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Top Sports Stories 2017: The drought ends for Southold/Greenport

It was a long wait, but judging by the reactions of the Southold/Greenport high school softball players, it was almost worth it.

The Clippers finally snapped a 20-year playoff drought. A 16-1 rout of Port Jefferson in a six-inning game clinched Southold’s place in the playoffs, setting off a team celebration that featured hugs, screams and confetti.

After Port Jefferson’s Ashley Catoggio grounded out to third baseman Hannah Sutton for the final out, the pitching circle became a mob scene, with joyful Southold players enjoying the moment they had been waiting for. A pail of confetti was handed to them and they charged toward their new coach, Skip Gehring, dumping confetti over him.

“Right now I’m in shock,” centerfielder Toni Esposito said afterward.

Dramatic improvement in hitting, clean defense and reliable pitching from Ashley Hilary was Southold’s winning formula as the team made tremendous strides from the previous year.

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

Once the Clippers sealed their place in the postseason, tremendous opportunity sat in front of them. Because Southold didn’t have any opposition for the Suffolk County Class C title, it advanced directly to the Long Island final before falling to East Rockaway. Following a 24-day layoff, Southold lost to the Rocks, 5-0. East Rockaway pitcher Emily Chelius threw a three-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts. Southold finished its most successful season in decades with a 12-6 record.

Photo credit: Garret Meade

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