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Softball: North Fork team’s inaugural season ends with outbracket loss

The Babylon mystique continues.

At least from the perspective of the Southold/Greenport/Mattituck softball team.

North Fork softball teams have historically had difficulties against Babylon over the years. And this year — the inaugural season for the consolidated SGM team — the First Settlers have had considerable trouble when facing Babylon. After being handily defeated by Babylon in three regular-season meetings, some on the SGM side may have wondered if the fourth time would be a charm.

It wasn’t.

“I thought maybe this would be a different” result, said SGM centerfielder Julia Jaklevic.

It wasn’t.

The fourth matchup between the teams — a Suffolk County Class B outbracket game — was even more one-sided than the previous three. Meghan McGurk homered and her sister Emily McGurk went 4-for-5, scored four times, drove in two runs and doubled twice as Babylon romped, 15-2, at Babylon Memorial Grade School. Second-seeded Babylon (10-3) also received two RBIs apiece from Mikayla Sajuk (3-for-4, walk), Hazel Bivona (four stolen bases) and winning pitcher Michelle Ruggiero.

First baseman Aniah Thompson reaches to grab a fly ball in front of her teammate. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

The upset No. 3 SGM (6-7) was looking for didn’t come close to happening.

SGM coach Kim Gerstung has repeatedly said that at some point before she retires she would like to win a game against Babylon. “It’s not going to happen this year,” she said.

“They beat us three times” during the regular season, Gerstung said. “They didn’t mercy [rule] us any of the three times, and we scored in each of the three games. So, my goal was, I just wanted to play a good game and score against them. I mean, reality. I didn’t think we were going to beat them. If we played as good as we have played against other teams like Center Moriches, then we had a shot, but any time we play Babylon, we just fall apart.”

SGM shortstop Jenna McFarland said: “Babylon has always been a big one for us. It’s our farthest drive. All of us are like, ‘Oh, Babylon. Here we go.’ But they have such great players. They always perform so well.”

If further convincing of Babylon’s dominance was needed (and it wasn’t, really), consider this fact: In those four games this year, Babylon outscored SGM, 49-7.

Enough said.

Punzone, in his 19th year coaching Babylon, can recall some losses to Mattituck years ago, but he said the Panthers had never lost to Southold/Greenport. “We’ve always done well against Southold, and we’ve done well against Mattituck,” he said.

Jenna McFarland at the plate. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

Babylon brought 13 hits worth of offense and scored in each of the six innings it batted. The Panthers opened with rallies of three and five runs in the first two innings and kept pouring on the runs for a 13-0 lead through five innings.

Meanwhile, Ruggiero, honored on Senior Day along with Babylon’s other senior, third baseman Meghan Flaugher, did not allow an earned run over six innings before being relieved by Meghan McGurk. Ruggiero gave up eight hits, two walks and fanned six.

“You know what? We went into it just giving it our all,” McFarland said. “You know, we’re a team that definitely can perform when we all play pretty well, but sometimes no, it’s just a step ahead of you and it’s just too far to catch it, but I think we definitely went in with the right mindset that we could beat them. Just because we lost to them [three times before] didn’t mean that we were going to lose to them again.”

Meghan McGurk, a freshman who played first base for most of the game, turned in the most thrilling hit of the day, a liner of a home run that quickly cleared the centerfield fence in the third. “She’s going to be phenomenal,” said Punzone.

Both McGurks are all-county players. Emily McGurk was the League VII Player of the Year as a freshman in 2019.

That’s the sort of talent SGM had to contend with.

Both SGM runs came in the sixth. Jaklevic, Jessica Rakoczy and Cassie Stevens singled before Babylon’s sole error allowed two runs to come in.

But it was far too little, too late as Babylon drew 10 walks and capitalized on five SGM errors.

All three of Babylon’s losses have come to League VII champion Center Moriches (12-2-1). Those teams will begin a best-of-three county finals Tuesday in Center Moriches.

Saturday marked the final high school game for SGM’s four seniors — Aniah Thompson, Ainsley Brewer, Jaklevic and McFarland.

“It went by so fast,” McFarland said. “I blinked and it was gone like that.”