The question mark hanging over the Mattituck High School softball team’s three-headed pitching staff remains, but it is smaller and no longer in boldfaced type.
Having had two games of live action to see what her pitchers can do, coach Kim Gerstung said she feels better with what she has seen.
The Tuckers entered the season with sophomore Madison Osler being the only one with previous experience pitching at the varsity level. It was new territory for junior Grace Izzo and freshman Alexis Burns, though. They are all righthanders.
Izzo (0-1) started the season opener, a 12-10 loss to Bishop McGann-Mercy on March 21. She worked well through the first four innings before running into trouble when she walked the first five batters in the fifth and was relieved by Burns. Izzo allowed six hits and 11 walks against two strikeouts in the Suffolk County League VII game.
“I think I did really well for me first time,” Izzo said during a break in the team’s indoor practice on Monday. “I probably could have done a little better. I started off strong.”
Burns was efficient, retiring all three batters she faced. “I was nervous at first, but I got used to it,” she said.
Osler, who was unavailable for that game, asked to start the team’s second league game at Center Moriches last Wednesday. “She wants to pitch against the good teams,” said Gerstung.
Osler got her wish, going the distance in a 15-6 loss to the Red Devils. The strong Center Moriches team (2-0, 2-0) banged out 15 hits, including six in a row in the sixth inning. Osler (0-1) struck out one, walked four and hit a batter.
“I definitely think I could have thrown a little bit harder,” said Osler, who dealt with a right shoulder injury last year. “I feel like I was a little all over the place. I could have worked on my changeup more than I did.”
Osler has played softball since she was in seventh grade, first playing for the varsity team two years ago. She said she is “definitely” a better pitcher than she was last year.
“I’ve worked on the changeup,” said Osler, who is scheduled to pitch against Southold/Greenport (0-1, 0-1) on Thursday. “I’ve worked with different catchers and I’ve gotten some pointers from other pitchers.”
The changeup, an alternative to her fastball, could be critical for Osler this season.
“She looked good,” Gerstung said. “I mean, she hasn’t had pitching lessons in over two years, so she’s just working on what she learned when she was in junior high, basically. She doesn’t have a lot of pitches. She doesn’t have a lot of movement, but she’s got some pretty good speed. She does have a changeup, which looks nice when she uses it.”
Izzo and Burns don’t have Osler’s speed and only throw fastballs.
Izzo noted that her problems against McGann-Mercy occurred when the wind picked up and it got colder. But, more importantly, she learned something about herself.
“I learned that I pitch a lot better during game situations than during practice, which is good,” she said. “I like the pressure.”
Apparently so does her catcher, Rachel Voegel, who hit 4 for 8 through the first two games and threw out three runners trying to steal.
Gerstung likes how the offense has looked, churning out 16 hits against McGann-Mercy and 10 off Center Moriches.
“That’s showing that we have some power in our offense,” she said. “It’s good to see.”
In the Center Moriches game, Ashley Chew, Voegel and Jaime Gaffga each had a pair of hits, with Chew doubling and driving in a run, and Gaffga drawing a walk and stealing a base.
“After seeing the performance against Center,” Osler said, “I’m feeling really confident about the rest of the year.”
Photo caption: Sophomore righthander Madison Osler works on her pitching during Mattituck’s indoor practice on Monday. (Credit: Garret Meade)