MONARCHS 17, ROYALS 5 (6 INNINGS)
On a bitterly cold spring day, the mercy rule was invoked and Mercy ruled as well.
The Bishop McGann-Mercy softball team opened its season on a winning note Monday afternoon with a 17-5 Suffolk County League V triumph over host Port Jefferson.
“I was happy,” said assistant coach Mike Rewinski, who directed the team in the absence of head coach Frank Baker, who was ill. “They played very well, hit the ball well. That was my big worry.
“We made the plays we needed to make. So, overall, I’m very happy with the effort. Solid players, one through nine. If our pitching can come through we can do some damage.”
McGann-Mercy did plenty of damage, scoring 11 times in the first two innings as it had to battle the elements as well as the Royals. Temperatures hovered around 32 degrees at the first pitch, even on a sunny day.
“It was really, really, really cold,” McGann-Mercy catcher Ali Hulse said.
Rewinski said, “I tell them that softball is a winter sport.”
That didn’t stop the Monarchs, who wound up with many heroes as every player got on base at least once.
Hulse, the leadoff batter, did not have a hit, but scored three times off of walks. Center fielder Jamie Lessard had three hits, drove in a run and scored three times. Left fielder Claire Sullivan added two runs batted in with three hits. Second baseman Kate Nolan scored three times and had an RBI, as did shortstop Micaela Zebroski, who added a triple. Right fielder Nicole Gravagna hadn’t reached base until she was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the top of the sixth to give the visitors that 12-run margin.
That left it up to junior right-hander Tory Pace. She showed a lot of grit, overcoming a three-run first inning, pitching in and out of trouble through most of the game and getting stronger as the game progressed.
“She pitched better as the game went on, definitely.” Rewinski said.
Pace allowed four runs in the first two shaky innings before settling down, surrendering but two hits the rest of the way. She struck out two, walked two and hit one batter.
That Pace had such fine control was no mean feat, considering that the cold weather could affect a pitcher’s grip on the ball.
“I blew on my hands to keep them warm,” said Pace, who used hand warmers and sat on the bench under a blanket between innings. “It stops the ball from slipping out of my hands.”
Hulse, who herself used hand warmers inside her glove while catching Pace, liked what she saw.
“She did pretty good hitting her spots on the outside,” Hulse said. “She still has to work on her inside, but overall she did very well.”
Sullivan was equally impressed. “I definitely appreciated it,” she said. “She’s really good at keeping warm and not letting her mistakes get to her and always battling through to get that next strike.”
Besides backstopping the win, Hulse did her job at the plate, setting the table for a five-run first inning and a six-run second. She walked both times to lead off the innings and scored twice.
“I’d always prefer a hit but a walk is better than an out,” she said.
After reaching base in the first, Hulse stole second base, went to third on Lessard’s single and scored on Jackie Zaweski’s groundout. Sullivan drove in a second run with a single, Brittany Folkes came in on a wild pitch, and Sullivan and Kate Nolan scored on errors.
It was more of the same in the second inning as they continued to take advantage of the Royals’ mistakes.
After two innings, the Monarchs enjoyed an 11-4 advantage against right-hander Riley Lim-Ellis and never looked back. They took advantage of three stolen bases, five walks, three errors, four wild pitches and three passed balls in the opening two innings alone as they batted around twice.
“It was pretty important,” Pace said of the big early lead. “That’s why I had some load taken off my back.”
Rewinski said, “I definitely was breathing easier and it helped them swing free.”