BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO
Danielle Grim and Ashley Finger both shed tears of sadness that were undoubtedly mixed with joy. Their high school softball season — and playing careers — with the Mattituck Tuckers had its share of rough spots, but the way it ended for them on Friday gave them a dear memory to cherish.
Mattituck blew leads of 7-2 and 9-5, yet hung tough when it counted to win its final game of the season, 11-9 over the Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs, in an eight-inning game at Stotzky Memorial Park in Riverhead. Afterward, the Tuckers’ only two seniors, Grim, a right fielder, and Finger, a second baseman, were moved to tears by the realization that it was the final time they would wear a Mattituck uniform.
Contributing to the emotion was the added drama of Mattituck’s only extra-inning game this season.
Lilly McCullough and Finger, who both began the eighth inning with singles, later scored to give Mattituck (5-15, 4-14 in Suffolk County League VIII) an 11-9 lead in the top of the eighth inning. With two out, McCullough scored on a wild pitch, making it 10-9. Finger later plated an insurance run on a fielder’s choice by Kaitlyn Perino.
Mattituck pitcher Sara Perkins retired the side in order in the bottom half of the inning, with the game’s final out, a liner off Amy Boden’s bat, finding the webbing of Finger’s glove. Finger then happily jumped into her teammates’ arms.
“I don’t think I could have asked for a more perfect last game,” said Finger.
Grim said it wasn’t just the win that made it so pleasing, “but the fact that we were going to go out there and leave it all out there on the field, and play our hardest. All the girls did that, and I’m so proud of everyone.”
The Tuckers have a young team, with two seniors and two juniors; the rest of the squad consists of sophomores and freshmen.
As one might expect of such a young team, it had its troubles this year. It endured its share of good and bad, not to mention injuries and inconsistency. Perhaps that made Friday’s result, which snapped Mattituck’s four-game losing streak and McGann-Mercy’s four-game winning streak, all the more satisfying. The Tuckers turned in one of their best overall performances of the season, and probably their best in terms of offense.
“It’s huge,” Mattituck Coach Kelly Pickering said. “It’s the best thing that has happened all season.”
The Tuckers could savor this victory, which came so close to slipping through their fingers. Playoff-bound McGann-Mercy (10-9, 9-9) forced the extra inning in the seventh when Brooke Lessard dropped a run-scoring single with two out into shallow left field, bringing home Amanda Burriesci and tying the score at 9-9.
That meant additional softball was required in the form an eighth inning. Was that deflating for the Tuckers? Well, not for one of them, at least.
“I was kind of happy that we were going to keep playing,” said Finger, who sat out half the season with a torn muscle in her chest. “I had like the biggest adrenaline rush ever, and I just knew that everyone was going to work so much harder and do their best.”
Mattituck’s leadoff batter, McCullough, went 3 for 4 with a walk, a run-scoring single and two stolen bases. The Tuckers received two runs batted in apiece from Grim, Courtney Ficner and Jackie Hinrichs. Alexa Orlando, a freshman, had two hits, including a double, to go with three runs and three stolen bases.
The first batter in McGann-Mercy’s order, Lessard, didn’t have a bad day herself. She went 4 for 5, drove in a pair of runs and stole a base. Teammate Brieanne Bieber went 3 for 3.
Lessard, however, was also involved in a scary play along with McGann-Mercy center fielder Karlin McIntyre in the third. Hinrichs popped up a ball to shallow center field that Lessard chased after, as did McIntyre. With both of them looking up at the ball, they crashed in a violent collision, with the ball deflecting off Lessard’s glove and falling to the ground. Hinrichs ended up on second base and two runs scored on the play for a 4-1 Mattituck lead. Lessard and McIntyre were examined, and they both remained in the game.
After the game, Pickering got a kick out of the notion that her two seniors managed to get a little extra softball in.
“They made the last one last a little longer,” she said. “They had fun and they won.”