Softball: Wildcats rally in 7th, win it in 9th

All season Shoreham-Wading River eighth grader Caitlin Mirabell batted toward the bottom of the lineup. Before Thursday’s game against East Hampton, something in Shoreham coach Ed Price’s gut told him to move her up.

The last time the Wildcats faced the Bonackers, Mirabell delivered two hits. Only this time East Hampton sent a different pitcher to the mound, someone the Wildcats had never faced.

Still, Price stuck with his young left fielder in the two hole, a decision that paid off beautifully.

With two out in the ninth inning and facing a 1-2 count, Mirabell lined a single into left field, bringing home Michelle Gostic for a dramatic 4-3 victory at Shoreham-Wading River High School.

“A really good feeling,” Mirabell said of the first game-winning hit of her career.

Mirabell is one of two eighth-graders on varsity along with second baseman Alex Hutchins, who was 2 for 4 batting fifth. Price said they’re the first two players he’s brought up to varsity as eighth-graders in his six years at Shoreham.

Gostic walked on four pitches with two out in the ninth and stole second on an 0-2 pitch, allowing her to score on Mirabell’s single.

The Wildcats reached extra innings after first rallying from a two-run hole in the seventh inning. Senior shortstop Cali Lavey roped a two-run double to right-center with two out in the inning to tie the game.

The win couldn’t have come at a better time for the Wildcats, who dropped their previous two games by 1-0 scores. The Wildcats improved to 8-5 and are tied with East Hampton in a crowded League VI. Miller Place and Sayville, both winners Thursday, are now tied for first place at 9-4.

“This is a team win,” Price said. “Softball’s a team sport and today a lot of girls did good things.”

The Wildcats got a shot of adrenaline in the top of the seventh when center fielder Katie Newell robbed East Hampton cleanup hitter Meghan Hess of a run-scoring double or triple. With a runner on second and two out, Hess smoked a ball into the gap, only to see it land in the glove of Newell as she reached up and snagged the ball running full stride to her right.

“It’s not the first time she’s done something like that,” Lavey said. “You think that it’s going to be uncatchable and all of a sudden she comes out of nowhere. That definitely got everyone pumped.”

Newell’s catch kept it a two-run deficit going into the bottom of the seventh. And the Wildcats quickly went to work.

Third baseman Christina Pagano singled through the left side to lead off the inning. With one out, Gostic bounced back to the pitcher for what could have been a game-ending double play. But the throw from pitcher Samantha Matthews sailed into center field and both runners were safe. Mirabell advanced both runners up a base with a bunt, setting the stage for Lavey, the No. 3 hitter who’s batted around .425 this season.

Lavey came up in a big spot two innings earlier with the bases loaded and two out. She lined a ball up the middle where the shortstop, Hess, dove to her right to stop it and make the flip to second just in time for the force out.

This time, Lavey left no doubt.

“Coach preaches every practice that you have to get hits when they count,” Lavey said. “And that’s really all we’ve been working on for a while now. Non stop hitting.”

“She does everything we need to get done,” Price said of his shortstop.

The Wildcats trailed 3-1 after Matthews belted an 0-2 pitch over the left field fence in the sixth inning for a two-run homer. Hess led off the inning with a double to left-center.

Shoreham sophomore Chelsea Hawks settled down after the home run and retired 11 of the next 13 batters. Hawks pitched all nine innings for Shoreham to earn the win. She threw 155 pitches, gave up five hits, struck out 11 and walked four, one intentionally.

Hawks sent down the final seven betters she faced and the Wildcats’ rally in the ninth allowed her to avoid facing the heart of the East Hampton order in the 10th.

“[Hawks] was amazing,” Lavey said. “She was hitting all her spots. Her change, she’s been working on that and it looked really good. That was exciting to see.”

Matthews went the distance for East Hampton as well. She gave up 10 hits and struck out three. The Wildcats did a good job all game of putting the ball in play and keeping the pressure on the Bonackers’ defense.

Shoreham went ahead 1-0 in the fourth inning when right fielder Brittany Mahan singled to right-center to score Newell. East Hampton answered in the next half inning with a single by Casey Waleko with runners at the corners.

“They beat us the last time by one run, 7-6,” Price said. “Now it’s our turn to beat them 4-3. We’re evenly matched teams.”