Softball: Blue Waves rally for lead, then fall in 8th

Riverhead shortstop Dani Napoli applies a tag on Hills West senior Samantha Katz. (Credit: Robert O'Rourk)
Riverhead shortstop Danni Napoli applies a tag on Hills West senior Samantha Katz. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)


Jubilation to heartache. All in a matter of minutes.

One out stood in the way of a memorable, come-from-behind victory for the Riverhead softball team Friday. Facing the defending Class AA county champion Half Hollow Hills West Colts, the Blue Waves rallied for a run in the seventh inning to send the game into extras and then another run in the eighth to seize the lead. 

But after retiring the first two batters in the bottom of the inning, the Blue Waves saw the Colts fight back and win in a walk-off stunner, 6-5, in Dix Hills in a Class AA outbracket playoff game.

The loss sends Hills West into the next round where No. 2 Commack awaits.

“I have the utmost respect and am really proud of how our girls carry themselves, how they play, how they compete,” said Riverhead coach Jeff Doroski.

Hills West junior Nicole Graber and sophomore Alexandra Parkas each singled up the middle with two out in the eighth to start the rally. It brought up Alyse McAlpine, who launched a high fly ball to left field. Riverhead’s Jess Freeborn — who normally plays right field — drifted back on the ball but couldn’t haul it in as the two runners came sprinting around with the winning runs.

The Blue Waves had just taken the lead in the top half of the inning after senior Danni Napoli led off with an impressive single up the middle on an 11-pitch at-bat.

Hills West pitcher Alexis Kleet struck out the next two batters before junior Brittany Staltare singled to left field to bring in Napoli, who had stolen second.

The Blue Waves led 1-0 after the first inning before Hills West rallied for a four-run third inning. Riverhead came right back with two runs in the top of the fourth to close within one at 4-3.

Coaches from both teams were less than thrilled with the umpires throughout the game. The game almost ended in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, junior Gabrielle Casalino launched a ball to deep center field. Riverhead senior Maria Dillingham tracked the ball to the fence and fell over it as the ball landed. As the fence came down with her, it was unclear at first whether the ball hit the ground in front or over the fence.

The umpire in the field appeared hesitant to make a call, unsure whether the ball and cleared the fence or gone over after hitting the ground for a ground-rule double. He checked with the home plate umpire and they agreed it was a double, not a home run.

Photos from the game appeared to show it was a home run. (See photos below)

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The Blue Waves got out of the inning when pitcher Casey Plitt retired the next two hitters on flyballs.

Hills West coach Bryan Dugan said he was upset that the umpire had to check with the home plate umpire to make a call.

“I think that’s a very difficult thing to ask the home plate umpire to say that he’s seeing something 200 feet away and he’s going to be the one to make the call,” he said.

Casalino is the younger sister of the team’s star pitcher from a year ago, Francesca, who now pitches at Yale University. She went 3-for-4 in the game with 2 RBIs.

Staltare went 2-for-4 for Riverhead and drove in two runs. First baseman Karla Vanston also went 2-for-4 with a triple and RBI. Dillingham reached base three times and scored in the first. The Blue Waves were without regular starting left fielder Katie McKillop, who was attending her brother’s college graduation.

The game marked the end of a brilliant career at Riverhead for Napoli, who is in line for a bevy of postseason honors, Doroski said.

“We had six seniors and they were really a good group,” Doroski said.

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