RED DEVILS 14, CLIPPERS 2 (5 INNINGS)
Not much explanation is needed for the Center Moriches softball team’s nine-game winning streak. As the team’s coach, Rich Roberts, himself pointed out, talent wins.
And, oh boy, do the Red Devils have talent. They have strong pitching. They have sound defense. They have productive bats. And, to top it off, they have the focus and desire that they hope will bring them back-to-back league championships and a fourth straight appearance in a county final.
“When we’re clicking, we’re a very good team,” said Roberts.
On Tuesday, Southold/Greenport senior Courtney O’Sullivan was in the unenviable position of being the opposing pitcher at Center Moriches High School. Facing the fearsome Center Moriches lineup sounds daunting. Was O’Sullivan intimidated?
“Not really,” she said. “For me it’s more fun because it’s like I’m playing with my own friends. I’m playing with my own team.”
In a sense, she was. O’Sullivan and another Southold/Greenport player, Kim Bracken, know the Center Moriches players well enough. They both played for Roberts’ summer league team.
That also means they knew only too well what they were up against in Tuesday’s League VII/League VIII crossover game. And so did their coach, Lori Marra.
“They’re a strong team,” Marra said. “They’ve been a strong team for a long time. They have great coaching and all that. I wasn’t surprised. I kind of come here expecting them to be tough.”
She was right on the mark.
Center Moriches’ talent shined once again. The Red Devils rang up eight runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, putting an early end to their game against Southold/Greenport. With Center Moriches’ eighth hit of the inning and 17th hit of the game, Ally Marchese looped a run-scoring single over the second baseman, Bracken, for a 14-2 score, satisfying the 12-run mercy rule and ending the game, a one-hitter for Erin Creen.
Roberts said he has co-No. 1 pitchers in Kiley Nolan and Creen, who suffered a concussion earlier in the year.
Creen posted nine strikeouts and issued three walks. The only hit Southold/Greenport managed off the sophomore right-hander was Bracken’s single to right field to lead off the fourth inning.
“She did a good job,” Roberts said. “She attacked the strike zone.”
Through three innings, Southold/Greenport was trailing by 6-0 before showing some signs of offensive life in the fourth. The Clippers put up two runs that inning, pulling themselves back into the game.
It started with Bracken’s hit. She advanced two bases on the same play because Center Moriches threw the ball around for a pair of errors. Then Jessica Rizzo reached base on a fielder’s choice. She hit the ball back to Creen, who stared down Bracken at third and didn’t throw to any base. Bracken then scored on a double steal. Two walks and an out later, a groundout by Willow Sutton brought in the second run.
It made things interesting, but not for long.
In the fifth, Center Moriches did what good teams do: It blew the game open.
“Like I told the girls before the game, every game is separate and you respect your opponent,” Roberts said. “Southold made some plays when we hit balls hard and they kept themselves in the game. They gave themselves an opportunity. Luckily for us, we hit some balls hard the next inning and we broke it open.”
By the time it was over, Cheyenne Raimondi, Cierra Smith and Caroline Casey all went 3 for 4 and drove in two runs apiece for Center Moriches (11-1, 10-1 League VII), which began the day tied with Shoreham-Wading River for first place. Alexa Andersen, Emily Pettit and Marchese also finished with two runs batted in each.
The Clippers dropped to 2-7 overall and in League VIII, but Marra said there have been encouraging signs.
“I think they’re really learning how to play together,” she said. “Last year, obviously, we were all getting used to each other, but now they’re so much more comfortable on the field. They’re definitely hitting better. They’re executing the plays much better, and they don’t look scared. They have a lot more confidence.”
Bracken said: “Compared to the last couple of years, I think we’re really coming along. We’re improving every single game. We’re becoming more mentally tough every single time we face a hard team like this, and I’m proud of my team for sticking in there. There were a couple of errors in the outfield and infield that could have been prevented, but the more we see that, the more we can improve.”