Blue Waves softballers stay unbeaten with Monday shutout

Riverhead’s softball team is on a historic run and they’re not about to let up.

With a 7-0 victory over Walt Whitman on Monday afternoon at Riverhead High School, the Blue Waves have started the season 10-0, sending clear signals throughout Suffolk County that they are the team to beat this year. 

After making the playoffs last year as a relatively unknown team, the Blue Waves ripped through their playoff opponents one game at a time, falling just one win short of making it to the Suffolk County finals. 

Still relatively young last year, the squad started clicking late in the season and that’s parlayed into this season. But the biggest difference between last year to this year is this team absolutely clobbers the ball. They’ve gone from small ball — stealing bases and bunting runners over — to cracking lightning bolts over the fence multiple times a game.

On Monday, seniors Kaysee Mojo and Mikayla Nirrengarten both hit home runs to lead Riverhead to victory. Through 10 games this season, the Blue Waves have already hit nine home runs. Last year, they hit four. Mojo, a gritty catcher and one of the team leaders, hit her third of the season against Walt Whitman. 

“Kobe [Bryant] has the great quote that says you always have to work harder in practice than you do in games,” Riverhead head coach Rich Vlacci said. “We’ve been emphasizing hitting all year and they’ve bought into it. We watch a lot of film and highlight our flaws. You see it in Kaysee. She started out not as strong and hitting around .220. She’s dedicated so much time and effort towards it. She’s one of the hardest working kids I’ve been around and to see a senior working so hard it feeds down to everyone else.”

Mojo has upped her batting average to .433 and has become one of the most potent hitters in the lineup. She went 3-for-4 with two RBIs on Monday, including a double that nearly knocked the cover off the ball.

“You have all these girls around you that are ready to pick you up if you do fail,” Mojo said. “You always have that second chance the next at bat. Nobody gets down on one another on this team and I think that’s a big part of our success.”

We have a special team. To be able to bring a sense of pride back to Riverhead means the world to us.

Rich Vlacci

But Riverhead is no one trick pony and Mojo isn’t the only one raking the ball. Six Blue Waves batters are hitting over .400 at this point of the season. Jordyn Kwasna, who Vlacci calls one of the best hitters in the county, is sporting an average of .559. Sophia Viola, a freshman, leads off for the Blue Waves and hits .500. 

“It’s nice to know that your one and three hitters are productive like that,” Vlacci said. “The more they get on the more we can score runs. But we’re definitely not top heavy, we can hit from the top to the bottom of the order in any given inning.”

Mya Marelli, Adriana Martinez, and Bella D’Andrea are all hitting at least .400. D’Andrea and Marelli lead the team in RBIs with 16 and 14 respectively. 

But as much as the Blue Waves have been hitting, it would be remiss not to mention Marelli’s pitching prowess as the junior phenom consistently records zeros on the score board with an unprecedented amount of strikeouts along the way. Marelli struck out 15 batters Monday and has now eclipsed 100 strikeouts on the season with an ERA of 1.099.

Last year I hit 100 much later in the season so I’m proud that I achieved it earlier this year,” Marelli said. “I don’t come into every game thinking we are going to win. Anything can happen. I do my best and we’re always positive and that’s helping us a lot.”

“When she’s on there’s nobody better,” Mojo said. “I love catching her. The difference between her fastball to her change-up is insane. She always has the hitters unbalanced.”

Vlacci never forgets to credit his coaching staff for the early success. Assistants Kate Devinney and Forrest Vail work the dugout for the Blue Waves.

“Each of us brings something different to the table,” Vlacci said. “Each girl can go to one of us for whatever it is they need to work on. We each have an ability to fix a flaw. It’s so nice to have extra eyes you trust. You’ve seen Mya’s success, I can’t say enough about the way Kate calls the game and works with her. Forrest is only a volunteer coach but he’s literally watching hours of film every night. He works one-on-one with the girls and puts balls in certain spots and explains body motion. It’s just contagious. We’re all after one goal.”

The short-term goal is the league title, which Riverhead hasn’t won since 2011, the same year they last claimed the Suffolk County crown. They have big games coming up this week including two against second place Sachem East (7-1).

“We have a special team,” Vlacci said. “It’s not just one person, it’s a collective. The expectations are lofty this year. They want the title. They are committed to being better every week. To be able to bring a sense of pride back to Riverhead means the world to us. Our crowd grows every week. We love this place and only want the best for it.”

‘We have a special team. To be able to bring a sense of pride back to Riverhead means the world to us.’