Softball: Waiting game precedes playoff game

Southold/Greenport has waited 20 years to return to the high school softball playoffs, and now that the Clippers are finally back in the postseason, there’s more waiting.

Since Southold doesn’t have any opposition for the Suffolk County Class C title or the Southeast Region semifinals, the Clippers advance directly to a regional final on June 3. The opponent and site are to be determined.

The waiting game has begun. When Southold plays that regional final, it will be 24 days since its last game, a 14-2 defeat of Pierson/Bridgehampton.

“More and more waiting,” shortstop Katie Tuthill said before Monday’s practice. “It’s OK, though.”

The Clippers (12-5), ranked 15th in the state Class C poll by the New York State Sportswriters Association, are still swirling in good vibes from all the excitement over ending their decades-long playoff drought. At this time of the year, the team had usually collected uniforms and packed away equipment.

“That’s what we’re used to, so it’s almost a little weird,” said Tuthill.

These long-awaited playoffs bring plenty of excitement. First baseman Evelyn Cummings has noticed a buzz around school related to the team’s achievement. “I think every class I’ve been to this past week, every teacher has said something,” she said. “Everybody’s on a high right now. Everyone’s so excited.”

For good reason. Southold is only one win away from a trip to South Glens Falls, where the state semifinals and final will be played on June 10.

“We’ve come so far,” said centerfielder Toni Esposito.

Indeed, they have. Even compared to last year, Southold is a much different team under its new coach, Skip Gehring. The team batting average stands at a majestic .385. Last year it was .235.

“It’s crazy to think where we’ve come from in the past two years,” said Esposito.

Southold has outscored opponents, 166-86. Players like Tuthill (.660 batting average, 20 RBIs), Esposito (.547, 17 RBIs), Liz Clark (.509), Cummings (.492, 24 RBIs), Hannah Sutton (.471) and Samantha Baldwin (.470, 18 RBIs) have been producing in a big way.

“Some really nice numbers,” said Gehring.

At the same time, the defense has tightened up considerably. Gehring said the defense has been “phenomenal,” averaging less than one error a game.

Pitcher Ashley Hilary (12-3) has done her part, too. The junior has a 3.14 ERA with 56 strikeouts and 22 walks in 94 innings, including four shutouts. Batters are hitting .235 against her.

“It’s hard to describe because it’s something we haven’t felt before, but it’s like we’re all on a high right now,” Baldwin said. “Just because we have gone this far now doesn’t mean we don’t have to push it, work ourselves as hard as we can.”

Tuthill said: “It’s such a special time. We’re beyond excited.”

In the meantime, the waiting continues.

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Photo caption: Southold/Greenport players, celebrating the team’s first playoff berth since 1997, have a regional final to look forward to. (Credit: Garret Meade, file)