Kelly Pickering had made the walk down the hill to the low-lying Mattituck High School varsity softball field that she refers to as “the pit” many times before. But after Pickering stopped coaching the Tuckers three years ago, she figured her days of walking to the pit were over.
After two years of coaching Mattituck and then two years away from the team while Rick Hinrichs ran the Tuckers, Pickering is back in charge of the team. So, on Monday, the first day of practice, she may have experienced an odd feeling of déjà vu.
“It was a little weird walking down the first day,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d be back, but here we are.”
It would seem that the Tuckers are in a good position to pick up the pieces from a 1-16 season. Eight of the team’s 12 players are seniors and three are juniors.
“Last year was a rough season,” senior pitcher Sara Perkins said. “It kind of put a downer on everyone. … This year it’s a whole new plate. We had a lot of problems with drama last year. We’re hoping that stops this year. So far, so good.”
In other words, the Tuckers are looking for less drama, more wins.
“That would be ideal,” said Perkins.
Perkins is the only remaining player who was a varsity regular when Pickering last coached the team. The fate of Mattituck’s season could rest on her left knee. She underwent a second surgery on the knee this past summer. Last season Perkins played until the middle of April before trouble with the knee put an early end to her season.
“So far it’s alright,” Perkins said. “It still hurts a little, but it’s stronger than it was last year so I’m hoping it holds up and I can get through the season.”
The Tuckers stressed the importance of a healthy Perkins to the team’s fortunes. “If Sara can remain healthy, that would be a big bonus for us,” said Pickering.
In the meantime, a sophomore, Lisa Angell, stands in line as the No. 2 pitcher.
The lineup will include a familiar cast of faces, with shortstop Melissa Siegfried, center fielder Alex Chowbay, third baseman Alexa Orlando, catcher/first baseman Courtney Ficner and outfielder Jackie Jones. Brittany Tumulty, a catcher who played on the team two years ago and took last season off, has returned as well. And then there are others looking to make their mark like second baseman Cassie Pelan, outfielder Sydney Goy, outfielder Val Hommel and infielder Sam Perino.
Perino has mononucleosis and hasn’t practiced yet. “Her return date, hopefully, would be the 22nd, and it would be another week and a half before she can get in” the required practices, said Pickering.
“This is our year that we can really go far,” said Siegfried.
“It can only go up from here, basically,” Orlando said. “I think we’re going to do really well because we have a lot of experience. All the seniors we have, it’s like their third or fourth year on varsity. So, it’s almost like we have to do well.”