It's no secret who the go-to player on the Rocky Point softball team is.
From coach Lee Cirillo's perspective, it all begins and ends with junior righthander Annie Kennedy.
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"The season lives and dies basically on what Annie does," Cirillo said. "She's also my cleanup hitter. Every season that I've been with her, she leads the team defensively in every stat."
Through the first six games, Kennedy has been in the circle for all the Eagles' games as Rocky Point (4-2 overall, 3-2 in conference) trails unbeaten Sayville in League VI.
Since arriving on the scene as a seventh-grader, Kennedy has been named the League VI Rookie of the Year and the League VI Pitcher of the Year in 2012, a season in which she helped end Rocky Point's playoff-less season drought.
She's ready to take her game to an even higher level now.
"I feel like it's my time to do my best," Kennedy said. "I'm an important facet of the team. I'd like to have quick innings, get ahead, and get us to bat quicker. I feel like it's my time to help this team and prove to Suffolk County that we can compete with the best."
So far, so good. The Eagles defeated their first two league foes, East Hampton and Westhampton, before dropping a 4-0 decision to Sayville and Julia Simpson, who faced only 25 batters, just four over the minimum.
"We may not be the best hitting, or fielding team, but we know what to expect from one another. We're all on the same page," said Kennedy, who finished 3-for-4 with a home run, and pitched six innings, allowing four hits, no runs and no walks, to go along with 15 strikeouts in a 13-0 win over Glenn. "We have so much heart. We're looking to upset some teams and make a name for Rocky Point softball."
Jess Marcks, now a senior, has been Kennedy's batterymate from the moment she first took the circle for Rocky Point.
"I've been working on perfecting my pitches," said Kennedy, who added the rise ball to her repertoire. "I'm still working on it. It makes the other pitches look a lot better." Cirillo was on board to see Kennedy's maturation process develop as an eighth-grader.
"She's that kid, no matter how stressful the situation is, she maintains her control and her composure," Cirillo said. "That's going to take her very far."
So far, it has led to a commitment to pitch Division I ball at the University of Maine in the America East Conference.
"She's super-psyched," Cirillo said. "She belongs there. She works super hard."
Kennedy can't wait.
"As soon as I went there, that's where I knew I wanted to go and continue my career in softball," she said. "It's such a great opportunity to be able to play the best teams in the country. Take it to the next level."
When she isn't starring for the Eagles, Kennedy gets her work in on the Long Island Chargers ASA softball team, which travels all over the United States. Cirillo, who was on that inaugural team, said the "best of the best" are part of that club.
Kennedy is leading the team with a batting average of .529 (9-for-17) with a home run, six RBIs, seven runs, four stolen bases and five walks.
"I think the thing I love the most about softball is that when I'm in the circle, that's what I'm meant to do," said Kennedy, who has allowed 35 hits and two walks in 39 innings to go along with a 1.44 ERA with 50 strikeouts, 18 assists and four putouts. "That's where I'm supposed to be."