He could have blamed defeat on a 24-day layoff between games — or even the exceptionally long bus ride to Nassau County.
But after his team’s 5-0 loss to East Rockaway in the Class C Long Island Championship game Thursday, Southold/Greenport softball coach Skip Gehring said sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the opposing team’s starting pitcher.
The Clippers’ usually electric bats were stymied Thursday by Rocks right-hander Emily Chelius, who threw a three-hit shut out, striking out 11 along the way.
“The layoff certainly didn’t help and it would have been nice to get a couple games in but that’s a very good pitcher right there,” Gehring said of the East Rockaway sophomore.
The loss at Hofstra University brings to a close Southold/Greenport’s best softball season in decades. The 12-6 Clippers clinched the program’s first playoff berth in 20 years and reached the Long Island Championship for the first time in 30 seasons after no other Suffolk County Class C team qualified for the postseason.
For as dazzling as she was on the mound in the Rocks’ win, Chelius also delivered the dagger at the plate when she followed up a pair of Clipper errors with a two-run double that closed out the scoring in the bottom of the fourth inning. She also singled and scored a run in the third.
East Rockaway (7-12) got on the board in the bottom of the first inning on a two-out double through the left-center field gap off the bat of cleanup hitter Lia Gladstone. Leadoff batter Michelle Sheridan, who opened the inning with a base hit and advanced to second on a passed ball, scored on the play.
The Rocks scored two more runs on four hits in the bottom of the third inning.
The Clippers came close to getting on the scoreboard in the third and fourth innings, but stranded a runner in scoring position both times. The team’s first hit didn’t come until the fifth inning when No. 5 hitter Hannah Sutton smacked a leadoff double to left field. Ashley Hilary and Grace Syron contributed leadoff singles in the sixth and seventh innings, respectively, but the team couldn’t break through against Chelius, who also led her team to a Long Island title in her freshman season last year.
Despite the tough defeat, Gehring was proud of what his team accomplished on the field in a season that saw them enter the most recent New York State Sportswriter’s Association Class C rankings at No. 7.
“Knowing how to win is part of what you want to do when you’re trying to build a culture,” Gehring said. “These girls did that this season and they battled hard.”
After a few words from their coach following the game, one underclassman could be heard from the dugout asking her coach one final question: “When does practice start again?”