Blue Waves stay perfect on softball diamond

All season long Riverhead head coach Rich Vlacci has emphasized how important all 13 members of the softball team are. There are times certain players will need to step up. And Friday was one of those days. Riverhead defeated Ward Melville, 2-1 at Riverhead High School but it wasn’t without a little adversity. 

With back-to-back games scheduled, it was decided that Riverhead’s No. 1 pitcher Mya Marelli would enter the game in relief against Ward Melville to limit the strain on her pitching arm this early in the season. Naturally not having your ace on the mound gives the other team hope. Compounding that with missing the leadoff hitter, Sophia Viola, who has an ankle injury, along with speed threat, Tiffany Perez who had other obligations, Riverhead needed a full team effort.

Mikayla Nirrengarten took the pitcher’s circle and kept Ward Melville at bay. The senior pitched 3 and ⅔ innings and only surrendered one run. She kept the opponents off-balanced and forced hitters into groundouts every time there was a threat to score.

“I think Mikayla proved today that she’s not just someone to throw out there,” Vlacci said. “She’s out here to compete. And she’s trying to show everybody that maybe if she wasn’t in Mya’s shadow, she’d be our starting pitcher.”

Marelli took the mound with two outs and two runners on in the fourth and struck out the final batter of the inning sending a spark through the team. To that point, Riverhead was being no-hit and down 1-0. Then Jordyn Kwasna stepped to the plate with two outs on the board. The sophomore laced a double down the left field line, just outside of the outstretched glove of the diving left fielder. 

“I had this controlled anger in me,” said Kwasna, who also made an acrobatic, shoe-string catch in right field the prior inning. “It wasn’t at anyone specifically, I just wanted to win. I wanted to crush the ball and make an impact on the game.”

Deanna North then stepped up to the plate and mashed a single up the middle to drive in the tying run. It was a cool, calm and collected moment for the senior.

“I was just thinking bat on ball,” North said. “Simply get on base. Keep this rally going and do my job. And let the person behind me do their job.”

Fellow senior Kaysee Mojo took that opportunity to hit a ball to right field that quickly got past the outfielder and trickled to the fence for a triple, giving Riverhead its first lead of the game. 

“I like to keep the lineup the same every game,” Vlacci said. “I like the girls to get comfortable in their spot in the lineup. But with Voila out, Kwasna gets to be in that five hole and gets a chance to get that rally-sparking hit. It’s funny how things work out.”

From there it was lights out for Ward. With the ball in Marelli’s hands, two runs would be enough for the Blue Waves to come out with a victory. Marelli recorded eight strikeouts in three innings of work and didn’t allow a hit. The reigning League I pitcher of the year simply closed up shop.

“I have confidence in tough situations like that,” Marelli said. “I like being in pressured situations so it didn’t really bother me entering the game without a true pregame warmup. I had some anger in me with how the game was going. I knew the team needed me in that spot and I’m glad I could come through for them.”

With the victory, the Blue Waves have started the season with an unblemished 3-0 record and are trying to build a championship contender. They have all the pieces to do it.

“We were one game away from winning the league last year,” North said. “We want to end this season with a bang. We’re so hungry for the league title that we were stripped of last year. We want to win so bad. Even in a game like this where we struggled to hit, the feeling in the dugout was always positive. We knew we were going to come out on top.”