GARRET MEADE PHOTO
Marissa James of Bishop McGann-Mercy made contact.
SAG HARBOR — The scouting report on Anna Crowley goes like this: Doesn’t talk much. Even when she does have something to say, she doesn’t say it.
“She’s quieter than I am,” Bishop McGann-Mercy High School’s softball coach, Jacki Paton, warned a reporter.
Then again, the McGann-Mercy sophomore can let her pitching speak for itself. That was the case on Saturday when the Monarchs, competing in their first playoff game since 1991, toppled the Pierson/Bridgehampton Whalers, 3-1, in a Suffolk County Class C Tournament outbracket game at Mashashimuet Park. Crowley tossed a three-hitter, did not allow an earned run, and helped out on the offensive end as well, slugging a run-scoring triple for the game’s first run in the second inning.
“She’s a tough kid,” said Paton, whose team lost both of its games against Pierson/Bridgehampton during the regular season. “She’s a quiet kid. I don’t know what she’s going to do. You don’t know, but that’s great. You can’t tell, and other teams can’t tell whether she’s getting rattled or not.”
The win, McGann-Mercy’s 11th in 20 games, earned the Monarchs a place in the best-of-three county finals against the top-seeded Port Jefferson Royals that started on Tuesday.
Pierson/Bridgehampton (14-5), which lost to Port Jefferson in last year’s county finals, had its opportunities on Saturday. The Whalers received an extra out in each of the first three innings when McGann-Mercy committed all three of its errors before settling down.
“I think it was nerves, and we were almost trying to do too much,” McGann-Mercy shortstop Kristin Bieber said. “But it was really great that we were able to just let it go, get the next out and shook it off.”
Despite those miscues, the Whalers had only one run to show for it when Natalie Abbene scored on a fielding error with two out in the third inning.
“We didn’t capitalize,” said Pierson/Bridgehampton Coach Missy Edwards, a former Riverhead High School pitcher. “My big hitters didn’t show up today. We were here, but our bats weren’t.”
By the time Pierson/Bridgehampton got on the scoreboard, McGann-Mercy had scored all of its runs. After Crowley hit her triple, she scored on a wild pitch. Then the Monarchs made it 3-0 in the third through successive singles by Marissa James, Brooke Lessard, Karlin McIntyre and Bieber. Although McGann-Mercy had loaded the bases with one out, it emerged from the inning with only one run.
Meanwhile, Crowley was cruising along, looking composed in McGann-Mercy’s biggest game in at least 19 years. The right-hander was efficient, throwing 81 pitches, with 50 of them finding the strike zone. Her busiest inning was the third when she threw 17 pitches, but she didn’t throw more than 13 pitches in an inning aside from that.
Crowley, who forms an all-sophomore battery with catcher Amanda Burriesci, said she felt nerves. She is human, after all. As far as those early errors, she said, “It bothered me a little, but then we made a lot of good plays, too, so I forgot about that.”
Crowley struck out five and walked two. She also proved to be something of an escape artist. Pierson/Bridgehampton put two runners on base with one out in the first, yet couldn’t bring a run in. Then, in the second, it looked as if the Monarchs would pay a price for allowing a pop up by Melanie Stafford to fall on the ground. Stafford eventually made her way to third base, but stayed there as Crowley retired the next three batters in order, two on strikeouts.
“I was extremely nervous,” Bieber said. “My heart was pounding every second.”
Pierson/Bridgehampton’s Kara Gengarelly, who had reached base on a one-out bunt single in the bottom of the seventh, was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Abbene. Lindsay Warne then struck a line drive. Bieber slightly misjudged it, but took a hop, made the catch, and the Monarchs were headed to the county finals.
Edwards said her players had spent the whole week hitting in preparation for the game, but were put off by slower pitching than they were accustomed to.
“All my kids were swinging early,” she said. “Softball is about adjusting. You have to adjust.”
The Monarchs have made their share of adjustments in recent years, and look at how far it has taken them. Now they really have something to talk about. Even Crowley.