Featured Story

Softball: Tears fall after Mercy’s final game

Immediately after East Rockaway put the finishing touches on its third straight Long Island softball championship, Bishop McGann-Mercy assistant coach Bob Fox could be heard telling the Monarchs to keep their heads up. It was only later, during the team’s postgame meeting in the outfield, when they received the go-ahead to let it all out.

“He told us that it was OK to show our emotions, so at that point all of us just started crying,” said junior catcher Jordyn Stromski.

Tears fell with the rain. Mercy’s historic season — its final season — is over.

The final game in school history just happened to be the biggest in the program’s history. With the Riverhead Catholic school soon to be closed by the Diocese of Rockville Centre because of low enrollment and financial factors, Mercy had reached this Long Island Class C final by winning its first Suffolk County title. But the Monarchs were without four senior starters — Caryn Nabrizny, Izzy Sorgi, Olivia Valle and Katie Wilkie — because of a conflict with the senior prom, and that hurt, especially against a team like East Rockaway.

East Rockaway pitcher Emily Chelius hurled a two-hitter with 12 strikeouts as Mercy was beaten, 10-0, on the wet field at Hofstra University’s Bill Edwards Stadium on a rainy Thursday afternoon.

For Mercy, this end had more of a sense of finality. It wasn’t merely the end of a season. No, there was more to it than that.

“It was the last time in Mercy uniforms to play this sport, so I think that really hit home for a lot of us,” said Stromski.

And thus the tears.

“It was because it was our last time in a Monarch uniform,” said coach Rose Horton.

East Rockaway (18-4), ranked second in the New York State Sportswriter Association’s Class C rankings, received a tremendous performance from Chelius — in both the pitching circle and the batter’s box. The junior righthander didn’t walk a batter and had a one-hitter going for most of the game. Julianna Betancourt’s slow-rolling bunt to lead off the third inning came to a stop, leaving nothing for third baseman Hunter Vertuccio to do but look at it. That stood as Mercy’s only hit until Stromski came through with a one-out triple in the seventh.

Chelius the batter was a force, too. She went 3-for-4 (one of those hits being an RBI triple), scored three runs and stole two bases.

East Rockaway’s first two batters, Lia Gladstone (2-for-4, two runs, stolen base) and Chelius, opened the bottom of the first with singles. They later scored on an error and a wild pitch, respectively.

Four-run rallies in both the third and sixth put the result beyond doubt. Mercy (10-12) committed seven of its eight errors in those two innings. Vertuccio sliced an RBI triple for the big hit in the third. The rain picked up in the sixth, and so did the East Rockaway offense.

The absence of the four Monarchs was felt.

“We really missed them and it was a big impact, but we played with what we have,” Stromski said. “I think a lot of it was nerves just because of the title of the game, being the LIC.”

Mercy junior pitcher Sarah Penny, who had five strikeouts, one walk and was charged with four runs, acknowledged it was a challenge playing the game without almost half of the regular lineup. “Girls had to learn different positions that we weren’t used to,” she said. “I wasn’t really happy, but I understand, it’s their senior prom and I would want to go to that, too.”

Horton fought to contain her emotions during a postgame interview.

“I think that we had a storybook season although we didn’t have the magical, happy ending,” she said. “I am super proud of the season that we had and the commitment that these girls showed out there today. I don’t think I could have asked for anything more.”

East Rockaway advances to the Southeast Region final against Pawling or Pine Plains Saturday at Hofstra.

Mercy’s season, meanwhile, has reached an end that was bound to come sooner or later. The Monarchs have memories, though, of a final season in which they made their mark.

“It’s definitely down in Mercy history, for sure,” Stromski said. “Even though the school won’t be there, the Mercy family will be there and know that we made history for the softball team.”

[email protected]

Photo caption: Bishop McGann-Mercy assistant coach Bob Fox offers high-fives to Gabby Jean (1), Joslyn Lessard (18) and Gabby Mangiamelli (27) after the team’s final game ever, a 10-0 loss to East Rockaway in the Long Island Class C final. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)