Bill King has been around the high school softball scene long enough to know that you can’t take anything for granted. Nothing.
Just because his Shoreham-Wading River team had beaten Hampton Bays last month, 7-0, didn’t mean anything Monday when the teams met in a rematch. And just because the Wildcats loaded the bases with none out in the sixth inning, it was no guarantee of a big inning.
For all the promise that sixth inning held for Shoreham, the Wildcats managed only one run from it, courtesy of Olivia Baudo’s bases-loaded single. But that was enough to snap a tie and bring them a 2-1 triumph that was more difficult than it might have been.
At the same time, Shoreham (11-1 overall and in Suffolk County League IX) has shown it can come through in the crunch. It is 3-0 in one-run games this season.
“It was very close,” Baudo said following the team’s fifth straight win since its sole loss to Rocky Point. “Definitely a lot of pressure. It felt really good to get that hit.”
Bailey Rand led off the Shoreham sixth by reaching base on an error. The next two batters, Lindsey McKenna and Victoria Coman, drew walks, setting up a full house for Baudo. The junior came through, sending a shot to centerfield for the go-ahead run.
If the Wildcats were at that point rubbing their hands in anticipation of more runs to come, they were disappointed. Hampton Bays pitcher Emma Candelaria then got Michaela Hammer to ground into a 6-2-3 double play. Pinch hitter Hannah Longboat then walked to load the bases again, but Katlynn McGivney grounded out to end the inning.
In the top of the seventh it was Hampton Bays’ turn to pose a threat. Emily Peyton led off, slicing a single for her second hit of the game. But pitcher Victoria Coman recorded outs on the next three at-bats from a fielder’s choice, a groundout and a strikeout to wrap up the win.
An onslaught of tiny black caterpillar-like insects had descended upon the Shoreham field. “They’re everywhere,” Baudo said. “I’ve never seen so many.”
Rand first noticed them Sunday. “They are so annoying,” she said. “I’ve had about 30 on me.”
The bugs were an annoyance, but what must have bothered King even more were the baserunning errors Shoreham made. He counted three of them.
Hampton Bays (5-11, 4-10), with some fine defensive plays by Peyton, the second baseman, led for most of the game. MacKenzie Tyler opened the game by slapping a 3-2 pitch just beyond shortstop Joy Papagianopoulos’ reach. Tyler advanced on Morgan Phillips’ sacrifice bunt, and then scored from second on another sacrifice, this time by Lily Candelaria.
Shoreham didn’t pull even until the fifth despite some questionable baserunning decisions that might have cost the Wildcats some more runs that inning. Papagianopoulos ripped a two-out, RBI liner to knot the score at 1-1, though.
“When it comes to game time, they do focus in on the game, but like any team, sometimes it’s going to be a little off, and I think they were a little off today,” King said. “It took them a while to get started.”
For the most part, it was a day for the two pitchers. Victoria Coman allowed six hits with no walks and three strikeouts. Emma Candelaria gave up five hits, walked six and struck out one.
Shoreham, coming off an 11-9 season, is closing in on what would be its sixth league championship and first since 2011. When asked about that, King said, “I don’t like predicting the future.”
Rand said the Wildcats deserve a league title. Asked what makes the team as good as it is, she replied: “Everyone. I think that our positivity and our connection mold us together. I just think that we’re all so connected and just all work together really well. It’s the perfect combination of girls. I have a lot of faith in everyone on this team because they’re all amazing players.”
Even so, the Wildcats aren’t taking anything for granted.
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River pitcher Victoria Coman allowed six hits with no walks and three strikeouts against Hampton Bays. (Credit: Bob Liepa)