PANTHERS 16, CLIPPERS 1 (5 INNINGS)
Babylon pitcher Tiana Giuliano hurled a one-hitter on Friday, and her coach, Rick Punzone, was shouldering the blame for that hit.
It was Punzone who called for Giuliano to throw a second straight changeup to the third batter she faced, and Southold/Greenport’s Nicole Busso was ready for it.
“She pitched the same pitch twice,” Busso said. “I knew what to expect. I knew what to do.”
Busso smashed the ball hard, and it skipped by left fielder Madison Mugno. While the Panthers chased after the ball and scrambled to get it back to the infield, Busso kept charging around second base, third base and then went all the way home.
“After I got to third, I kind of just went for it,” said Busso.
Really, it wasn’t too great a gamble. Busso and the Clippers didn’t have much to lose. They were already trailing, 10-0, by the time Busso made her connection. It stood as Southold/Greenport’s only run in a 16-1 loss. The Suffolk County Conference IV crossover game at Southold High School was stopped after five innings because of the mercy rule.
Giuliano, a six-year varsity starter for Babylon (10-0, 8-0), registered 12 strikeouts. The senior right-hander did not issue any walks.
Giuliano (7-0), whose earned run average is under 1.00, has thrown one-hitters and no-hitters before, although she couldn’t can’t say how many. But there was no question she had her good stuff working on Friday.
“I definitely had my speed going for me, and my accuracy around the plate,” Giuliano said. “I was hitting all my spots, and I was very confident up there.”
As if facing Giuliano wasn’t tough enough, the Southold/Greenport batters also had to contend with strong winds blowing in from right field, occasionally kicking up mini dust storms on the dry infield.
The one-sided game was what one might have expected of the undefeated League VII leaders against the last-place League VIII team.
Babylon received a home run itself from Nicole Marro, who finished with five runs batted in — all in the first inning. The leadoff hitter for the Panthers, Christine Desiderio, a two-time all-state player whose batting average is over .700 this season, went 4 for 4 with a double, a walk and two RBI. The No. 2 batter, Briana Goodfellow, added two RBI, as did Giuliano.
Babylon, the defending Suffolk Class B champion, is an offensive machine. As good as the Panthers were last season, they may be even better this year. The team’s batting average is around .450. Marro’s home run was her fourth of the season and the 12th for Babylon, “which is the most we’ve ever had,” said Punzone.
Babylon boasts a lineup that is a nightmare to pitch to. “From 1 to 9 [in the batting order], there’s really no easy outs,” said Punzone.
“We knew what we were getting into, but we didn’t really think about who they were,” Busso said. “We went in there thinking [about playing] our best and just do what we can do.”
By the time Southold/Greenport’s No. 8 batter, Caitlin Grilli, stepped to the plate in the third inning, the Clippers (1-8, 1-8) were already down by 15-1.
Twelve of Babylon’s 15 hits came in those first three innings. The biggest of those hits was a three-run homer that Marro socked to make it 10-0 in the first. Earlier in the inning, she had slugged a two-run single to open the scoring.
Eight of the Babylon starters who batted had at least one hit, and five had more than one. Babylon was also sound defensively, not making any errors while Southold/Greenport committed seven.
Busso’s home run was Southold/Greenport’s first of the season and Busso’s first since she was a freshman. The junior first baseman, a third-year varsity player, has been one of the Clippers’ more reliable players.
“She’s always a dependable player,” Southold/Greenport coach Lori Marra said. “You know when she’s on the field or she’s up at bat, she’s not going to let something affect her so much, and she will just always show up with something to offer.”
Busso has learned lessons over the years. Perhaps the biggest of them all, she said, is to never give up.
“Softball is an ever-changing game,” Busso said. “You never know what’s going to happen. If you miss something, you have the opportunity to fix it the next play.”
This has been a dream season for Babylon. The closest call the Panthers have had so far was a 5-3 win over Bayport-Blue Point on March 28. Babylon has outscored opponents, 121-20. With each win, the Panthers creep closer and closer to an undefeated regular season.
“We‘re hoping for it, we really are,” Giuliano said. “It definitely keeps us going. We want to keep our [undefeated] record, and just like winning.”