Midnight has struck for Riverhead’s softball Cinderellas. After an undefeated run through the Suffolk County Class AA playoffs landed them in the semifinals of the double-elimination tournament, the Blue Waves’ fire was finally extinguished. The first blow came last Wednesday at the hands of No. 6 Smithtown East, the League IV champ. The knockout punch followed on Saturday against North Babylon in the loser’s bracket.
As the saying goes, it’s hard to beat the same team twice.
Riverhead (15-9) had previously sent the No. 1 seeded Bulldogs into the loser’s bracket on May 19, behind a brilliant 3-0 pitching performance from sophomore Mya Marelli. Through their first three games of the playoffs, the 9th seeded Blue Waves beat No. 8 Lindenhurst, No. 5 Sachem North and then North Babylon. Smithtown East simply crushed that momentum — something that clearly had been carrying the young team through the playoffs.
The playoff seeding committee didn’t have much faith in the Blue Waves, giving them the No. 9 seed and ensuring they would be the visiting team against every opponent they faced. The committee was proven wrong as Riverhead twice came within one win of securing a spot in the championship.
The chapter on the 2023 season may have closed, but the book is still being written for this team. Marelli’s emergence cements Riverhead’s chances for years to come. The sophomore was dominant during the second half of the season, consistently notching double-digit strikeouts and keeping her earned run average at an absolute minimum. Another summer travel season under her belt will only add to her skills for next year.
Looking back at what was accomplished this season, it’s hard to fathom the age of most of the players. Behind the lone seniors, Meg and Bree McKay – who were undoubtedly the heart of the team — there were just three juniors on the squad – Deana North, Kaysee Mojo and Kelly Columbus; three sophomores: Marelli, Shay Bealey and Bella D’Andrea; four freshmen: Adriana Martinez, Jordyn Kwasna, Olivia Sulzer and Ashley Rogers; and two 8th graders: Madison Saladino and Sophia Viola, who each saw a lot of playing time this season.
The future is certainly bright.
Jason Kwasna – president of Riverhead Little League – was at the Blue Waves final game of the regular season against William Floyd. He noted that these players were so well prepared in part because of the travel team the league created. While most travel teams recruit talent from across Long Island and beyond, Kwasna built his team exclusively with Riverhead players. That often meant they had to take some lumps against tougher teams, but that experience was a big factor in this year’s playoff run.
Riverhead’s head coach Chris Accardi said he saw something start to develop last year. He felt confident they would make a run this season. “We had a great season and I’m really proud of what we accomplished, we just came up a little short in the end,” Accardi said. The softball team was one of the only Riverhead spring sports squads to make the playoffs in an athletic department still reeling from COVID restrictions and budget cuts. What the Blue Waves accomplished this season is nothing to bat an eye at and with so much talent returning, its hard to imagine this team not being right in the thick of things again, in pursuit of a championship next year. “We have most of our team returning next year,” Accardi said. “I’m excited for what the future holds.”