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A special day for the Shelter Island softball team

Friday, May 5 was a perfect day for softball. It was sunny and warm, and the Shelter Island Athletics tent set up beside the field was adorned with balloons, with baked goods and water for sale.

The festive mood was accentuated by the “walk-up songs,” which were played for the Island batters.

The Shelter Island JV softball team was taking part in “Hope at Bat,” a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

In addition to being a source of pride and providing fun and free entertainment, the Island athletic teams give back to the community in many ways, including raising money for important causes.

In honor of the occasion, Ginny Gibbs, a Shelter Island school graduate, retired teacher and three-time cancer survivor, threw out the first pitch. Many relatives were in attendance, and it was a touching moment.

The game raised $401 for the Cancer Society.

The home team looked far more relaxed and confident than in their first outing. The Pierson Whalers and the Islanders had the requisite nine players, with no subs. As it turned out, it worked out just fine for Shelter Island.

The Whalers started strong, getting 3 runs in the top of the first, despite some fine pitching, including three strikeouts, by pitcher Harper Congdon.

However, the Islanders quickly made a statement with their patient at-bats, allowing the Pierson pitcher to walk numerous players. Shelter Island also used lots of aggressive base running to get players in position to score.

Sophie Clark started the hitting with a solid single to right field allowing Mackenzie Speece and Mary Gennari to score, allowing the Islanders to jump out to a 7-3 lead. Lauren Gibbs also had a nice single to bring Kaitlyn Gulluscio and Clark home.

Scorekeeper Madison Springer delighted in tallying up the runs as the first inning ended with a 6-run lead for the Islanders, 9-3.

Pierson looked to change things up in the second inning, with their first batter laying down a bunt. But Congdon charged the ball, turning sharply to get the ball to Tola Bliss at first for the quick out. The next batter popped up the ball, and Congdon quickly snagged it.

Just two batters later a strikeout sent the Whalers back to their bench.

Many of the softball players are dual athletes and compete on the track team. Their speed and smart baserunning allowed the Islanders to add a run in the second. Speece had a scorcher down the line past third to get on base. During Susie Kane’s at bat, Speece stole second, and then slid into third.

A passed ball allowed her to sprint home, extending the lead to 10-3.

The third inning was a quick three-up and three-down for both teams before Pierson’s bats suddenly warmed up in the top of the fourth. A single was stretched into a double, then another single allowed a run to score.

A triple plated two more runs. Positive chatter from Coach Lindsay Rando and scorekeeper Springer from the bench encouraged the Islanders to “get down and ready” before a Pierson player found herself in a rundown, between Clark at third and catcher Mary Gennari. Gennari tagged her out to end the inning 10-6.

The Islanders took the field determined to hold onto their lead. Coach Rando told them “I want to see all of you at third” where she was stationed to give signs.

The team added, “And steal home!” Lili Kuhr took that advice, sprinting home on a passed ball to pull the score to 12-6. Gibbs, Speece, Gennari and Clark added to the total as the Islanders extended their lead to 15-6.

Th Whalers managed another run in the top of the fifth, but the writing was on the wall. The Islanders were patient and several walks later the score stood at 19-7. The umpire called the game, citing the “run-ahead” (AKA mercy) rule.

It was the first win for the softball program in four years, and the joyful team assembled for a jubilant team photo. A smiling Coach Rando gathered the squad around her telling them, “I am so proud of you, you crushed it!”

It was a great end to the picture-perfect day. Sunny warm weather, a fundraiser to defeat cancer, all topped with a win where every athlete contributed.

A happy crew of Island softball players celebrating a big win. From left, Madison Springer, Mary Gennari, Harper Congdon, Mackenzie Speece, Lauren Gibbs, Lili Kuhr, Sohpie Clark, Susie Kane, Kaitylyn Gulluscio, Tola Bliss and Lindsay Rando. (Credit: Cindy Belt)

There is one final time to enjoy watching this team. Come join in the fun as our Islanders face the Ross Ravens.

The last home game will be Monday, May 15 at 4 p.m., when the seniors from both the softball and track teams will be honored.