WILDCATS 2, TUCKERS 0
Chelsea Hawks has only one letter “k” in her name, but she had 20 Ks after her name the other day.
Shoreham-Wading River’s softball coach, Christina Shiffman, said she can tell early in a game if Hawks, her standout pitcher, is on or not. There was no question that she was on Wednesday. Hawks mowed down one Bayport-Blue Point batter after another before finishing with 20 strikeouts and a 5-1 victory. That equaled the school mark of 20 strikeouts in a game she set last year against Mount Sinai. It’s a remarkable achievement, especially considering there are only 21 outs in a seven-inning high school game.
Hawks said she didn’t realize she had that many strikeouts until after the game when assistant coach Ed Price told her. She also learned that she had become Shoreham-Wading River’s all-time strikeouts leader, passing Keri Bettenhauser.
On Friday, Hawks pretty much picked up where she left off two days earlier, The senior recorded 15 strikeouts in a 2-0 win over visiting Mattituck in a double two-hitter. Her former teammate, Sara Perkins, pitched for the Tuckers.
With her tally from Friday’s game, Hawks (3-1) has 533 career strikeouts. She has registered 48 strikeouts in the last 19 innings.
“Every time we watch Chelsea pitch, she does a great job,” Shoreham-Wading River coach Christina Shiffman said. “It’s fun to just watch her break some records and really make her mark here at the school. She just keeps getting better and better. That’s great for us.”
The right-hander, who is headed to Molloy College, struck out every Mattituck batter she faced at least once and five multiple times. She did not allow a walk. Hawks caught the Tuckers looking at called third strikes on four occasions and fanned six straight batters during one stretch.
“It was warm out,” Hawks explained. “It’s always a good day when it’s warm.”
Perkins, a senior right-hander, did not allow an earned run, struck out seven and walked none. She called it her best outing in a while, crediting catcher Brittany Tumulty for framing pitches for called strikes. “My curveball was working very well,” she said.
Perkins didn’t seem fazed, either, after Shoreham-Wading River’s first batter, Caitlin Mirabell, socked a hard-hit ball that struck the inside of her right thigh, near her knee, in the first inning.
Asked to assess Perkins’ pitching, Mattituck coach Kelly Pickering said, “Spot on, probably the best I’ve seen her pitch so far.”
When they were youngsters, Hawks and Perkins both played for the Long Island Sharks travel team, and their softball paths have crossed more than once ever since. On Friday, they ended up in a pitchers’ duel.
Hawks had something, though, that Perkins didn’t. She had an errorless defense behind her. Mattituck made five errors, and that made the difference.
Both of Shoreham-Wading River’s runs in the fifth inning were unearned. Erin Whelan, who started things off by reaching base on a misplayed fly ball in the outfield, later scored on a dropped fly. Then, with two outs, Brittany Mahen clocked a double to right-center field, scoring Mirabell to make it 2-0 for the Wildcats (3-1, 3-0 League VII).
“When you have two strong pitchers, it really becomes who is going to make the least mistakes and who’s going to put the ball in play,” Shiffman said. “We were able to do that, not as much as I would have liked, but we got the job done.”
Mattituck (1-3, 1-2) was missing two regular starters, shortstop Melissa Siegfried and center fielder Alex Chowbay. Val Hommel was moved from left field to shortstop, which she had never played before. She responded by supplying the Tuckers with both of their well-struck hits. Hommel clubbed a double to the left-field fence in the second inning and ripped a single past the third baseman in the fifth.
Afterward, Pickering could not help but rue the errors that proved so costly. “That is killing me right now,” she said.
At the same time, the Tuckers could be encouraged by their ability to give Shoreham-Wading River a competitive game.
“I was a little concerned today,” Perkins said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I knew they have a lot of girls who play travel [ball]. They’re all experienced and stuff. With girls out of position, I was a little concerned, but everyone came out and played their hardest. Unfortunately, we didn’t come out on top, but everyone’s happy with the way we played because we honestly did not expect to run with them seven innings.”
What could be expected, though, was the difficulty Hawks posed.
“Her focus and determination are really the two things I think she has every single time she steps on the field,” Shiffman said. “You can’t be totally on every single day, but her determination to get the job done keeps us in every single game.”
Hawks throws a rise ball, a curveball and a few screwballs. She didn’t have a rise ball last year, but it has become her go-to pitch while the curveball remains her favorite.
“This season we just want to go as far as we can, play as hard as we can, and just leave it all out there,” she said. “I worked hard all winter, and I’ve been waiting for this for a while now.”
Keep counting the strikeouts.