GEORGE FAELLA PHOTO
Mollie Gibson of Port Jefferson slid safely into second base while Mattituck second baseman Megan Conklin looked for the ball.
Having set a high standard for itself, the Port Jefferson High School softball team has begun the task of trying to meet the challenge, lofty goals and all.
Lofty goals come with the territory when a team that had reached regional finals the past two years remains virtually intact, as is the case with Port Jefferson.
“We have a lot of high expectations,” pitcher Michiko McGivney said. “Our goal this year is to win a state championship.”
The pieces appear to be in place for the Royals to make a good run at it. They have seven returning starters, six players who play on travel teams, a proven infield and a standout pitcher in McGivney, who was an all-Long Island first-team selection last year.
Port Jefferson, which was a state runner-up in 2005, is shooting for what would be its first state title.
“This is the year to do it,” Coach Debbie Brown said. “We want the league, number one. We want the playoffs and the county, number two, and get to the final four.”
So far they are off to a fine start.
Port Jefferson and the Mattituck Tuckers are opposites, in a sense, coming from different ends of the softball spectrum. While Port Jefferson is a team that is built to win now, Mattituck is a team of the future. So, when the two teams met on Saturday, the result was pretty much what had been expected. Port Jefferson’s superior experience won out.
Mattituck may be in no great rush to see McGivney or any of the rest of the Royals again any time soon. McGivney was superb on both sides of the plate, as a pitcher and a batter, in visiting Port Jefferson’s 13-2 rout in the Suffolk County League VII game. By tossing a three-hitter with eight strikeouts, McGivney brought her pitching record, as well as that of her team, to 4-1 (Port Jefferson had won its first four league games). The sophomore left-hander retired the first nine batters she faced, did not concede any walks and did not allow an earned run for the complete-game win.
McGivney was a force on the offensive end as well. Batting in the leadoff spot, she went 4 for 4, scored three runs, stole five bases and drew a walk. The batter after her, Chelsea Tamuk, supplied three runs batted in from a pair of singles. Morgan Sakovich added a two-run single and Mollie Gibson had a run-scoring triple for the defending Long Island Class C champions.
Lilly McCullough, Jackie Drake and Megan Conklin were the only Tuckers (2-3, 1-2) to get a hit off McGivney.
“We held our own for as long as we could,” said Mattituck Coach Kelly Pickering, whose team dropped to 2-5, 1-4 with losses to the Center Moriches Red Devils on Monday (9-4) and the Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs on Tuesday (5-2).
So, how good is Port Jefferson?
“I think they’re very good,” Pickering said. “They’re going to be the team to beat in our division.”
Mattituck didn’t make things easier for itself, though, by committing six errors and giving away seven unearned runs.
“They were pretty good, but I think we could have held it a little closer,” Mattituck pitcher Sara Perkins said. “We gave them a lot of runs. We made a lot of errors.”
Port Jefferson broke out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning when McGivney scored on a fielder’s choice before Gibson and Renee Marchewka both came home on a driven fly ball that an outfielder couldn’t hold onto.
The Royals showed their ability to hit with two out, as Courtney Fee did in the third when her double made it 4-0.
Port Jefferson also mounted a two-out rally in the fourth when Tamuk singled home one run and Gibson drove in another with her triple, which took a short hop before ricocheting off the left-field fence.
And then there was a four-run rally by Port Jefferson with two out in the fifth, featuring a run-scoring single by Leyla Echegarary and a two-run single by Tamuk.
Yet another two-out rally followed in the seventh, when Port Jefferson scored its final three runs. Altogether, the Royals scored 10 of their runs with two outs.
“They don’t say die,” Brown said of her players. “They’re always battling.”
That’s just one of the things the coach likes about her team, which isn’t shying away from great expectations in the form of a run at a state championship.
“It’s a big challenge,” Brown said. “There’s a lot of pressure on us to get there. We take it one day at a time. We know we’re more than qualified to do it.”