With the battle on the softball diamond came some history. That’s an ideal mix for Bob Kelly, the assistant coach for the Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs, who also teaches American history at the Riverhead school.
Following McGann-Mercy’s loss to the Port Jefferson Royals in the first game of the Suffolk County Class C finals on May 25, Kelly’s thoughts turned to the Civil War Battle of Shiloh, of all things. “I always try to relate anything to American history somehow, and that just popped into my mind,” he said.
The two-day battle in Tennessee, in April 1862, was the bloodiest in United States history up to that time. Confederate forces achieved considerable success the first day before the Union defeated them on the second day.
“And the key line was, after the first day’s loss, [Union] General [William Tecumseh] Sherman comes up to [Union Major General Ulysses S.] Grant and says, ‘Well, we had a devil of a time,’ and Grant turns around and says, ‘Well, we’ll get them tomorrow.’ That was the message I wanted to give to the girls,” Kelly said. “OK, we didn’t have a good day Tuesday,” he added, “but we’ll get them tomorrow.”
The Monarchs took the message to heart. They even played with a piece of paper with the word “Shiloh” printed on it, tucked into their socks. It was in that spirit that the Monarchs kept their season alive last Thursday.
Amanda Burriesci drove in five runs and Anna Crowley had four runs batted in for the Monarchs as they evened their finals series against the Port Jefferson Royals at a game apiece with a 14-10 victory. Both teams combined for 27 hits, including three in-the-park home runs, in an offensive affair at Stotzky Memorial Park in Riverhead.
“Amazing,” said Tara Sledjeski, a reserve center fielder/first baseman for McGann-Mercy. “I think we were feeling a lot of pressure, but I think we come out and play very well when our season is on the line.”
And it was on the line in a game in which no lead seemed safe. McGann-Mercy overcame a 4-2 deficit, lost the lead when Port Jefferson tied it at 6-6, went in front for good at 11-6, and then watched uneasily as the Royals pulled to within 11-10 in the fifth inning.
Burriesci clubbed a three-run homer — her first of the season — in the sixth to make it 14-10. Earlier, she had a two-run double. Crowley picked up her four RBI from a triple and a double.
Amy Boden and Kelly Crowley, Anna’s sister, each knocked in a pair of runs for McGann-Mercy. Another Monarch, Kristin Bieber, went 3 for 5 with a pair of doubles.
Port Jefferson, the two-time defending Long Island champion, received a three-RBI performance from Morgan Sakovich, who went 4 for 5 and stole a base. Anastasia Lennon and Michiko McGivney teed off on pitcher Anna Crowley in the fifth, producing back-to-back home runs. It was Lennon’s first homer of the year and McGivney’s third.
“It was definitely a hitter’s game today, and both teams came out to hit,” said McGann-Mercy Coach Jacki Paton, who called it her team’s best offensive showing of the year. “If it kept on going, it would have been a hundred-run game.”
But League VIII champion Port Jefferson, which had won its previous three games against McGann-Mercy, left the bases loaded three times and stranded 12 runners. Port Jefferson Coach Debbie Brown gave the Monarchs credit. “The pressure was on them to win, and they did,” she said. “They don’t die.”
Did Kelly have any more history lessons in store for Game 3? He said, “I might refer you to Gettysburg, which was a three-day battle, and the Union won on the third day.”