All these years later, things have come full circle in a delightfully amazing way for Brooke McKay.
McKay, and some of her Riverhead High School softball teammates, were 5 years old when they began playing Little League games at Stotzky Memorial Park.
“We won a district championship here,” McKay said. “I feel like every single time I go on this field I get such a good vibe and I get a positive atmosphere and it just puts something in my brain that just says, ‘Go out there and have fun.’ ”
That is just what McKay and her friends did Thursday in Riverhead’s Senior Day game. The setting was ideal. With a 68-degree temperature at game time, it might have been the best weather day of the year. The party-like atmosphere included a pregame tribute to McKay and her six fellow Riverhead seniors, hugs, balloons, music, photos.
And then McKay stole the show.
In her final regular-season game for the Blue Waves, she turned in a remarkable performance. The lefthanded-hitting McKay drove two high changeups for home runs, the second a walk-off shot that ended the game in the sixth inning as the mercy rule came into effect. The first baseman had a career-high seven RBIs as playoff-bound Riverhead romped, 13-1, over Half Hollow Hills East.
Both homers traveled over the rightfield fence, about 200 feet from home plate.
McKay, who also doubled twice and went 4-for-4, said she didn’t realize she had ended the game with her second shot until someone told her. Then emotions took over.
“I just had so much emotion that I just teared up and I just let it all out because it’s a bittersweet moment that it’s my last season as a Blue Wave and today it really hit reality that today is one of the few last games that I’ll be playing with this team,” she said. “This is where I started and for me to end my senior year and to hit a walk-off home run to end the game here, I think it’s just a bittersweet moment and I couldn’t think of anything else to be [more] perfect for my senior game.”
The homers were McKay’s first of the season, giving her five for her three-year varsity career.
“It was amazing,” Riverhead coach Jackie Zilnicki said. “It was a great performance.”
McKay, who will play for NCAA Division III Marywood University in Pennsylvania next year, said she had started the season in a slump, perhaps putting too much pressure on herself. Then, she said, she took the approach of just going out and having fun.
Her family was in attendance at immaculate Bob Burns Field, and McKay gave them something special to see.
“My family, lately we’ve had some rough patches we’re going through with health and everything, and just seeing them in the outfield always just puts a positive smile on my face, and I just play for everyone who wasn’t here to watch me today,” she said.
A pregame ceremony honored the Riverhead seniors.
“It’s honestly one of the most amazing group of seniors that I think Riverhead has ever had, and it’s so special because our legacy is going to go on far past this game, far past playoffs, so it’s great to be a part of something so special,” said senior second baseman Emily Bazarewski (3-for-4, three runs, two RBIs, double), who had quite a game herself.
The other seniors are Christy Falisi, Arianna Lysogorski, Alexis Polak, Jordyn Stromski and Ryan Waski. Falisi had two hits and scored three runs.
Riverhead’s Katie Lysogorski pitched the first five innings, allowing four hits and one run. She struck out two. Logan Carey hurled a perfect 1-2-3 inning in relief.
Riverhead (12-8, 11-5 Suffolk County League II) held a 5-1 lead before tacking on four runs each in the fourth and sixth innings. The Blue Waves totaled 12 hits.
Waski, who made a ceremonial start in rightfield before being pulled out of the game after one pitch because she has an Achilles injury, was asked what her thoughts were when she saw McKay’s second homer clear the fence. “I honestly had no words,” she said.
McKay, clutching the game ball and flowers while wearing a big smile on her face, said Senior Day couldn’t have gone any better.
“I don’t think so,” she said. “We had beautiful weather, the field looks amazing, everyone had good vibes. I think today was just overall one of the best days I think I’ve ever lived.”
Photo caption: Riverhead senior Brooke McKay met a happy welcoming committee at home plate after hitting the first of her two home runs. She finished with seven RBIs on Senior Day. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)