A high school softball game that was basically all about offense came down to pitching and defense for the final at-bat.
Bishop McGann-Mercy had seen what had been a 13-6 lead in the fifth inning shrink down to an uncomfortable one-run margin in the bottom of the seventh inning at Mattituck High School on Friday.
The last time Southold/Greenport reached the high school softball playoffs, the current Clippers had not even been born. It was decades ago, all the way back in 1997.
That string of 19 playoff-less years may finally come to an end this year. Judging by the way the Clippers have been playing, not only do the playoffs look likely, but a Suffolk County Class C championship is a real possibility and who knows beyond that.
Pitching, pitching, pitching.
The importance of pitching in high school softball cannot be overstated. No matter how you cut it, a team’s success always comes down to pitching.
Her formal first name is Isabella, although just about everyone calls her Izzy, which Izzy Sorgi prefers.
The Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School softball pitcher can be called something else: fearless.
Commit errors against the Center Moriches High School softball team at your own risk.
Center Moriches is too good a team to give extra outs to. The Red Devils will punish teams that don’t play a clean game, as Bishop McGann-Mercy was reminded on Wednesday.
Toni Esposito just might want to thank her Southold/Greenport teammates for avoiding the mercy rule being invoked and extending their high school softball game to seven innings on Thursday.
If the Clippers hadn’t, the junior center fielder would not have clubbed her first home run that cleared the fence in their 12-4 Suffolk County League VII loss. Esposito’s other homer this season was that of the inside-the-park variety.
The previous meeting between the Bishop McGann-Mercy and Center Moriches high school softball teams was what ESPN would have labeled an instant classic. And Thursday’s rematch? Not so much.
In that memorable game on April 15, Mercy gave Center Moriches a scare before falling short, 7-6, in eight innings. Thursday’s game didn’t last a full five innings.
The player who had the greatest impact on the game wasn’t even there.
Southold/Greenport’s first-string pitcher, Ashley Hilary, was in Europe on a class trip along with a couple of teammates, catcher Rosemary Volinski and backup pitcher Hannah Sutton.
When the curtain on the drama that unfolded on the Center Moriches High School softball field finally fell, Red Devils coach Rich Roberts heaved a sigh of relief. His counterpart, Bishop McGann-Mercy’s Jackie Zilnicki, agonized over what might have been.
McGann-Mercy was one out away from pulling off an upset and winning the Suffolk County League VII game, which was full of chills and thrills. But Center Moriches is undefeated for a reason. The Red Devils can hit the ball and they have a knack for coming through under pressure.
In high school softball, making plays on catchable fly balls is critical. It can mean the difference between winning and losing.
“You can’t let anything easy go,” said Toni Esposito.