For the fourth straight year, the Suffolk Community College softball team is World Series bound.
Even with the success of previous seasons, the opportunity to compete for the nation’s top prize isn’t something the Sharks ever took for granted. And regardless of their seed when the brackets are revealed Monday, Suffolk CCC is ready to show the caliber of softball on Long Island.
“This was one of our top goals,” said shortstop Heather Cicinnati, who graduated from Centereach High School. “Every time we won a game, we knew we had to get the next game to get where we are now.”
Now, the Sharks are on their way to Rochester, Minnesota to compete in the NJCAA Division III World Series, beginning May 23. The eight-team double-elimination tournament concludes May 25.
Suffolk CCC (18-14) earned a bid to the World Series after winning its fourth straight Region XV title, with 11-1 and 15-2 wins over Dutchess Community College, followed by 9-0 and 11-0 victories over Westmoreland County Community College to win the District H championship.
The Sharks' offense has been on a tear this season. Cicinnati is hitting .567 with 46 runs scored and 35 RBIs, and Sabrina Burrus is hitting .510 with five home runs and 44 RBIs. Suffolk had five other players hit greater than .400: Jessica Laguerra (.493), Gianna Venuti (.472), Dina Kessinger (.452), Delaney Kane (.451) and Bailey Rand (.411).
“We’re very athletic top to bottom so there’s a lot of different things we can do offensively,” coach Joseph Kosina said. “We run the bases exceptionally well, we have great team speed with power in the middle of the lineup. We can beat you a number of different ways.”
The Sharks also hope their experiences from competing in last year’s World Series will help the team, which has a mix of returning sophomores and incoming freshmen.
“I feel like we have a taste as how the majority of the teams play and how to get our mindset ready with how good most of the teams are,” said Burris, who graduated from Mount Sinai High School. “As long as we as a team all want the same thing and have the same motivation and mindset, I feel we will be fine.”
Another reason for Suffolk CCC’s confidence is the return of Karisa Lawrence, of Rocky Point, to the circle. The two-time Region XV Player of the Year missed a two-week span late in the season because of inflammation in her right throwing shoulder, Kosina said. But she has allowed just one earned run in 16 innings since returning, with 23 strikeouts compared to three walks in three starts.
“She’s driven to just win,” Kosina said. “She cares about the program and she’s like, ‘I’m going to take the ball and I got it. You guys don’t have to worry about anything today.’ ”
After finishing in second in 2017 and eighth last year, the Sharks look to continue to prove themselves as a perennial softball power.
“We know we’ll get it done and we feel like we’ve earned it to get here,” Cicinnati said. “We want to show we can — and we will — win because we feel sometimes people look down on us.”