Shelter Island School’s junior varsity softball team’s first home game on March 29 was headlined by sunny skies, gusty winds and dominant pitching.
The Southampton Mariners came to town, and despite a valiant effort and some nice defense, including a double play to end the third inning, the Blue and Gray lost the home opener 15-0. Coach Ian Kanarvogel said his team’s strength is batting. As the season progresses and the team gets used to seeing higher velocity pitching on a regular basis, he’s confident that the runs will come.
Last year’s junior varsity softball team had an amazing season. The girls ran the table with a 15-0 record, with several shutouts and nearly every game ended early by the “mercy” rule that dictates if a team is ahead by 12 runs or more after five innings the game is called.
With five seniors coming out for the 2016 squad, Coach Ian Kanarvogel chose to move the team up to the varsity level this season.
Shelter Island is the only Class D school playing varsity softball on Long Island. Coach K is hopeful the team will have a .500 season and qualify for playoffs.
After only losing one player, Julia Martin, to graduation, the team had 21 players on the roster. Unfortunately, two starting seniors — Shawna Goody and Margaret Michalak — are already out with injuries. Top pitcher Goody has been battling shoulder issues and early outings confirmed that medical intervention is needed. With hopes for a favorable MRI and corrective physical therapy, Coach K is hoping Goody might be back for a late season finish.
Michalak, one of the team’s top power hitters as well as a relief pitcher, suffered a torn ACL this winter. She will need to undergo surgery to repair her knee and is out for the season.
The team still has plenty of talent in the remaining athletes, who range from 8th grade to seniors, although the move to varsity will test the team, especially in the early going.
On Wednesday, March 23, a young subset of the team traveled to Port Jefferson for their first game of the season. Most of the seniors and juniors were on a trip to New York City, so the bare minimum of 9 brave souls ventured into Royals territory.
Sophomore Sarah Lewis was on the mound with classmate Bianca Evangalista behind the plate. Freshmen Lily Garrison held down first base and classmate Ella Mysliborski was at second. Sophomore shortstop Phoebe Starzee and 8th grader Abby Kotula rounded out the infield at third base. Nichole Hand, Lauren Gurney and Domily Gil stood their ground in the outfield.
The first varsity outing showed that the team can expect to see faster pitching, stronger hitting and more coordinated defense as opposed to JV play. The Royals mainly played “small ball” — lots of bunting to get runners into position with aggressive base running, interspersed with some powerful hits.
The effort ended in 18-6 loss for the Blue and Gray, but Coach Kanarvogel was pleased at the fight and tenacity of the young team. Being able to put together 6 runs against a varsity team was encouraging. Coach K praised Sarah Lewis’s pitching, which is increasing in power and velocity.
The older girls are now poised to play. Seniors and team leaders Emily Hyatt, Kenna McCarthy and Kelly Colligan will start at first, third and in the outfield respectively. Juniors Julia Labrozzi and Sophia Strauss will likely be at second base. Melissa Frasco will catch and sister Nicolette will be in the outfield. Juniors Olivia Yeman and Amira Lawrence and sophomore Emily Strauss also are expected to contribute in the outfield.
Coach Kanarvogel said that the move to varsity is a big transition, but the girls are up to the challenge.
“There is definitely more intense competition and there are lots of little things that go into being a really good team,” he said.
The coach is optimistic that, with a full squad, main rivals Port Jefferson, Mattituck and Pierson are very beatable. Like Shelter Island, they only field a varsity squad.
The team’s upcoming home games Thursday, March 31 against a strong Center Moriches squad. They face Mattituck at 4 p.m. on April 5.