WHALERS 13, CLIPPERS 3
The Southold/Greenport softball team brought its 2012 season to an end on Thursday, with one eye looking ahead to the future, hopeful of better days to come.
On the same day that the Clippers bid farewell to their two seniors, catcher Erin Creedon and third baseman Alexis Reed, they were thumped, 13-3, as Pierson/Bridgehampton pitcher Melanie Stafford hurled a one-hitter and shortstop Kasey Gilbride drove in four runs.
Stafford recorded 11 strikeouts, with one walk. The only hit she allowed was an infield single by Kim Bracken, who raced down the basepath to narrowly beat the shortstop’s throw in the fourth inning.
Creedon and Reed, perhaps unnerved by a pregame Senior Day ceremony at Southold High School, both went 0 for 3 in their final game for the last-place Clippers (1-15 overall and in Suffolk County Conference IV).
“There are a lot of emotions there for them,” Southold/Greenport coach Lori Marra said. “You can’t just pretend that that’s not there. But I think once the game started going, we had to remember that we’re still here to play a game, not just say goodbye.”
In losing only two players to graduation, the Clippers should be in a better situation next year. Marra has expressed confidence that Wendy Peterson, a junior, will be able to over the catcher position. Sarah Tuthill, a freshman who has played for both the varsity and junior varsity teams this season, can play third base as well as pitch. She pitched the final two innings of Thursday’s game in relief of junior Courtney O’Sullivan.
Meanwhile, other players have made strides this year, particularly Caitlin Grilli, a freshman who split time at shortstop with sophomore Jessica Rizzo. “I could throw either one of them out there and feel comfortable,” Marra said of the two first-year varsity players. “Neither of them held back. They both pushed; they both worked hard.”
Also among the young up-and-coming players are a corps of sophomore outfielders: Leah LaFreniere, Kendra King, Kayleigh Commins, Alexandra Small and Briana Pagano.
Speaking of the younger players, some of whom made the jump straight from junior high school to varsity, O’Sullivan said: “They skipped a whole level, so it was a whole learning experience. We just kept improving the whole season.”
Bracken, a junior second baseman, said the most important thing the young Clippers learned is the value of communication. “It was bittersweet because although we’re losing Erin and Alexis — and it’s extremely sad — we’re definitely taking a lot of steps in the right direction, and every single game I’ve seen extreme improvement in each of our players and I feel extremely comfortable around them,” she said. “I am so looking forward to next year. I think we’re going to be great.”
That is the sort of talk that Marra likes to hear. “They’re all kind of already excited for next year, too, and that’s a good feeling to have,” she said. “As a coach, you want them to be excited.”
The second-place Whalers (11-6, 10-6) used the game as a final tuneup for the playoffs. They collected 18 hits, including three apiece by Sariah Cafiero (two runs batted in, three runs scored) and Stafford. In addition, the Whalers benefited from eight Southold/Greenport errors.
The Whalers have been wearing yellow ribbons on their cleats in support of their coach, Melissa Edwards, who suffered the loss of her father recently. Charlie Edwards, a deliveryman, was killed after his vehicle struck a tree in North Haven. He was 56.
Melissa Edwards, a former Riverhead High School star player, said the Whalers have been a great source of comfort to her during this difficult time.
“They have been absolutely amazing,” she said. “I call them my Band-Aid. They’re basically my big Band-Aid right now because obviously it’s a sore spot, A lot has been going on in my life. The team, the whole community of Sag Harbor has been amazing, from administration to parents to everyone.”