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Baseball: Groundhog charges pitcher’s mound

Groundhog Day arrived late at Shoreham-Wading River High School.

It’s more common to see an angry batter charge the pitcher’s mound at a baseball game. On Wednesday, though, it was a confused groundhog charging the mound.

Shoreham coach Kevin Willi may have been one of the first to see it coming. It was in between pitches in the fifth inning when a groundhog dashed onto the field.

“I’ve never seen that before,” Willi said. “I saw him bolt right past first base and came right past the first baseman, who had no clue he was behind him, and he ran right at Ryan [Mullahey, the Shoreham pitcher], and I go, ‘Hey Ryan, watch out!’ ”

That’s when a startled Mullahey glanced behind him and had little time to react. The groundhog ran right between his legs before crossing the third-base line, chugging past spectators and into the woods.

“That took me by surprise,” Mullahey said. “It almost took me out from behind, so it was pretty funny. I just heard somebody yell, ‘Look out,’ and I turn around and a groundhog is charging for me.”

The funny thing is, the first inning of the Suffolk County League VII game was like the movie “Groundhog Day.” At least for Shoreham. The Wildcats picked up hit after hit and run after run for an early 7-0 lead on the way to a 12-3 romp over East Hampton at Kevin Williams Memorial Field.

Mullahey (4-0) was the star of this show, though. The senior excelled as both a batter and pitcher. At the plate, he went 4-for-5 with two RBIs, a triple and a pair of doubles, a boost to his over-.400 batting average. As a pitcher, the righthander took a two-hitter into the seventh inning before East Hampton picked up four straight hits against him. He had eight strikeouts and three walks.

Mullahey, who has developed an effective slider and will play for LIU-Brooklyn, has never lost a varsity game. He is 11-0 for his career.

“Today he had a great game, you know, a great performance out there shutting them down,” said Shoreham leftfielder Joey Brown, who hit his first home run for one of his two RBIs. “The whole season he’s just a solid player. He knows what he has to do, he gets it done.”

Mullahey is the only returning starter for Shoreham, which lost 16 players to graduation. Yet, the Wildcats don’t seem to have missed a step since last year. They are in first place with a 13-1 overall and league record, cruising toward what would be their third straight league championship, fourth in five years and 15th overall. Defending Suffolk Class A champion Shoreham will be in the playoffs for a 33rd consecutive year.

There have been no bumps in the road. It has been smooth sailing.

“I’m really impressed with the way these guys have put it together,” Willi said. “They came out right out of the gate against what looks to be three playoff teams and we were 8 and 1 to start the season the first three series. I just think everybody puts forth a team effort, always has quality at-bats where they’re not swinging at bad pitches, they’re not being selfish at the plate.”

Shoreham has 12 players with at least one home run; none with more than two. Several have on-base percentages over .600.

“Everyone’s doing their job,” Brown said. “Everyone knows how to play baseball here.”

That was obvious as Shoreham also received two RBIs apiece from leadoff hitter Jesse Keshner and Peter Minneci.

Meanwhile, Mullahey made life rough for East Hampton (0-14, 0-14), offensively and defensively.

“He consistently keeps us in the game,” Willi said. “He’s a gritty player. He’s hard-nosed. He doesn’t back down. He doesn’t get afraid. He’s the kind of pitcher that can throw a full-count curveball right over the middle and have confidence with it to strike a guy out in a big situation. He’s a smart pitcher.”

Smart enough to get out of a groundhog’s way.

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Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River senior pitcher Ryan Mullahey evaded a mound-charging groundhog on the way to his 11th career win in as many decisions. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)