like that. She threw hard. She had a tremendous relief outing the other day against North Babylon, bases loaded, no outs in the bottom of the seventh with the score tied and she got out of it.”