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Courtney Greene leads from the circle for East Islip softball

Courtney Greene, left, and Jackie Carty of East

Courtney Greene, left, and Jackie Carty of East Islip pose for a portrait during Newsday's varsity softball season preview photo shoot at company headquarters on Saturday, March 18, 2017. Credit: James Escher

It was no easy task for Courtney Greene when she first stepped into the pitcher’s circle for East Islip as an eighth-grader.

Now a senior, Greene took over from Courtney Blake as the Redmen’s primary pitcher in 2012. Greene had pitched on junior varsity in seventh grade, but wasn’t expecting to take the ball for varsity as early as she did.

“Before my first game against Hauppauge, I was on the bus and I was just shaking,” Greene said. “There’s no way to describe it. It was very nerve-wracking, but I went through ups and downs, I definitely grew up a little bit faster.”

She now leaves those in the batters box feeling the nerves. Greene, committed to Molloy College, set a school record with 176 strikeouts in 155 innings, winning 17 games last season, coach Jason McGowan said. She already has the school record for varsity strikeouts (518).

“Definitely the only pitcher I’d want on the mound is Courtney,” said senior shortstop Jackie Carty. “I’d trust her with my life out there.”

Carty and Greene, both on varsity since eighth grade, have been playing together since they were 10 years old. They were the only two juniors on a team without any seniors last season, so they were quickly thrown into leadership positions.

“They feed off each other, especially offensively,” McGowan said. “Jackie gets going, she’ll steal a base. Then Courtney will hit her in.”

It’s not only the individual accolades that turned Greene into an All-Long Island player. Last season, she led East Islip to the county final, winning five straight elimination games — including the final three over a three-day period — to face Commack in the championship. Greene started all eight postseason games, which ended with a 6-1 loss to Commack.

But even before Greene demonstrated the numbers to become the imposing pitcher she is now, McGowan quickly realized he had something special in his pitcher. McGowan never hesitated about putting Greene in the circle as an eighth grader and allowing her to learn.

“She was timid, she was a little shy,” McGowan said. “She wasn’t as tough as she is now. She was a little 13-year-old kid that was in a little over her head as an eighth-grader.”

But that all changed in a playoff game against Longwood where McGowan was impressed with Greene’s showing in a 4-1 loss to the eventual defending champions.

“There I was like, ‘Alright, we can win with this kid,” he said. “She’s only in eighth grade and I got her for four more years so it was something to look forward to.”

Carty, who will also be going to Molloy — to play soccer — tied a school-record with six home runs last season, including three in the playoffs, McGowan said.

“She’s a tremendous athlete, that’s No. 1,” McGowan said. “She’s a freak athlete. Her hand-eye coordination is off the roof.”

And the Redmen will again go as far as the duo can take them. With the entire lineup from last season returning, including catcher Alise Colandro, who set a school record with 47 hits, McGowan said, East Islip looks to take home its first county championship since another impressive Courtney was in the circle in 2012.

“Big shoes to fill, especially after winning a county championship the year before,” Greene said with a laugh thinking back to eighth grade.

East Islip’s next pitcher may be saying a similar thing next spring.

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