RED DEVILS 7, TUCKERS 1
Nobody had to tell the Center Moriches Red Devils that they weren’t in Florida any more. The bitterly cold weather on Tuesday was an ample reminder.
When the Center Moriches softball team returned from a spring-training trip to Florida on Saturday, they didn’t bring Florida temperatures back with them, but they did bring the benefits that come with having seven scrimmages in four days in conditions that aren’t close to frigid. Thanks to the Florida trip, Center Moriches not only had a good opportunity for team bonding, but was also able to accelerate its progress.
Referring to the seven scrimmages, Center Moriches coach Rich Roberts said: “That’s 20 at-bats for girls. You’re not going to get that in the cold weather up here.”
So, Center Moriches enjoyed something of a head start on Mattituck, which has had to contend with New York weather.
The difference between the teams was seen Tuesday when Mattituck dropped its Suffolk County League VII opener, 7-1, at Center Moriches High School.
Morgan Maier drove in three runs and Kiley Nolan tossed a three-hitter for Center Moriches (2-0 overall and in League VII). But it was errorless defense, most notably the fine play of senior shortstop Cheyenne Raimondi, that Roberts liked best. Raimondi had two putouts and two assists, one of which was a neat grab on the short hop of a ground ball by Alex Chowbay that drew some ooohs and ahhhs in the fifth inning.
“I think she surprises other people, but she doesn’t surprise me any more,” Roberts said. “I’ve come to expect that from her, and I think she’s come to expect that from herself.”
Nolan had five strikeouts and issued two walks. The only hits she allowed were a pair of singles by Chowbay and another single by Brittany Tumulty.
“Kiley attacked the strike zone,” Roberts said. “She worked ahead of hitters. She limited the amount of base runners. Any time you limit base runners, you limit the amount of pressure on your defense, so it makes the game a lot easier. Obviously, that helps.”
The only runs Center Moriches needed came in the first inning. After Claire Brady scored on a wild pitch, Maier shot a two-run single past the second baseman, spotting Center Moriches a 3-0 lead.
The score remained that way until the fifth when Center Moriches capitalized on three Mattituck errors (the Tuckers’ only errors of the game) by scoring four runs.
“That was a rough inning,” said Chowbay.
Miscommunication in Mattituck’s outfield led to a dropped fly ball that allowed Brady, who had led off with a walk, to score her second run of the game. Tori Fahie (double off the left-field fence), Maier (groundout) and Erin Creen (single up the middle) also knocked in a run each during the rally.
“We were right in there … except for that one inning,” said Mattituck pitcher Sarah Perkins, who gave up three earned runs and seven hits over six innings. “It’s always the one bad inning.”
Nolan’s shutout bid was snapped in the seventh. Mattituck’s Courtney Ficner led off with a walk, stole second and third, and then came home on a sacrifice bunt by Perkins.
Mattituck was facing a good team in Center Moriches, which lost to Babylon in last year’s Suffolk Class B final.
“We’re aiming for the county championship this year,” said Raimondi. She added, “I think we’re all really focused and determined.”
That attitude, perhaps as much as the talent level, is what Roberts likes about his team.
“There’s a focus and determination to reach a goal,” he said. “When you have that, it’s something you can’t coach. When girls come out ready to play the game the right way all the time, it kind of makes my job easy.”
While the Tuckers still have work to do, there was a sense among them that the game was an improvement from their season opener, a 15-0 loss to Rocky Point last Wednesday.
“We’ll build on this,” Mattituck coach Kelly Pickering said. “It’s only going to get better from here on out.”
Asked after the game if the cold bothered her, Chowbay answered: “Of course. It was brutal. The wind was actually the biggest challenge. The ball was moving from center field all the way to right.”