Over 15 years later, Mercy returns to the playoffs

Bishop McGann-Mercy left fielder Kelly Crowley, right, covered third base, which Mattituck

Bishop McGann-Mercy first baseman Amy Boden fielded the softball hit by Southold/Greenport’s Callie Bubb along the first-base line, made the tag for the game’s final out, and that was it. The deed was done. For the first time in over 15 years, the Monarchs had qualified for the playoffs.

Not that one would know it by the understated reaction of the Monarchs to their 6-0 playoff-clinching win last Thursday at Robert W. Tasker Park in Peconic. Their reaction was more along the lines of, ho-hum, another win.

It wasn’t that the Monarchs were unaware of the magnitude of what they achieved. They knew they had just punched themselves a ticket to the Suffolk County Class C Tournament.

“It was kind of a calm game, that’s why I think there was a calm reaction,” McGann-Mercy second baseman Brooke Lessard said. “If it was a close game, we would have been more excited and rowdy, I guess you could say.”

Still, returning to the playoffs after such a long time is something to shout about, and the Monarchs were undoubtedly happy.

“It’s exciting,” shortstop Kristin Bieber said. “It’s a great feeling.”

It is also quite an achievement for a school that doesn’t even have enough players to field a junior varsity team. In addition, the Monarchs are a relatively young squad, with only three seniors. On a given day, five or six freshmen and/or sophomores can be found in the starting lineup.

But the important thing is the Monarchs have quality, and it’s quality that counts. McGann-Mercy Coach Jacki Paton calls this the best team she has had in her five years as coach.

“When we look at our lineup, we’re like, ‘Wow, that’s a pretty impressive lineup,'”she said. “There’s not really a hole anywhere.”

Third baseman Kelly Crowley said: “We’re pretty well-rounded. We’ve got our slappers, and we’ve got our big hitters, and we have a solid defense.”

And don’t forget a pitcher: Amanda Crowley, Kelly’s sister. The sophomore right-hander tossed a three-hit shutout last Thursday. Anna Crowley, who retired the first eight batters she faced, received support in the form of nine hits. Kelly Crowley stroked a two-run single past second baseman Kim Bracken to give the Monarchs (10-9, 9-9 Suffolk County League VIII) a 4-0 lead in the third inning. Kelly Crowley had two hits, as did Lessard.

Anna Crowley struck out five and walked two as part of her 82-pitch, complete-game performance. She struck out the side in the second inning.

Nicole Busso, Bracken and Courtney O’Sullivan were the only Clippers (0-18, 0-17) to get a hit off the McGann-Mercy pitcher.

McGann-Mercy had taken a 2-0 lead in the second. Amanda Burriesci, who had reached base on an infield single, scored from first base on a strange play. A bunt by Anna Crowley was fielded by pitcher Danielle Alpi, whose throw struck Burriesci in the back, causing the ball to go into the outfield. Anna Crowley made it to third base on the play before scoring herself on a groundout by Boden.

Burriesci and Anna Crowley were both involved in scoring plays in the sixth when McGann-Mercy tacked on a pair of insurance runs. Kelly Crowley led off with a single before stealing second base and going to third on a passed ball. Then she was brought home by Burriesci’s sacrifice fly. Singles by Anna Crowley and Boden followed. When Shannon Wilmott struck out, the ball got away from the catcher, allowing Anna Crowley to cross home plate.

This year the Monarchs have been able to pull out close games, the sort they may have lost last year. They can manufacture runs, and they can prevent opponents from getting an extra out. They can execute pickoff plays, steal home, turn double plays.

“It’s so exciting,” Paton said. “Little by little, every year, things have changed and [we’ve] gotten stronger and we’ve become a team where nobody’s going to walk all over us. Things tend to go in our direction more.”

The chemistry off the field is apparently just as good. Players say they share a sisterly bond as well as a healthy sense of humor.

“All their personalities come out,” Paton said. “They laugh every day and they enjoy, and I think it kind of keeps them even-keel.”

Now they have extended those good times into the postseason.