BAYMEN 16, TUCKERS 3 (5 INNINGS)
Injuries hurt, there’s no doubt about it. But when a high school softball team with hardly any depth at all, such as Mattituck, suffers injuries, they are particularly painful.
Injuries were an issue for Mattituck last year. Once again, the Tuckers have their hands tied, in a sense, with a domino affect of injuries that has some players playing out of position, in spots they are unfamiliar with.
Asked if she felt as if her team was cursed, Mattituck senior Megan Conklin said: “I feel like it’s normal at this point. … It’s just the way we deal with it that’s going to help us or hurt us.”
It surely hasn’t been easy. Mattituck coach Rick Hinrichs said nine of his 13 players are healthy. That obviously doesn’t leave much room for maneuvering.
For Mattituck’s Suffolk County League VII and home opener against Hampton Bays on Tuesday, a game-time decision was made to have the team’s regular first baseman, Conklin, be the designated hitter. Conklin had surgery on her mouth the day before and said she was feeling woozy, said Hinrichs.
As a result, Melissa Siegfried, who is normally a shortstop, was sent to first base. Jackie Hinrichs, the coach’s daughter, was switched from her second-base spot to shortstop, and a sophomore, Samantha Perino, started at second base.
If that wasn’t enough, Mattituck catcher Courtney Ficner hurt herself in the third inning on a curious play. After fielding a bunt by Jenna Goucher and throwing to first base, Ficner doubled over in obvious pain.
“When she threw, she twisted something and she was in tremendous pain,” said Rick Hinrichs.
Ficner left the game before later re-entering to hit.
Alexa Orlando, a left fielder, took over the catching duties, the first time she has played that position in a game.
And then there was Mattituck’s No. 1 pitcher, Sara Perkins, battling through with her ailing left knee. With her knee bothering her in the cold weather, she pitched four-plus innings before being relieved by Siegfried and sent to second base.
It’s enough to give a coach a headache.
“We’ve got all these issues,” Rick Hinrichs said. “It’s like Murphy’s Law right now with injuries.”
No wonder Mattituck lost for the second time in as many games by the mercy rule in a five-inning contest, 16-3. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Tuckers (0-2, 0-1) made six errors for the second straight game.
“That’s all?” Rick Hinrichs said. “It seemed like a lot more, man.”
Softball is king (or perhaps more appropriately, queen) in Hampton Bays. Hampton Bays center fielder Karlie Troyan said the sport is “crazy big” at her school. So, imagine the dismay in Hampton Bays last year when the Baymen did something virtually unheard of in failing to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in what Hampton Bays coach Brian Dunkirk said was a “long time.”
“Definitely we were shocked a little, a letdown from the history we have at Hampton Bays,” Troyan said. “We definitely don’t want to be where we were last year, and I don’t think that we will.”
That disappointment, however, may have fueled the team’s fire for a good showing this season. “I think it probably motivated them a little bit, not to repeat,” said Dunkirk.
Playing its season opener in Mattituck, Hampton Bays did not disappoint. cranking out 11 hits and playing errorless defense. Troyan drove in five runs on 4-for-4 hitting and scored another two. Nicole Yeager knocked in four runs herself from a two-run single and a two-run double.
“Everyone was ready to go, every single player,” said Troyan.
Mattituck, playing 10 days after a 12-0 non-league loss to Newfield, received two hits apiece from Orlando and Conklin.
Hampton Bays blew the game open with a seven-run rally in the second inning that made the score 9-3. Five more runs in the third extended the Baymen’s lead to 14-3.
“My eyes are open,” Dunkirk said. “I know what they’re capable of. They have to know what they’re capable of.”
Mattituck doesn’t have long before it’s next test. The Tuckers have a game at Mount Sinai on Wednesday.
“Back to the drawing board,” Rick Hinrichs said. “Keep fighting. That’s all you can do.”