After reaching the high school softball playoffs last season for the first time in 20 years, Southold/Greenport is headed back again.
The First Settlers clinched a postseason berth Thursday with a 13-2 Senior Day victory over Pierson/Bridgehampton at Greenport High School.
“This win puts us in,” said coach Skip Gehring.
A lot was riding on the Suffolk County League VII game. Not only did the Settlers want to leave a winning memory for their seven seniors in their final home regular-season game, but they wanted to make sure to return to the postseason. The defending Suffolk Class C champions reached a Long Island final for the first time in 30 years in 2017, losing to East Rockaway. They want another shot at a Long Island title.
Thursday’s win was a vital step in that direction.
“This was our season,” first baseman Liz Clark said. “This was playoffs. This was literally for all the marbles.”
Southold (6-8, 6-8), looking focused and determined, made things easier for itself by ringing up seven runs in the first two innings.
Both teams had six hits apiece, but Southold drew 11 walks, including four from leadoff hitter Annie Lincoln, who scored three runs. Madison Hilton was the only Southold player with two hits. Clark and pitcher Ashley Hilary had two RBIs each.
“We played the best I thought we could,” said Clark.
Before the game, flowers were presented to Southold’s seniors: Grace Syron, Hannah Sutton, Ashley Payne, Clark, Hilary, Hilton and Lincoln.
“I had a lot of these seniors for the last couple of years so it’s going to be sad seeing them go,” Gehring said, “a lot of heart, a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of chemistry and they get along well.”
Southold has a tougher schedule this season, but Gehring said the Settlers have been competitive, even in losses.
“This year the girls have had to work a lot harder in every game,” he said, adding, “There were no pushover games this year.”
On a warm day with temperatures in the upper 80s and wind gusts blowing in from rightfield, Southold took charge from the start with a four-run rally in the first. The only hit that inning was a two-run single that Hilary bounced through the middle.
Southold tacked on three more runs the following inning, with Felecia Kayel’s leadoff infield single the only hit of that rally.
“We all played together,” Hilary said. “We all played well.”
Hilary did her part in the pitching circle, firing seven strikeouts and walking none. She was also supported by two double plays. The righthander looked as if she might have a shutout for herself before Pierson’s leadoff batter, Isabella DiRussa, looped a two-run homer to leftfield in the fifth.
Hilary faced a threat in the third when Pierson (1-13, 1-13) loaded the bases through a Cassie Arbia single, Annabelle Schroeder’s popup that fell in the pitching circle within feet of Hilary and third baseman Jenna McFarland, and an infield single by DiRussa. (DiRussa and Arbia had two hits each for Pierson.) But Hilary got out of the jam with a pair of strikeouts and a forceout at home plate.
In the sixth, Southold struck for six insurance runs. An RBI single by Clark, a bases-loaded walk by McFarland and a first-pitch RBI single by pinch hitter Julia Jaklevic highlighted the uprising.
For Southold’s seniors, the day went about as well as could be hoped for.
“I couldn’t be happier with how Senior Day went,” said Syron.
Clark said: “We are definitely a close bunch. We all love each other. We are there for each other. We know when to get serious and when to have fun.”
The Settlers, who have three regular-season games left, hope to have more fun when the playoffs begin.
Photo caption: Southold’s seven seniors enjoyed themselves in their final home regular-season game. (Credit: Bob Liepa)