With the changing of the seasons Wednesday, another change was seen. And it was glaring.
That change was in the Riverhead High School softball team. The Blue Waves are better than they were last year, and if their first game this season is anything to judge by, they are an awfully lot better.
The Blue Waves may have felt good about their chances of starting off 2019 with a win, but even they couldn’t have envisioned the 17-2 throttling they administered to a young Hampton Bays team in the non-league season opener for both sides. Visiting Riverhead churned out 14 hits, received sharp pitching and played flawless defense. What was there not to like?
“No, honestly, that’s a pretty big gap,” Riverhead pitcher Katie Lysogorski said. “I didn’t think it was going to be like that.”
Riverhead coach Jackie Zilnicki said, “It was a good start, a good team effort.”
The game started in the winter and ended in the spring. Spring made its official arrival Wednesday at 5:58 p.m.
A lot happened during those seven innings. Seven Blue Waves had at least one hit. Alexis Polak (three RBIs), Christy Falisi (two RBIs) and Emily Bazarewski (two RBIs) had three hits each. Casey Dunbar and Brooke McKay knocked in two runs each.
As if all that offense wasn’t enough, Riverhead capitalized on seven Hampton Bays errors. On top of that, Riverhead drew six walks, had four batters hit by pitches and left 14 runners on base. The Blue Waves mounted multiple-run rallies in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
“I just think that it was a great game,” said Polak, who started in centerfield before catching for the last two innings. “I couldn’t wait for today and [considering] how well we played today, I have no doubt that we can make playoffs.”
Last year Riverhead went 8-12 and didn’t qualify for the playoffs. Things have changed for the better, players said.
“We’re focused more,” Polak said. “We’re looking at every single sign. We’re more aggressive on the basepath. If there’s a passed ball, we’re taking the extra base. We always do that. We’re hustling.”
Lysogorski must have appreciated all that run support as much as anybody. The junior lefthander worked six innings before Logann Carey turned in a 1-2-3 inning of relief. Lysogorski allowed six hits, walked two and had four strikeouts.
“She battles out there,” Zilnicki said. “She’s good. She’s a competitor.”
Lysogorski, who said she used five of her six pitches, looked as if she might have shutout stuff. Riverhead was already holding a 7-0 lead by the time Hampton Bays got on the scoreboard in the fourth inning. Becca Heaney led off by poking a single. The next batter, sophomore Tara Brochu, blasted an in-the-park home run to centerfield.
After stranding two runners in each of the first two innings, Riverhead struck in the third. The first three batters reached base on errors. A Dunbar RBI brought in the first run and Crysten Apicello’s bases-loaded walk scored the second.
In the fourth, Bazarewski raced home on a wild pitch, McKay singled in another run and a sacrifice bunt by Carey made it 7-0.
A Bazarewski RBI double and Polak RBI single pushed the lead to 9-2 in the fifth.
“Our energy was there the entire game,” Zilnicki said. “In a game like that, sometimes it’s easy to lose focus.”
Not with Riverhead. Not in this game.
Riverhead posted four-run rallies in the last two innings, both times after its first two batters made out. The sixth featured a two-run Falisi triple and a Bazarewski RBI single. In the seventh, Dunbar walked in a run, Polak doubled in two and McKay bounced an RBI single off the third baseman’s glove.
It was a complete performance. Not a bad way to usher in the spring.
“I think it helps because it sets the tone for the rest of the season because we’re coming out of this first game confident and I think we’re going to carry this with us throughout the rest of our games,” said Lysogorski.
Polak said, “I just can’t wait to see what the rest of the season holds.”
Photo caption: Riverhead players had a lot to feel good about with their impressive 17-2 season-opening win at Hampton Bays Wednesday. (Credit: Bob Liepa)