When Shoreham-Wading River pitcher Chelsea Hawks faced Mount Sinai on a cold, late March afternoon, she set a school record with 20 strikeouts, overwhelming the young Mustangs in just their second game of the season.
Two months later, this time in the first round of the Class A playoffs, Hawks faced the Mustangs once again. And she knew it wouldn’t be quite as easy this time.
“They’ve come a long way,” Hawks said.
With only one senior on the team — shortstop Gianna Gulli — the Mustangs surprised even their own coach by going 15-3 for a share of the League VII title this season. But the inexperience caught up to them against a more veteran Shoreham lineup. The third-seeded Wildcats (15-6) struck for four second-inning runs to cruise to a 5-0 victory at Shoreham-Wading River High School for their first playoff win since 2007.
It sets up a date with No. 2 Sayville on the road Saturday at 2 p.m. Sayville defeated Bayport-Blue Point, 8-3, Wednesday.
Hawks struck out just five Mount Sinai (16-5) batters this time, but her defense was strong behind her to help secure her fourth shutout of the season and first since April 25 against Huntington.
After the game Shoreham coach Ed Price announced the team’s awards from the season and Hawks, a sophomore, learned she had received All-County honors.
Making her second career postseason start, Hawks allowed eight hits and walked two, both in the first inning.
“In the beginning we were all kind of excited and shaky,” she said. “After a while we settled in and did what we were supposed to do.”
Hawks said she relied mostly on her curve ball and screwball.
“I thought in the beginning her velocity was down, but it picked up as the game went on,” Price said. “And her breaking ball kept getting better and better.”
Mount Sinai freshman Holly Drasser made her first career postseason start and took the loss. After a rough first three innings she settled down and allowed only one hit the rest of the way, an infield slap hit from the speedy Michelle Gostic. But by that point the damage had already been done.
The Wildcats came through with three clutch two-out hits in the second inning to grab the early lead. The Wildcats had a runner on third with two out when eighth grader Caitlin Mirabell lined an opposite field single to left field, bringing home Samantha Pedulla, who was running for catcher Maddie Massa.
After Gostic was hit by a pitch, third baseman Christina Pagano belted a high fly ball to right field that scored two runs. Pagano raced all the way to third for a triple, her second hit of the game. Shortstop Cali Lavey followed with a long double to left-center that looked like it had a chance to leave the park.
“The big thing is, I keep telling them, good teams get two-out hits,” Price said. “And we scored four runs with two outs. When you do that you’re going to win games.”
The Wildcats added one more run in the third when Brittany Mahan doubled over the third base bag to bring home Pedulla, who again ran for Massa after she reached on a fielder’s choice.
Mount Sinai coach Allison Maire said her young pitcher put a lot of pressure on herself.
“I would say the fourth inning she came back to me,” Maire said. “She worked really hard. Always does. She just thinks she has to do it all. And hopefully with time and with age she’ll start to know that she doesn’t have to.”
For a young team the Mustangs gained valuable experience going forward of what it’s like to play in the playoffs. Last year the Wildcats started a freshman in Hawks and lost their playoff opener.
“Last year as a freshman I wasn’t too sure what was going on,” Hawks said. “This year I felt like we had a really good team.”
The Mustangs tried to stage a late rally with three straight one-out singles in the seventh inning. Lindsay Putkowski singled to right and Drasser, the lead-off hitter, singled up the middle. Danielle Spears followed with a single to center, but Shoreham center fielder Katie Newell threw a strike to Massa at home plate and Putkowski was called out at home to stall the rally. It appeared Massa never got the tag on her, but the ball beat Putkowski to the plate and the umpire called her out.
Hawks came back to get Jordan Fiore to pop up to second to end the game. Newell was also announced after the game as an All-County player for Shoreham. In total the Wildcats had six players receive an award, which accounted for half of their normal 12-play varsity roster.
Lavey and Gostic were All-Division and Massa was All-League. Second baseman Alex Hutchins was the League VI Rookie of the Year, an award no Shoreham player had gotten before in Price’s six years coaching the Wildcats.