In unity there is strength. The unified Southold/Greenport/Mattituck softball team, without question, is stronger than either the Southold/Greenport and Mattituck teams would have been on their own this season had they not merged.
Softball numbers have been low on the North Fork in recent years, prompting concern and, finally, action — the creation of Southold/Greenport/Mattituck. One team representing three high schools.
“We haven’t had a junior high program the last three years in Mattituck,” coach Kim Gerstung said. “You know, you can’t build programs without junior high. So, it’s been in the talking [stage] for the past couple of years. Southold would have had a JV last year, but not two years previous to that, so it’s just numbers-wise, if we didn’t combine this year [Mattituck] would have had a varsity, but it wouldn’t have been very strong; Southold would have had a varsity, but it would have been primarily freshmen. This was the best solution, yeah. It’s a good marriage. It works great.”
SGM showed its strength, winning its first two games of the season, both against Shelter Island, rather convincingly. The scores were 34-0 and 34-2.
So, perhaps it was reasonable for the First Settlers to wonder, heading into their third Suffolk County League VII game Tuesday against perennial power Babylon, if they just might have the stuff to take down the Panthers.
The answer, on this day at least, was no.
Babylon, playing its season opener, scored in each of the six innings it batted and won, 13-2, at Babylon Memorial Grade School. Seven of Babylon’s runs were unearned, thanks to six SGM errors. Coach Rick Punzone’s Panthers also drew 11 walks and were hit by two pitches from Lilly Fogarty, who struggled with her control.
“There were a lot of errors that allowed runs to come in that we have to fix,” said McFarland.
SGM produced six hits, only two less than Babylon, but the Settlers’ self-inflicted damage was a difference-maker.
“I think we definitely have a shot at this team,” said Fogarty, who had seven strikeouts. “We’re definitely at a similar playing level, but unfortunately, my walks today and a string of errors just led us down a wrong path.”
Babylon pitchers Michelle Ruggiero and Breanna Redmond combined for nine strikeouts and four walks.
SGM took a 1-0 lead in the first inning. What amounted to a swinging bunt single by McFarland and a hit socked by her sister, Jenna McFarland, set up Fogarty’s run-scoring hit.
The only other SGM run came in the fourth. Walks by Ana Farr and Bridget Ryan preceded Megan Rakoczy’s infield single, which allowed Farr to slide home, cutting Babylon’s lead to 6-2. Redmond relieved Ruggiero with the bases loaded and recorded the last two outs to limit the damage.
Six Babylon batters produced at least one hit, including Kerrin Tanner, who had two doubles and a run batted in, and Meghan Flaugher, who singled twice and walked twice.
“I’m bummed,” Gerstung said. “I’d like to beat Babylon once before I retire. They always had a good program, and they’re young this year and they still beat us, so we got a lot to work on.”
SGM has 11 players from Mattituck, four from Southold and none from Greenport. The team practices in Southold. Of their remaining home games in this shortened 12-game season, the Settlers will play three in Southold and two in Mattituck. They also have uniforms tailored to the school colors of those two schools and can wear various combinations.
“It’s weird wearing ‘Southold’ across my chest,” said Fogarty, who attends Mattituck High School. “I was a little questionable of [the merger] at first because Southold’s always been the one team in the league that we had the upper hand against, but so far I’ve really loved playing with these girls.”
Brienna McFarland, a Southold student, recalled her reaction when she learned of SGM’s formation. “I was very happy [when] I heard that we were combining because I knew a lot of the girls on Mattituck were really skilled and it could benefit us in the season a lot,” she said. “I love it.”
SGM will get two more shots against Babylon, with games in Mattituck Thursday and June 1 in Babylon. Tuesday, though, wasn’t SGM’s day.
“A lot of walks, and we had a lot of errors, too,” Gerstung said. “Totally unacceptable, but you know what? We’re still a team that’s trying to find our way. We’re working together. It will come.”