Softball: Wildcats optimistic despite up and down early season

Shoreham-Wading River’s softball team has had its ups and downs so far this season, but second-year coach Kelly Fitzpatrick likes what she sees.

Coming off of a sharp 4-1 victory over Center Moriches Saturday, featuring a masterful, 15-strikeout pitching performance by Erin Cahill, the Wildcats took a step back with a 13-0 loss to Miller Place at Shoreham-Wading River High School on Monday afternoon.

Because Cahill wasn’t feeling well, Fitzpatrick opted for Emma Reilly to start in the circle and the freshman pitched well and kept the score close until a sloppy fifth inning where some errors led to a lopsided score. Miller Place’s Ava Ziccinelli was nearly unhittable, only allowing two hits and striking out six through four innings.

“Ziccinelli … has such a good whip on her ball with good movement,” Fitzpatrick said. “And with her catcher Delaney Schleider behind the plate, they make such a strong battery.”

Early on, Fitzpatrick has tried to work on the little things and will continue to do so for the rest of the season. Without a junior varsity program, the younger players are thrown in the fire of a varsity game without much experience. The Wildcats haven’t been able to field a JV squad in more than five years, Fitzpatrick estimates.

“We don’t get those two years of learning that other teams get the luxury of,” Fitzpatrick said. “They’re not learning the game at a slower pace, unfortunately. Fundamentals, game awareness and just understanding certain situations are some things we are working on. Luckily we have a group of seniors that are really helping the younger girls along.”

Despite the varied experience levels, the Wildcats have a strong foundation this season with seniors Elizabeth Sabino behind the plate and Cahill in the circle. Cahill has pitched 14 innings this season and has struck out 28 batters. She’s also been rock solid in the batter’s box, hitting .571 in three games played. Sabino, who had one of the only hits against Miller Place, is so far batting .429.

“I think Sabino is going to have a great year this year,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s her senior year. She’s committed to go to St. Thomas Aquinas for college next year. She’s stepping up as our captain and she’s really leading the team. She’s a very strong player that’s saved us a lot behind the plate with runners on third and a couple of potential wild pitches. Having a big backstop always makes a big difference.”

Freshmen Reilly and Mia Dettleff will be a major part of the success this year as well and have each posted solid numbers from the plate to start the year. Reilly, who plays first base when Cahill pitches, is batting .273 so far. Dettleff, who plays shortstop, has been an absolute force, sitting just behind Cahill in batting average at .545. She leads the team in RBIs with five. 

“They both played for us last year as eighth graders so that was a boost coming into their freshman seasons,” Fitzpatrick said. “They’re both very strong players and worked very hard in the offseason to get where they need to be playing at a varsity level.”

Fitzpatrick knows there’s going to be some bumps in the road with some of the experience levels on the team. But four games into the season, the Wildcats have a very commendable 2-2 record.

“The biggest thing for us is being ready for those high pressure moments,” Fitzpatrick said. “We need to be able to handle it on this level. Stay calm and work together. That’s where we need to band together as a team to make the plays when we’re going to need them.”