PORT JEFFERSON STATION — When the softball game ended, there were no tears, just smiles all around.
The happy Port Jefferson Royals had obvious cause for good cheer. They had earned another crown.
With their 8-2 victory over the Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs on Saturday, the third and decisive game of the Suffolk County Class C finals, the top-seeded Royals had notched their fourth straight county title.
“Everyone was jumping,” Port Jefferson pitcher Mollie Gibson said. “We were all screaming, hugging each other.”
Smiles were seen on the McGann-Mercy side as well, and why not? The third-seeded Monarchs not only qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 1991, but they had posted an outbracket upset over the No. 2 Pierson/Bridgehampton Whalers and then proceeded to take Port Jefferson to three games in a memorable postseason.
“Nobody ever dreamed that we would be in the Class C championships,” McGann-Mercy center fielder Karlin McIntyre said. “I feel like we gave it our all.”
Gibson drove in four runs, three from a triple that capped a four-run rally in the fifth inning, giving Port Jefferson a 5-1 lead.
With the triumph, Port Jefferson advances to a Southeast Region semifinal against the East Rockaway Rocks on June 8 in Minisink Valley. The winner of that game will play in the regional final later that day.
“It’s a big relief,” said Port Jefferson Coach Debbie Brown, whose team has defeated McGann-Mercy in four of five games this year. “It’s a steppingstone to where we want to go. It was totally a team effort today, and I’m very proud of them.”
Port Jefferson (17-6) snapped a 1-1 tie with its big fifth inning. Morgan Sakovich, who led off with a single, later came around to score on a fielding error, making it 2-1. The bases were later loaded for Gibson, who responded with her triple to center field.
The Royals tacked on three more insurance runs in the sixth. Michiko McGivney slugged a two-run double, giving her three runs batted in for the game, and Gibson singled home the final run for the two-time defending Long Island champions.
Gibson (9-2) was the winning pitcher, allowing only one earned run over seven innings. The junior struck out three and walked one.
League VIII champion Port Jefferson took a 1-0 lead in the third. After Anastasia Lennon drove a triple over the head of right fielder Shannon Wilmott, she scored on a groundout by McGivney.
McGann-Mercy (12-11) used speed and opportunism for its first run, which came in the fifth. The first batter, Brieanne Bieber, reached base safely on a throwing error that sent the ball into right field. Bieber kept running, slid into third base, and when another errant throw flew past the third baseman, Sakovich, Bieber quickly jumped to her feet and raced home.
The Monarchs didn’t get their second run until the seventh when Anna Crowley, who had led off with a walk, scored on Brooke Lessard’s sacrifice fly.
McGann-Mercy’s defense turned in two stellar plays. Port Jefferson’s first batter of the game, McGivney, was robbed of an extra-base hit when McIntyre made a great lunging grab while charging to her left in center field. McIntyre, who believes it is the best catch she has ever made, said, “I knew that I needed to get it.”
Lessard, a second baseman, was responsible for the other web gem. In the fifth she made a fine diving backhanded grab of a liner hit by Renee Marchewka, who played despite turning an ankle the day before. “Miss 100 percent, all the time,” McGann-Mercy Coach Jacki Paton said of Lessard.
Kristin Bieber, Brieanne’s sister, went 3 for 3 with a double for the Monarchs. She played in her final high school game as did fellow seniors Kelly Crowley and Lessard.
Paton praised her players for their efforts. “They left it on the field,” she said. “They did everything they could, and they brought this program so far. … I’m so proud of them for everything they did.”
The Royals have pedigree of their own. Chelsea Tamuk, Gibson and McGivney account for 13 years of varsity experience and have played for all four county champion teams during Port Jefferson’s magnificent run. The best thing about it for the Royals is that their adventure isn’t over.
“I just hope it continues,” Brown said. “They’re excited, they’re pumped. They’re ready to move on.”