The moment never seems too big for East Rockaway’s Emily Chelius when she’s on the softball field, and coach Joe Lores credits that to the pitcher’s work when she’s out of the spotlight.
“This is when the lights are on,” Lores said. “Nobody sees when the lights aren’t on.”
But Lores does. Also the longtime boys basketball coach, Lores has carved out gym space for Chelius during winters the past four years, as the junior is found pitching on the side.
The winter sessions have paid off as Chelius tossed a two-hitter with no walks and 12 strikeouts as East Rockaway defeated Mercy, 10-0, in the Long Island Class C championship / Southeast Regional semifinal at Hofstra Thursday afternoon. It’s the Rocks’ third straight Long Island Class C title — all with Chelius in the circle.
“I enjoy playing and it’s a gift to have the ball in my hand,” Chelius said. “Effort, you always have to put it out there, so I want to work for good results in the end.”
East Rockaway advances to play Pine Plains at Hofstra Saturday at noon in the Class C Southeast Regional final. With a win, the Rocks advance to state semifinals at Moreau Recreational Park in South Glens Falls June 9.
East Rockaway (18-4) had two runs in the first inning with singles from Chelius and Lia Gladstone, who both came around to score. The Rocks added four runs in the third inning, highlighted by Hunter Vertuccio’s triple to drive in Emma Pollackov, and four runs in the sixth inning.
Chelius, who also went 3-for-4 with an RBI triple and three runs, brings belief to the team in and outside the circle.
“Emily’s a great pitcher,” Vertuccio said. “She really boosts the team up with her confidence. It spreads to the rest of the players.”
Mercy, which finished its season at 10-12 and Suffolk C champions, had to play the season after finding out in March that the school would be closed at the end of the year. Coach Rose Horton credited her players for their ability to concentrate on their goals of winning throughout the trying season, although missing some seniors Thursday because of prom conflicts.
“It was bittersweet,” Horton said. “Some moments were, ‘What is there to play for?’ Other moments were, ‘There are seven million things that we do need to play for because we won’t have a school to come back to,’ so it was an emotional roller coaster but we worked through it and we fought our hardest.”