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Island girls open softball season: Team cheers, ‘Eight is great!’

Softball season is here!

After the cancellations of their first couple of contests, Monday, April 17, was the first game of the new season for the Shelter Island softball team.

The team is playing at the junior varsity level for the first time in several years. Lindsay Rando, once an Island softball player herself, is the new coach for the Islanders, taking over the reins from Coach Kristin Andrejack.

Coach Rando is excited for the opportunity, although the team faces a few challenges. One of the main hurdles is the number of players. Currently the squad has just eight athletes, with a ninth still accruing practices.

At the JV level it’s legal to play with eight, despite normally needing nine. Fittingly, the pre-game chant was “Eight is great!” They admitted that “Nine would be divine,” but they’re working with what they have.

The Islanders faced Hampton Bays in the season opener. The team has been diligently practicing, but were excited to put their skills to the test in a game situation. It took a couple of innings to find their feet, but as the game progressed, communications got smoother, throws became more accurate and plays became more second nature. Despite the gap in center field, the athletes did a nice job of covering the field and backing one another up.

Harper Congdon started as pitcher, with Mackenzie Speece catching. Hampton Bays players were patient at the plate, and aggressive on the bases. As Congdon worked to fine tune her pitches and the defense began to find their groove, Hampton Bays got out to a 9-run lead in the first inning.

But the Islanders weren’t discouraged. Tola Bliss proved that she was unafraid to swing, getting a good stroke on an early pitch.

Unfortunately, she was thrown out at first, but that set the pace for the team. Susie Kane, in her first season of playing softball, was praised for her tremendous effort and improvement by Coach Rando, who added, “And she’s fast!”

At the bottom of the first the Islanders had gotten a run on the board.

During the second inning shortstop Lili Kuhr got into the action, making two nice stops in a row. Mary Gennari, one of the seniors, held down the hot corner at third base.

She and Speece have a nice connection, and worked together to get multiple outs during the game. Unfortunately, Hampton Bays continued to push hard on the bases, and added 7 runs.

Undeterred, Gennari and Bliss got hits to get on base, and Congdon earned an RBI to start the scoring. Speece and Kuhr were walked, and then a blast by Sophie Clark brought two runs home.

In the third inning Clark took over pitching duties. She has nice speed on the ball, and with back-up from the field, Hampton Bays was held scoreless. Similarly, the Islanders had a quick third inning.

In the fourth, a couple of overthrows and drops let the Baywomen add two runs, and stretched their lead to 14 runs. But Shelter Island wasn’t discouraged.

Returning players Gennari, Clark, Congdon and Kaitlyn Gulluscio continued to communicate with their teammates, giving tips and tricks to the less experienced athletes.

With two outs on the board, the Islanders started a rally. Patience in the batters box and heads-up running led to scoring 3 runs.

The third run caused a chuckle. Bliss had a nice hit, and Gulluscio dashed home, where she found the plate blocked by both the bat and the catcher.

The catcher had the ball, but Gulluscio was able to tap her toe on the plate to add another run to the total before the catcher could tag her. Encouraged, Congdon had a beautiful hit with bases loaded to drive in 2 additional runs. The fourth inning ended with the home team having 9 runs.

As the sun sank lower in the sky, the teams continued to compete. Hampton Bays added 7 runs to their total, while the Islanders ended with a total of 11 runs before the umpire called the game at the end of the 5th.

After gathering the equipment, Coach Rando brought the team into a huddle. At the start of the game she had reminded them of their goal to get 1% better every day. At the end of the day, she praised the team for their effort.

“Good job everybody, give yourself a round of applause,” she said. “I am so proud of you, and you should be proud of yourselves.”

It was very evident that the girls loved having the chance to play.

With the rest of the season in front of them and a team-wide positive attitude, the athletes cheered “Eight is Great!” and headed to the gym to take off their cleats for the day.

Next home game is scheduled for 10 a.m. this Saturday, April 29, against the Ross School.

Come cheer on the team!