BY CINDY BELT & JACKIE BREWER
With the weather routinely climbing into the 60s, the cold, snowy weather of March seems a long time ago. The Shelter Island junior varsity softball team has had a successful season, both in terms of number of wins, and the fun and camaraderie of the team.
Coaches Jackie Brewer and Taylor Kelly were impressed with their squad, especially with the way the younger athletes were able to make an impact at the high school level.
The squad’s last home game was Tuesday, May 8 against Mount Sinai. The game began with an introduction of the five seniors on the team running down the third baseline with high fives to all of their team members and Coaches Jackie Brewer and Taylor Kelly.
The girls were presented with flowers and a softball that had three words that were chosen by their teammates, descriptive of their personalities.
The game began with all seniors in the infield positions — except for Lauren Gurney at first base — with Sarah Lewis pitching, Bianca Evangelista catching, Caitlin Binder at second base, Phoebe Starzee at shortstop and Emily Strauss at third base.
Mount Sinai featured good pitching and a confident squad. The Mustangs got out to a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning, but Lauren Gurney stepped to the plate and stared down the pitcher. A quick swing caught the ball in the sweet spot of the bat and it flew deep to center field. Racing around the bases, Gurney crossed home plate to cut the lead to 3-1.
During the fifth inning, the Islanders showed it was a well-rounded team, able to play defense in many ways. Lewis pitched to classmate Evangelista behind the plate, whose quick reflexes and ability to hold runners on base was key in keeping the Mustangs on their toes. Lewis recorded a strike out for the first out. The infield got the next out as Emily Strauss moved in front of the third base bag, grabbed a slow roller and threw it to Evangelista at home for a quick out. Mount Sinai got two more runs in before the outfield showed its skill with center fielder Dayla Reyes making a tremendous running catch for the third out to end the fifth.
A new pitcher for the Mustangs made short work of the Island batters, and a few new players headed to the field in the sixth. Lily Page got the nod for right field while Valeria Reyes replaced Izzy Fonseca in left. Reyes made the highlight reel as she raced in for a short fly ball, diving to the ground in the effort. The visitors added two more runs to pull ahead 7-1.
In the seventh, only four Mustangs came to bat. Angelina Corbett-Rice took over first base for an injured Gurney. The youngest player on the team, Corbett-Rice made a heads-up play as Strauss threw the ball to her as she quickly stepped on first to beat the runner. The final out of that inning was a showdown between two seniors.
Shortstop Phoebe Starzee made a bold move in front of second base player Caitlin Binder to grab a pop-up. Laughing as they made their way to the bench, it was great to see the classmates working together to end the inning.
As the team took their last bats, Jane Richards kept a positive chatter going, as she expertly handed each player their favorite bats. Maria Carbajal and Kathy Ramos kept the team stats and book, while Lydia Shepherd cheered her teammates on.
As the game came to a close, a box of cupcakes with royal blue icing appeared in honor of the last home game. In true sporting style, the leftovers were shared with the visiting team, so both squads sported happy, blue smiles as they left the field.
Coach Brewer addressed the seniors as they turned to walk back across the field. “This is the last time you will be crossing these as a Shelter Island player, but you can be proud of the season we have had.”
Friday the Indians were on the road again, for the fourth game of the week, and the last game of the season at Rocky Point. Lewis and Evangelista made the trip to play in their last high school game. Gurney took the mound and was on target striking out two in the first inning and Dayla Reyes made a nice catch in center field allowing only one run in the first.
The Islanders came to bat and answered with a run to tie the game with Gurney earning an RBI. The second inning saw some nice throws to Springer at first by Rice at second for two outs and a final strikeout by Gurney. One more run was scored by the opponents.
The Islanders’ offense heated up in the 4th and scored 2 more runs due to a nice bunt by Evangelista and RBIs by Rice and Gurney making the score 4-4. Rocky Point answered with its own rally in the 5th with some timely hitting, allowing 3 runs to score.
The action continued with some base hits, loading the bases for the Indians, however they couldn’t score, ending on the losing side, 7-4. Gurney had 10 strikeouts for the contest, going the distance.
Coaches Brewer and Kelly were very pleased with the season, ending with an 8-9 record and more than half the team coming directly from Little League to play at the high school level.
The girls started the season with nervous jitters and ended with new found confidence in their batting and fielding skills, showing they could be competitive at the JV level and all had a very enjoyable season.