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Rachel Wandzilak strikes out 13 to lead West Islip softball team

West Islip's Rachel Wandzilak delivers a pitch during

West Islip's Rachel Wandzilak delivers a pitch during a game between West Islip and Bay Shore on Thursday, April 23, 2015 at West Islip. Credit: Alan J. Schaefer

Rachel Wandzilak held the rope.

That's an expression she uses when members of the West Islip softball team help each other out of a jam.

"If you are hanging from a 20,000-foot drop, who do you want at the other end of the rope holding you up?" she said. "When you can look at each one of your teammates and say they would hold the rope for you, that's when you're going to win a lot of ballgames."

West Islip won another one Thursday after Wandzilak struck out 13, went 3-for-4 and securely gripped that rope to lead the Lions to a 3-2 victory over Bay Shore.

"She was just on fire,'' West Islip coach Jim Farnworth said. "She was mixing up her pitches well, painting the corners.''

Yes, Wandzilak certainly has learned the ropes this season.

Last year she played rightfield as pitcher Alyssa Monteverde guided West Islip to the top seed in the Class AA playoffs. This year, she took over in the circle and has helped to keep the Lions near the top of the League II standings.

"It's a huge responsibility having the whole team on your shoulders," she said. "The only thing I can do is pick the girls up when they're down, and they pick me up when I'm down."

Strangely enough, the biggest pitch that Wandzilak threw in Thursday's win . . . was on Wednesday.

Despite ominous skies and a grim forecast, the game began at its originally scheduled time on Wednesday afternoon. Wandzilak led off the bottom of the first with a double and scored on Erin Schweers' two-base hit to tie the score at 1. Amanda Arena and Alyssa Adams added RBI singles to increase the lead to 3-1.

Jamie Soldinger led off the top of the second with a double and Rhianna Paoletti followed with a bunt single. Then the rain began, causing a 20-minute delay.

When play resumed, in high winds and a steady drizzle, Wandzilak walked Taylor Barbour and Rachel Mihlstin to force in a run as Bay Shore trimmed the deficit to 3-2. "No pitcher likes to pitch in the rain," she said with a laugh.

But in one of those rope-holding types of moments, Wandzilak got the next batter swinging on a high fastball to end the inning. The game then was postponed until Thursday.

"After the rainout, we were able to evaluate what was working and what wasn't working," Wandzilak said. "We saw a majority of their lineup, so I was able to see their strengths and weaknesses."

Wandzilak then tossed five scoreless innings Thursday. In total, she allowed two runs, six hits and two walks. After the game, she gave credit for her success to her catcher, Gianna Raimondi.

"She's able to frame my pitches and make me look better," Wandzilak said. "She is behind it all. A pitcher is only half as good as her catcher."

Ana Vargas hit an RBI double in the first to give the Marauders a 1-0 lead. Kim Goldsmith -- who took over in relief in the second inning for Bay Shore -- allowed five hits, two walks and no earned runs in 5 2/3 innings. Mihlstin and Soldinger each went 2-for-3 for Bay Shore (7-5).

Arena went 2-for-3 with an RBI for West Islip (10-2). which improved to 10-2. "We held our poise," she said, "and we are definitely still the team to beat, I think."

What makes her say that?

"Well, we have Rachel on the mound," she said. "And a good group of girls."

And they'll hold the rope.

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