They were soaking wet, happy — and perhaps a little fearful.
During the bus ride home on Wednesday, the Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs could savor their newly won Suffolk County League VIII baseball championship, which they secured in the rain with a 14-6 win over the Port Jefferson Royals. At the same time, though, there was a little fear factor involved as their bus slowly rumbled toward Riverhead.
“It was a little scary because it was raining so hard,” McGann-Mercy coach Ed Meier said. “I think we were doing 10 miles per hour because the defogger wouldn’t work on the bus.”
Nonetheless, the Monarchs can see where they’re going — into the Suffolk County Class C Tournament as the No. 1 seed.
That much was clear. With the playoff brackets expected to be released tomorrow, the Monarchs are awaiting the announcement of their playoff opponents.
They will take a healthy dose of momentum with them into the postseason, not to mention their fourth league title, second in five years, and second outright.
“It was an unbelievable feeling,” McGann-Mercy left fielder Carl Dickinson said. “There was definitely a lot of talk about doing it. We just put our minds to it and did it.”
Now the Monarchs are the talk of their school, and League VIII. McGann-Mercy is a complete team that has all facets of the game covered, from pitching to hitting to fielding to base running. Rocco Pascale’s bat has been a big help. The senior entered Thursday’s game with a .607 batting average and a .734 on-base percentage.
“That’s making a mockery of the game,” said Meier.
There is a reason why no team has beaten McGann-Mercy more than once and why the Monarchs have won every series they have played this season.
“We don’t really have any weak links on this team,” said center fielder Pat Stepnoski.
Looking for a soft spot in the batting order? Good luck.
“A lot of times in League VIII you’ll see the bottom third of a lineup not be that productive, [but] even if the bottom of their lineup isn’t necessarily big hitters, they work the count, they got on base, they ran the bases,” said Port Jefferson coach Jesse Rosen, whose team will compete in the playoffs for the seventh straight year.
McGann-Mercy completed its regular season on Thursday with a 10-2 win over Port Jefferson. Stepnoski drove in four runs and Joe Crosser pitched a five-hitter for the Monarchs (14-4, 14-4) at Scofield-Desiderio Park in Port Jefferson Station.
Port Jefferson (11-7, 11-6) was playing for a favorable playoff seeding while the game did not hold great significance for McGann-Mercy beyond pride. Still, the Monarchs did not take the day off.
Stepnoski opened up a four-run rally in the first by stroking a single to center field that scored two runs. The next inning Stepnoski smashed another two-run single for a 6-0 lead.
In addition to knocking in a pair of runs himself, Dickinson, the left fielder, made the defensive play of the game in the second when, racing to his left with an outstretched glove hand, he snagged a fly ball hit by Billy Crowe.
Port Jefferson’s Joe Gerbino drove a ball an estimated 400 feet, well over the center-field fence for a solo home run in the second, his second long ball of the season. Rosen said it was one of the longest-hit balls he has seen in four years at Port Jefferson.
McGann-Mercy showed its resourcefulness in the fourth when it made nine plate appearances and scored three runs without the benefit of a hit. Five walks (one with the bases loaded), an error and a wild pitch by Port Jefferson, helped, though.
Meanwhile, Crosser went the distance, with seven strikeouts and two walks. He retired Port Jefferson’s final five batters, and that was it.
The day before, McGann-Mercy beat Port Jefferson with the aid of three runs batted in and a home run by Keith Schroeher. The visiting Monarchs broke that game open with a nine-run rally in the sixth, which Owen Gilpin ignited with a two-run, two-out single.
“That just put them away,” said Pascale.
Meier expressed relief over clinching the league crown. “We’re kind of in that in-between stage,” he said. “We’re happy that we won the league, but we know that the playoffs are coming up, and that’s really our goal.”
Still, a league title is something to be cherished.
“It says that you’re the best, basically,” Stepnoski said. “It was a on a list of to-dos for the year, and we checked it off.”