Panthers Blitz North Salem 13-0
By Mitch Silver
Could the softball season start off any better than Rye Neck’s has? They opened with a 10-0 victory over Mamaroneck that was called after five innings due to rain. Next, they traveled to Dobbs Ferry and thrashed the Eagles 15-0. Then on April 4, they hosted a North Salem team boasting a sophomore pitcher, Chloe Matt, who’d struck out 17 in her first two games. All Joan Spedafino’s team did was whitewash the Tigers 13-0. It was all reminiscent of last year’s undefeated season that led to a Section 1 title.
The common denominator in all three shutouts? Rye Neck’s senior pitcher Katie Blanch. Katie, who’ll be pitching for Williams College next year, was a New York State Class B first-team pitcher as a junior last season. So far this year, she’s thrown three scoreless victories. Coming into the North Salem game, she’d also gone 7-7 at the plate with three home runs, including a grand slam, and nine RBI.
Tuesday’s game was a little more routine for the Panther star. Katie gave up three hits on the mound while striking out a mere dozen of the opposition. She was limited to a lone hit and a single RBI at the plate, though she fielded her position perfectly, even starting off the game-ending double play on a grounder back to the mound.
Rye Neck, which lost multi-year starters Evelyn Picone, Katie Lipman, and All-State catcher Carissa Pecchia to graduation, still has plenty of firepower. Four-year varsity starter at second base Olivia Tobin got two hits, one of them a double, in building a four-run home first for the Panthers with another two scoring in the second. Three-year starter Julianna Lori drove in two runs in the first with a single past short. She duplicated that feat in the fourth. Three-year starting shortstop Ariana Hammer also had a fourth-inning RBI. Sophomore Shelby Preisser scored three times.
After the game, Katie Blanch was asked about the difference in her pitching this season. “I’ve been doing a lot of strength exercises, so my fastball’s a little quicker. But my change-up is much better. I can really throw it for strikes.” That’s bad new for Rye Neck’s opponents.
They’ll travel to Hastings Thursday, April 13.