Blue Waves take first place with win over Sachem North

After punching their playoff ticket Wednesday with a 1-0 victory over Sachem East, Riverhead got right back to business behind the electric arm of Mya Marelli who led the Blue Waves to their biggest win of the season against Sachem North Friday afternoon. The taut 2-1 victory moves Riverhead into a tie for first place in League III softball. 

Marelli, who owned the pitcher’s circle at Sachem East High School, put together a performance even she was in awe of. The sophomore left-hander has taken over the starting role since Bree McKay went down with an injury and hasn’t looked back. And if the bottom of the 7th inning was an indication of what’s to come, look out.

With Riverhead (9-4 League III, 10-6 overall) holding on to a slender 2-1 lead, Marelli was fully composed and confident in her ability.

“I know the team needed me at that moment to close out the game,” Marelli said. “I just wanted to focus on throwing strikes and I knew my team had my back to make the plays behind me.”

Turns out she didn’t need her fielders.

Each Sachem North batter that came to the plate in that seventh inning didn’t even make contact with the ball. When she wasn’t humming her fastball past the batter, she switched things up with a change-up so nasty that even the umpire seemed shell-shocked and called a strikeout with only two strikes on the first batter. Marelli went on to secure that K and then notched two more to seal the deal for the Blue Waves. Marelli finished the complete game with 11 strikeouts and gave up only 5 singles that barely left the infield. The only run Sachem North (9-4, 10-4) mustered was on a wild pitch with a runner on third.

“It was definitely one of my better games I pitched in my career against a top team like Sachem North,” Marelli said. “I’m definitely building my confidence every game I pitch. I personally don’t feel like I’m 100% there yet but it’s getting there.”

“She’s been phenomenal the last three weeks,” Riverhead head coach Chris Accardi said. “She’s stepped up big time with Bree out. We knew she was capable of putting together performances like this; she just needed to gain some confidence.”

Riverhead sophomore Mya Marelli fires from the circle in complete game win Friday. (Credit: Bill Landon)

Pitching and defense has vaulted Riverhead to the top of the division after starting the season 1-3. Two of those early losses were against Sachem East and Sachem North. Safe to say the Blue Waves got their revenge. The defense turned in another error-free game Friday.

“We have a freshman shortstop that plays like she’s a senior in Adriana Martinez,” Accardi said. “She’s the leader of the defense and it all starts with her.”

Martinez had a handful of great plays – none better than an over-the-shoulder catch in the shallow outfield to save a run.

Against the top teams in the league, Riverhead has been struggling at the plate which was again the case Friday. The Blue Waves only managed 5 singles and put together 2 runs in the first inning by capitalizing on a Sachem North fielding blunder. With runners on first and third, Marelli struck out at the plate but the catcher dropped the ball. Despite first base being occupied, meaning the batter could not attempt to advance to first on the dropped third strike, Accardi yelled for Marelli to run to first anyway.  Confusion ensued as Megan McKay, who was on first base, sprinted to second and the throw to tag her out went into the outfield, allowing Martinez to score from third. Marelli was eventually called out, but the run still counted. McKay would later score on a wild pitch to make it 2-0. 

“It’s all about small ball with us,” Accardi said. “When we have a pitcher like Marelli we need to scrap together some runs. And you have to do whatever it takes.”

Asked whether telling Marelli to run was a mistake, Accardi said with a wink: “Oh yeah that was a total mistake. But seriously, knowing that we were up against a good pitcher and not scoring much on Wednesday you have to think outside the box.”

It was all the Blue Waves needed to earn the victory. The aggressive base-running proved effective.

With the division so tight at the top 4 spots, Riverhead will more than likely have to win out against Longwood (4-8), Patchogue-Medford (8-4) and William Floyd (6-6) in the final three games to earn at least a share of the league crown. 

“I knew we were going to be pretty good at the start of the season,” Accardi said. “I thought this would be our year. We have great pitchers and great players all down the roster. As long as we keep pitching well, play solid defense and get the bats to start producing, we can run with anybody.”