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Shelter Island School softball team ends season on a high note

Tuesday, May 28, was a beautiful sunny day, perfect for a softball game. Ospreys called, an immature eagle being harassed by crows flew overhead and a black swallowtail fluttered by.

A crowd gathered earlier than usual for the junior high softball game against the Southampton Mariners to support the high school seniors as they were saluted for their final sports season.

Coach Erin Mulrain honored graduating JV softball players Kat Austin, Harper Congdon, Kaitlyn Gulluscio, and Susie Kane.

“I will miss their hard work, their willingness to try new positions and the ability to make me laugh,” her coach said. “This group of leaders were extremely supportive of everyone on the team and brought an amazing amount of joy to practices and games.”

The short ceremony was capped by the seniors tossing balls to the 8th graders who would be moving up to the high school program next year in a symbolic “passing of the torch.”

A ceremony for the end of a season, and a career. Senior players tossing softballs to 8th graders who will be moving on to the high school program next spring. (Credit: Adam Bundy)

With siblings sitting on blankets, parents chattering about summer plans and reminiscing about when the kids were younger — or when they themselves were on the field — the 7th- and 8th-grade game began.

Makayla Cronin pitched the entire game against a tough Southampton squad, notching strikeouts in the first, third and fifth innings.

With starting catcher Eliza McCarthy sidelined with a sore knee, Ella Fundora was called on to be behind the plate. She caught for three innings, then switched up to relieve left field, allowing Coach Sweeney to shift positions around a bit during the game.

Natalie Mamisashvili filled in handily for the final two innings.

Over the season the players have improved a great deal. The players are better at anticipating where the ball should be thrown and the play should be made. On the very first play of the game, Lily Brigham made a nice stop at shortstop, then got the ball to the pitcher to freeze the runner at first.

Elizabeth Weslek also was “on the ball” and covering a lot of territory at second, her throws to Kylie Kuhr at first helping to keep the Mariners on their toes.

In their next-to-last game of the nine-game season, the Islanders are seeing players getting more confident at the plate.

Aisley Davidson, Michelle Martinez and Regina Kolmogorova-Weisenberg have all made strides this season, with all three making solid contact on their hits against a strong throwing Mariners pitcher.

Jayla Jones held down right field while Lexi Bartilucci was on the hot corner at third. Bartilucci is mobile and able to field both grounders and balls on the fly.

While Southampton won the game, Coach Sweeney said she is very proud of the group for the major growth they have made. Without a Little League softball team last year, they had to refresh their skills and confidence at the start of the season.

Now that they have settled back into the sport, “They are making good decisions on plays, and getting more confident at hitting,” the coach said.

She noted that the team has also gotten better at working through tough situations as they play, and keeping their focus on the game. While softball is a team sport, there are a lot of one-on-one situations where middle school athletes need to show maturity and poise.

It isn’t always easy when it’s just a hitter and a pitcher dueling it out to get a play started.

With the season’s last game scheduled for May 29, the team will soon be on to summer pursuits. Some of these teens will be moving up to high school sports in the fall.

With a solid foundation in fitness and team unity there is a lot to look forward to.