Quality is what really counts, not necessarily quantity.
“As long as nobody gets hurt,” Kim Gerstung hastened to add.
No injuries would be a good thing for Gerstung and her 11-player Mattituck High School softball team.
The Tuckers (6-14 last year) return the majority of last season’s squad, most notably All-County senior third baseman Jaden Thompson.
What makes Thompson special?
“I think it’s just her drive and her desire,” Gerstung said. “She’s got an amazing work ethic. She’s very hard on herself. Sometimes that can be a good thing and sometimes that can be a bad thing.”
All-League senior shortstop Alexis Burns and senior catcher Ashley Perkins also provide a wealth of experience. Perkins is in her sixth year on the team while Thompson and Burns are both five-year varsity players.
Senior centerfielder Dominique Crews, senior Cassidy Mullen and sophomore Aniah Thompson (Jaden’s sister) are also returning starters. Mullen, Aniah Thompson and freshman Bridget Ryan are part of a three-piece puzzle to figure out who will play first base, second base and rightfield.
Senior utility players Jillian Gaffga and Catherine Thompson are also in the mix with freshman pitcher Lilly Fogarty and freshman leftfielder Ana Farr. All three of the team’s freshmen played as eighth-graders for the junior varsity team last year. “They have a lot to bring to the program,” said Gerstung.
Much will depend on how Fogarty progresses. Gerstung said the righthander has worked hard in the offseason and throws several pitches.
“She’s hasn’t perfected them yet, but she’s working on them,” the coach said. “I feel like she’s ready.”
“This is her No. 1 sport. This is her passion,” Gerstung continued. “Well, she’s only a freshman, but I think maybe not this year, but by the time she’s a junior, she’s going to make a difference in the games. I don’t really know what to expect this year. I know she improved tremendously since last year.”
How is this for a twist?
What was once a player-coach relationship has become a head coach-assistant coach partnership.
Southold/Greenport’s new coach, Alexandra Small (Southold Class of 2014), not only played for the team she is now coaching, but she played for Lori Marra, who is now her assistant coach. Marra was Small’s coach when Small played for the junior varsity team as a freshman and sophomore, and then again for the varsity team as a junior and senior.
“We’ve always worked well together,” Small said. “Even as a player I always went to her for advice.”
Small takes over from Skip Gehring. Southold (6-14) went 19-18 in two years under Gehring. In 2017, Gehring guided the team to the playoffs for the first time since 1997 and won a Suffolk County Class C championship. Last year Southold returned to the playoffs and lost to Bishop McGann-Mercy in the Suffolk Class C finals.
Now Small is calling the shots, and she sounds excited about that.
“I feel like I have the benefit of coaching a team that I played for because I have a different side of how I want to see the program grow,” she said. “I get the chance to do things that I couldn’t do as a player.”
Inclement weather had forced the First Settlers indoors and slowed the player evaluation process. Southold’s first outdoor practice was held Monday on the infield of a track.
Southold has only two seniors, outfielder Felecia Kayel and infielder Olivia Daddona. The junior class is represented by pitcher Amanda Bardsley, outfielder Elizabeth Drumm, catcher Emma Quarty, outfielder Yao Yao Reilly and outfielder Molly Tuthill.
As far as the other underclassmen, the sophomores are: infielder Grace Brodarick, second baseman Gabriela Contreras, rightfielder Julia Jaklevic (coming off a finger injury), outfielder Caroline Koslosky, shortstop Jenna McFarland, outfielder Rhian O’Neil, first baseman Reese Thompson and pitcher Christina Tsaveras. The freshmen are: second baseman Christine Kneuer (a transfer from Washington, D.C.), second baseman Gabriella Zaffino and infielder Adrine Demirciyan. Infielder Brienna McFarland is the sole eighth-grader.
“A lot of these girls are quick,” Small said. “They’re young. It’s just about the confidence of playing for a varsity team, but the talent’s there.”
Small wasn’t thinking small when asked what would make this a successful season.
“Winning states,” she said. “That’s my mentality. I’m realistic, but that’s why you play.”
Photo caption: Mattituck third baseman Jaden Thompson, making a throw from her knees in a game at East Islip last year, is an All-County player. (Credit: Daniel De Mato, file)