Their official name is the Riverhead Blue Waves, but Green Waves would be more appropriate.
That would be green, as in young and inexperienced.
Scanning the Riverhead High School softball team’s lineup card for its game against West Islip last Wednesday, one couldn’t help but think that it resembled a junior varsity lineup in terms of the grades of the players. The first six spots in the order went like this: freshman center fielder Alexis Polak, senior catcher Brittany Staltare, freshman right fielder Emily Bazarewski, sophomore third baseman Ally O’Kula, sophomore shortstop Kim Ligon and eighth-grade left fielder Kacie Dilworth. Aside from Staltare, the team’s only other senior is second baseman Jess Freeborn.
Now that is young.
Exacerbating matters further, the Blue Waves are short on playing experience, too, so it’s no surprise that growing pains have afflicted them this season.
“Our youth has kind of shown through in a lot of our games this year, and we haven’t been able to make plays when we need to make plays,” coach Jeff Doroski said. “We haven’t been able to come up with a clutch hit or make some things happen offensively when we need to, and I think that’s kind of bitten us a little bit. We come out and we’re inconsistent.”
Riverhead was officially eliminated from playoff contention with its 15-2 home loss to West Islip last Wednesday, its ninth loss in 12 games. If the Blue Waves didn’t appear overly upset about it, though, that may be because they feel good about their future.
“I really don’t think it’s that disappointing because I know that we have a lot more room to grow,” Bazarewski said, “and I think that we are going to be getting a lot better and I think that in the future we are going to have a lot more chances to get into the playoffs.”
Bazarewski and Polak, who celebrated her 15th birthday last Wednesday, already have playoff experience. Both were brought up to the varsity team for the playoffs last year.
Bazarewski’s stock is clearly on the rise. She has already shown her versatility, having played center field when Polak missed the first half of the season with a hamstring injury. She has also played second base, her favorite position. Facing tougher pitching than what she has seen at lower levels, Bazarewski was one of the team’s best hitters for average at a little over .300 last week. In addition, she is an asset in the field.
“She’s a great athlete all the way around,” said Polak, who was hitting over .400 in the five games she has played. “She knows how to hit. She knows how to play the game.”
“Baz,” as she is called by her teammates, can cover ground well, too. In last week’s West Islip game she darted toward right-center field and made a valiant attempt on a drive struck by Stephanie Neglia. Although Bazarewski managed to get the tip of her glove to the ball, it fell for a two-run double. “I was close to getting it,” she said.
It was another example of Bazarewski not looking intimated by the varsity scene.
“We don’t see that at all,” Doroski said. “She doesn’t get rattled out there, and that’s big.”
Losses come with lessons for a young team. What is the most valuable lesson Bazarewski has absorbed this season?
“I think I’ve really learned [the importance of picking] each other up when we’re down because when people are down, we need to be able to help them get back up and get more into the game,” she said. “So, when my teammates lift me up, that just inspires me and I like doing the same for them.”
Photo caption: Riverhead right fielder Emily Bazarewski snatches a line drive by West Islip’s Gianna Raimondi for an out. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)