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Softball: Picture this, a farewell to a field

One might have mistaken Senior Day for Photo Day for the Mattituck High School softball team.

The presentation of flowers and verbal tributes from teammates came before Monday’s game, but the photos of the five celebrated seniors followed afterward. Spectators snapped shot after shot of the seniors, who posed together for the cameras. Perhaps the most eye-catching of the bunch were the ones of Jaden Thompson, in a sitting position, being held aloft by Jillian Gaffga, Dominique Crews, Lexi Burns and Ashley Perkins while they were smiling and laughing.

“We’re definitely a bunch of goofballs at times, but we’ve all come together to love each other as a family,” said Thompson.

And, just when one thought the photo session was wrapping up, there was more picture taking.

If it seemed as if the Tuckers didn’t want to leave the field, there was a good reason for it. It was their final home regular-season game, and quite possibly the last game the five seniors will have played on the field.

Speaking of the pregame ceremony, Burns said: “I was holding back my tears. I didn’t want to cry in front of everybody.”

The photos will make a nice keepsake for the seniors, a memory they will cherish more than the game itself, a 10-3 loss to Center Moriches.

It was a good game for a while — and then things started happening. Bad things, from Mattituck’s standpoint.

A one-run game was blown open in the fifth inning when Center Moriches (11-2, 8-1 Suffolk County League VI) expanded its lead to 5-1 after Gina Reese banged a two-run single through the infield and Erin Connolly drew a bases-loaded walk.

Walks and errors proved to be Mattituck’s undoing. Walks and errors will do it every the time.

“We weren’t on top of our game, and it showed today,” said Perkins.

Center Moriches took advantage of 13 walks (Kaylie Roberts walked four times) and five Mattituck errors.

“The wheels came off,” said Mattituck coach Kim Gerstung, whose team had lost, 5-1, at Center Moriches last Wednesday. “That’s the whole season. It’s a little disappointing because they’re beatable and I think we could beat them. It’s just, we can’t beat them if we’re walking them.”

Not that the Red Devils didn’t do enough damage on their own. Maddie Huber went 4-for-5, knocked in two runs and scored three times. Meanwhile, pitcher Erin Cunningham tossed a five-hitter without issuing a walk. The righthander had four strikeouts.

Crews and Aniah Thompson both went 2-for-3 for Mattituck (10-4, 7-4).

Perkins brought Mattituck a 1-0 lead when she led off the second inning with a triple before scoring on an error on the same play.

Huber singled in courtesy runner Stef Stypulkoski to tie it at 1-1 in the third. An error allowed Alyssa Morano to score the go-ahead run for Center Moriches in the fourth.

Huber opened the sixth by socking a triple before scoring and making it 6-1 when Emma Powell drove a single off pitcher Lilly Fogarty’s glove.

Mattituck cut the deficit in half in the sixth when it scored twice. It was the first game this season in which Jaden Thompson didn’t get a hit (bringing her batting average down from .682 to .638), but she did pick up an RBI on a groundout in the sixth, her 30th of the season. That was after Crews scored on a wild pitch.

But Center Moriches ran up four runs in the seventh to pull away further.

Gerstung acknowledged she will sorely miss her five seniors, who make up more than half her starting lineup. “It’s going to be a huge loss,” she said.

Perkins, Jaden Thompson and Burns alone total 16 years of varsity experience. “To lose players of that ability, it’s going to hurt our program,” Gerstung said. “They are big shoes to fill, very big shoes to fill.”

Crews, in her second season on the team after transferring from Riverhead, said she will remember the fun times she has had with the Tuckers. “Everyone made each other just feel like a family and it was never like an ‘I’ team,” she said. “It was always a ‘we’. We won together. We lost together.”

Part of the sadness Monday for the Mattituck seniors was saying goodbye to a field they had called home for years.

Perkins said, “You have that little thing, “I’m never going to play on this field again,’ but I mean, I’ve had only great memories here, so it’s something to take with me.”

Along with photos. Plenty of photos.

Photo caption: After the game, Mattituck’s Jaden Thompson was held aloft by fellow seniors Jillian Gaffga (obscured), Dominique Crews, Lexi Burns and Ashley Perkins. (Credit: Bob Liepa)

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