A high school softball game that was basically all about offense came down to pitching and defense for the final at-bat.
Bishop McGann-Mercy had seen what had been a 13-6 lead in the fifth inning shrink down to an uncomfortable one-run margin in the bottom of the seventh inning at Mattituck High School on Friday.
Mattituck’s No. 7 batter, Jayme Gaffga, led off the inning with a walk, moving to third base on a steal and a sacrifice bunt by Kathryn Thompson. Ashley Chew slugged a one-out double over the centerfielder to bring Gaffga home, trimming Mercy’s lead to 13-12. A wild pitch sent Chew to third and Mattituck had the potential tying run standing 60 feet away with Alexis Burns at the plate.
Relief pitcher Sarah Penny got Burns to bounce a chopper back to her and she threw to first for the final out. The Monarchs could breathe a sigh of relief.
“We got it done,” Mercy coach Rose Horton said. “It wasn’t as pretty as we can be, but we did it.”
Mattituck’s playoff chances took a hit with the defeat.
“This is a big blow, but you know what? Our spirits are up and we’re going to battle,” Mattituck coach Kim Gerstung said. “We’re not going to give in. We’re going to battle.”
For Mercy (7-3, 7-2 Suffolk County League X), which like Mattituck (4-5, 4-5) was playing its fourth game in five days, it was the end to a 4-0 week, highlighted by a 12-6 upset of Center Moriches on Monday.
Friday’s game was a true slugfest, with both teams combining for 26 hits (equally divided). Eight starters from each side had at least one hit as players took the opportunity to inflate their batting averages.
“It’s great when everyone else is hitting,” said Sorgi (3-for-4, three runs, walk), who has been moved up to second in the batting order because of her fine hitting in recent games. “It just boosts you up. It’s like a catalyst. Like one person hits, then everyone hits.”
Mattituck never led, but posed a threat down the stretch. Aniah Thompson blasted a three-run homer over the leftfield fence in the fifth, making the score 13-9. It was the second home run in as many days for the eighth-grader. She had homered, as did her sister, Jaden Thompson, the day before in a 6-5 loss to Southold/Greenport.
“They’re very strong,” Gerstung said of the Thompson sisters. “They have a lot of power.”
Mattituck managed two more runs in the sixth from a two-run double by Ashley Perkins, making it a two-run game at 13-11.
Was a comeback victory in the offing for the Tuckers?
“I felt like we could do it,” said Aniah Thompson, who had four RBIs.
Mercy had cause for concern and must have lamented missed opportunities. The Monarchs left the bases loaded in the third, fourth and fifth innings. Altogether, they stranded 11 runners.
But Mercy received three RBIs from Penny and two apiece from Margaret Terry and Kate Wilkie.
Chew knocked in three Mattituck runs on 3-for-5 hitting.
Mattituck has been dealing with a handicap this season. Its No. 1 pitcher from last year, Madison Osler, opted to join the school’s track and field team. In her absence, Mattituck’s pitching has been handled by Chew and Burns. Chew had been the team’s emergency pitcher and Burns pitched a couple of innings last year for the first time.
“Offensively, we’re strong,” Gerstung said, “but it’s a little depressing because you know we’re a good team but we can’t finish because of one position.”
Following a postgame meeting with her team, Horton said: “This was a tough team to beat. We showed up. We played. We won.”
No small thanks to their bats.
Photo caption: Bishop McGann-Mercy’s Lauren Hanna scores as the throw home eludes Mattituck catcher Jayme Gaffga. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)