Bishop McGann-Mercy is going out like a champion.
In all its years, Mercy had never won a county championship in softball before — until Wednesday, that is.
Now, in its final season, Mercy is a county champion. With the Riverhead Catholic school set to close next month in light of low enrollment and financial factors cited by the Diocese of Rockville Centre, the Monarchs have made their mark, completing a two-game sweep of Southold/Greenport in the Suffolk County Class C finals with an 18-1 blowout on Wednesday.
Mercy athletic director Melissa Edwards, who presented the Monarchs with the championship plaque on the Greenport High School field, said it is the team’s first county crown.
“I think that there was an underlying determination to win because we know what’s going to happen with the school at the end of the year, so we wanted to make Mercy history while we still can,” said senior third baseman Katie Wilkie.
Players said the school’s pending closing has been a driving force in the team’s success.
“I definitely don’t think it’s a coincidence because I think the girls — especially the younger girls — are using the team this year as an outlet to channel that negative energy because everybody’s upset, everybody’s leaving each other,” senior catcher Olivia Valle said. “This isn’t just our last hurrah as seniors. It’s our last hurrah together as a team — all four grade levels, nine though 12. It’s our last time to make something happen, to leave our mark on the school.”
Mercy (10-11) claimed the title in impressive fashion. Unlike the series opener two days earlier — a 3-0 result — Mercy left little doubt about the outcome of the second game. It was an impressive all-around performance.
Baserunning. Hitting. Pitching. Defense. They were all there.
“They are an all-or-nothing team,” Mercy coach Rose Horton said. “They want to win. They don’t settle for less than putting their best out there.”
Mercy did a lot of damage with its bats, plating 17 runs in the first four innings and totaling 20 hits. In the first inning alone, the Monarchs had seven runs from eight hits, including a two-run single by Wilkie and a two-run double by Sarah Penny.
“They just hit and we didn’t,” Southold leftfielder Liz Clark said. “That’s the bottom line. They had a lot of hits. They were definitely hitting them where we weren’t … They earned it.”
Production came throughout the batting order, starting with Penny, who went 5-for-5 with two RBIs, two doubles, three runs and a walk. Six Monarchs had two hits or more. Valle (3-for-3, four runs, two walks, stolen base) drove in four runs. Wilkie (3-for-4, three runs, two walks, two stolen bases) and Izzy Sorgi had three RBIs each. Gabby Jean had two RBIs.
On the pitching end of things, Penny allowed one run and five hits through five innings. She had four strikeouts without any walks. Sorgi struck out three in two hitless innings of relief.
“They were always worried about winning the battle that they had in front of them, and when this was the next game, this was the battle that we had to win,” said Horton.
Southold (6-14) spoiled the shutout bid in the fourth. Hannah Sutton led off by sliding into second base for a double. Two outs later, Felecia Kayel knocked an infield single off Penny. That made it 17-1.
“We didn’t really have the energy,” Southold first baseman Madison Hilton said. “We weren’t into the game and when we finally got into the game, it was a little too late.”
Next up for Mercy will be a regional semifinal against the Nassau County champion May 31 at Hofstra University.
“This is the last opportunity,” Valle said. “It’s like you have to make it count. You have to be clutch in all senses of the word.”
Horton said: “I’m super, super proud of them. I couldn’t have asked for a better team.”
The first county title in Mercy’s final season. A regional semifinal. It’s like something from a storybook.
“It’s surreal,” Horton said. “This whole entire season has been kind of surreal.”
Asked how much this title means to her team, Valle answered: “I don’t think it’s really hit me yet. I think maybe tonight when I’m going to sleep I might start to realize what we just did.”
Then she headed off for the team bus. As it started to pull away, the Monarchs could be heard singing Queen’s “We Are the Champions.”
Photo caption: The Bishop McGann-Mercy players celebrate with the team’s first county championship plaque. (Credit: Bob Liepa)