Lightning strike puts early end to bunt ball

Courtney Ficner scored both of her runs for Mattituck on wild pitches during Tuesday’s game against Southold/Greenport. Pitcher Danielle Alpi covered home plate on this play, but Ficner was safe.

In order to look ahead to the future, a player must keep her head up. That is one of the lessons both the Mattituck and Southold/Greenport high school softball teams are learning during this trying season.

Both teams are in a similar situation in that wins haven’t been easy to come by. So when the two North Fork neighbors met on Tuesday, with a real chance for a win at hand, the game was accompanied by some sense of urgency — and a whole lot of bunting.

The only 5 o’clock lightning that made its appearance at Robert W. Tasker Park in Peconic was the literal sort. When lightning was spotted, the game was stopped after five and a half innings, leaving Mattituck a 10-2 winner. The victory meant something, too.

“It keeps them going,” Mattituck Coach Kelly Pickering said of her players. “It builds their confidence and gives them something to play for.”

Courtney Ficner and Jackie Drake drove in two runs each and Sara Perkins threw a three-hitter for the Tuckers (4-11, 3-10). Drake, who went 3 for 3, singled in two runs on singles and also doubled. Ficner clubbed a two-run single that ignited a four-run rally in the third inning.

Perkins struck out six of the first seven batters she faced and finished with eight strikeouts. She fanned the side in the second, with each of those batters looking at called third strikes. The right-hander did not issue any walks, but she did hit one batter, Kim Bracken, in the third.

All three hits that the Clippers (0-14, 0-13) managed off Perkins were bunt singles, by Emily King, Nicole Busso and Danielle Alpi.

“Our batting wasn’t really on today,” Busso said. “We’ve been practicing bunts. We didn’t really have any other options at the time, so we went with it.”

A good deal of small ball was on display. Both teams combined to put 13 bunted balls in play. Drake said she had never played in a game before that featured so many bunts. “That was a lot,” she said.

Altogether, Mattituck produced 12 hits from seven batters, including Ashley Finger and Brittney Tumulty, who had two apiece.

Megan Conklin of Mattituck was hit by a pitch before coming around to score on a single by Drake for the game’s first run in the second.

That lead was stretched to 5-0 in the third. After Ficner’s two-run single, Jackie Hinrichs and Ficner both scored from third base on wild pitches.

Southold/Greenport pulled a couple of runs back in the fourth after bunt singles by King and Busso helped load the bases with none out. King then scored on Donna Angevine’s groundout, and Alexis Reed brought in the second run for the Clippers after escaping a pickle.

Mattituck mounted a two-out rally in the fifth for three runs. Drake lined a vicious single off the third baseman, Reed, to bring in the first of those runs. Later, Ficner came home on a wild pitch and Tumulty drove a run-scoring double over the center fielder.

Hinrichs was instrumental in her team’s final two runs in the sixth. She singled in one of them and then scored the other on a flyout.

“This is one of [those] games, it’s like a have-to win,” Drake said. “It was one of those, we need to do it, and we fought together, so I was happy with how we did.”

It hasn’t been an easy season for either team, both of which are on the short side of experience.

Mattituck has what could almost be considered a junior varsity team in terms of player ages. Further complicating matters for the Tuckers has been a rash of injuries. Despite all of that, Ficner said, “We don’t let it get us down.”

Pickering was encouraged to see the team’s hitting pick up.

“I think we’re learning how to play together,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of injuries this year. They’re overcoming a lot of obstacles.”

Southold/Greenport, with an entirely new team of players who are new to the varsity level, doesn’t have a single senior on the squad. Summing up the season, Alpi used the word “disappointing.” She said: “I thought we had a pretty decent team. I thought we could scrape some wins, but it wasn’t happening.”

Southold/Greenport Coach Cindy Sepenoski believes better days are ahead, though.

“I feel like we are making progress,” she said. “The scores are not showing it, [but] they are making progress. They know the plays. I think they fold under pressure … I tell them to keep their heads up, and it will come with time.”

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