East Rockaway softball had its equipment shed float away in superstorm Sandy floodwaters. Of its tiny roster, three or four players still return to homes without walls, coach Joe Lores said. To this day, they play on the JV field.
All that considered, the obstacles presented Friday -- namely, a rubber away game against first-seeded Oyster Bay and ace Dana Galgano -- seemed eminently doable.
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Behind a stellar pitching performance from Gianna Cilluffo and a small-ball manufactured four-run sixth, No. 4 East Rockaway defeated the Baymen, 6-1, in Game 3 of the Nassau Class B semifinals. The Rocks will play Locust Valley beginning Monday at Mitchel Athletic Complex. Lores, coaching since 1992, earned his 300th career victory.
"A couple of our friends are just getting into their homes or still working on them," Cilluffo said. "Absolutely [it means more] . . . Forever, East Rockaway has been the underdog. 'Oh, they're such a small school, they don't have anyone, there are only 10 girls on the team.' Whatever. We're always building up."
After Galgano's five dominant innings left the game scoreless, the Rocks (19-4) moved to "Plan B," Lores said, utilizing their speed and baserunning to force a number of defensive miscues. Samantha Mantovani and Jess Cerasoli led off the sixth with back-to-back bunt singles, and both scored on infield errors -- the latter coming on a Jessica Deptulski grounder that squirted past the shortstop. Deptulski then stole second and third and came home on Gina Skelly's infield hit.
"We got our little hits and did the best we could," said Deptulski, who was 1-for-2 with a walk, run and two seventh-inning RBIs. "We just keep pushing on . . . We've lost a lot [in Sandy] and we kind of went into this wanting to be the underdogs, and say this isn't stopping us. We're coming back stronger."
Oyster Bay's biggest threat came with two on and one out in the sixth, but first baseman Dori Gross' nifty over-the-shoulder catch tempered the threat. The Baymen's only run came on Michelle Morris' single a batter later.
Meanwhile Cilluffo, who pitched the Rocks to a 1-0 win in Game 2, allowed one run, four hits and three walks with two strikeouts.
"I said to her just the other day, 'I want you going off with something to be proud of,' " Lores said. "Her pitching has been something to be proud of."
Not that she's done.
"We're so ready," Cilluffo said. "We're confident and we're ready to play anybody that wants to come. We deserve to be here."
And, oh yeah, that underdog moniker? They'll take it.