Ten things to watch for in the Suffolk and CHSAA softball playoffs, which begin Tuesday:
1. Commack looking to return to a championship
After a 17-1 season, the top-seeded Cougars could be poised for their first title since 2016. One of the quickest and most aggressive teams on Long Island, the senior class of Gianna Venuti, Sabrina Sussman, Ariana Arato, Stephanie Afonso and Casey Brown are coming off another Suffolk II title.
The pitching of Emmi Katz (nine wins) and Justine Korol (eight wins) keeps hitters off-balanced as Commack has only allowed six runs in its final seven games of the season. But with a potential first-round matchup against Sachem North (winner decided by an outbracket game with Eastport-South Manor), Commack could get an opportunity to avenge its only loss of the season.
2. The Lions roar
Few teams have a player like Emily Koerick, who can be equally as intimidating in the circle, at the batter’s box or running the bases, and she’s been strong all season to lead Longwood to the No. 2 seed in the Suffolk Class AA playoffs. Entering the season already the all-time strikeout holder, Koerick has 14 wins in the circle.
With a deep lineup, led by middle infielder Gabriella Vicidomini along with Molly Ryan, Natalie Intrieri and Kayleigh Olsen, Longwood has scored at least seven runs in seven of its final nine games of the season. After winning just four games in the 2016 season, the Lions could complete their two-year turnaround with a title after a 16-2 season.
3. How far can North Babylon and Smithtown West go?
No. 3 North Babylon and No. 4 Smithtown West, both coming off strong seasons, aren’t looking to end their runs any time soon. Led by Catherine Zucker’s speed and aggressiveness at the top of the order, the power of Destiny Schook and Patty McGloin and the pitching and hitting of Ava Shorr and a strong team defense, North Babylon has all the tools for a deep postseason run after a 16-2 regular season.
Smithtown West, after a 14-5 season, plays an aggressive small-ball style with bunting and slap hits, but also possessing the ability to drive the ball around the field. With Abigail Canelle posting 14 wins in the circle, a deep lineup with Gabrianna Lorefice, Alicia Killeen and Jillian Meaney in the middle with Miryah Paredes and Sarah Chapman at the top to orchestrate the offense, the Bulls won’t be an easy matchup throughout the playoffs.
4. The Jillian Weinstein effect
There may be no player more integral to the team’s success than Half Hollow Hills West’s Jillian Weinstein. Even while getting pitched around, she’s totaled six home runs and has 13 of the team’s 14 wins in the circle.
Hills West (14-4) enters the playoffs as the No. 5 seed with Weinstein leading the charge for the Colts. Along with the strong play of Rachel Katz, Michelle Kaplan and Allison Snyder, Hills West could turn the bracket upside down.
5. The difference makers for teams looking for upsets
The one-two punch of Brianna Adams and Kiersten Comer has No. 6 West Islip (13-5) in the playoffs after winning eight of its final nine games of the year.
A stud pitcher can make all the difference in the postseason and No. 7 Sachem East (13-5) hopes Hailey Puglia and her 11 wins can provide just that.
Jayna Rios, of No. 10 Floyd (12-7), leads Suffolk with 11 homers and has the potential to increase that total with every swing.
After missing all of last season with an injury, Skyler Cirillo, of No. 13 Lindenhurst (11-9), ended this spring with heroics, delivering a winning two-run homer in the seventh inning against Bay Shore in a 6-5 victory Thursday in the regular-season finale. The Bulldogs hope there’s more May magic to come.
Jessica Clark, of No. 14 Newfield (11-7), is a five-year varsity shortstop in her final season, is at the center of the Wolverines’ turnaround from a four-win squad to a playoff team.
Sam MacPherson, a Newsday All-Long Island second-team selection last year, has three home runs for No. 16 Sachem North (10-9), which needs to win an outbracket game then take on No. 1 Commack for a chance at a deep postseason run.
6. A wide open Suffolk A
To say it’s a rarity that Class A has to deal with a defending Class AA champion in its league would be an understatement. But East Islip, the defending Suffolk AA winners, have shown little issues adjusting to its new competition, finishing 16-2 and earning the top seed. After graduating two of the top players in program history, East Islip’s had a strong campaign out of Allison Dell’Orto both in the circle and at the plate, along with the hitting of Katie Burk, Lauren Crawford, Jenny Murphy, Samantha Winegard and Ashley Benvengo.
But a top seed and a previous championship doesn’t guarantee anything for East Islip, especially after No. 2 Sayville finished its season at 17-1, including a 5-4 victory over East Islip May 4. Led by the powerful bat and catching arm of Lyndsey Shaw, a young lineup featuring Angie Capuano, Elizabeth Yoskowitz, Brooke Scheibe and Julia Hodgkinson and Maddie Recker in the circle, the Golden Flashes look to bring home their first county title since 2014.
7. A potential champion vs. champion final
With East Islip dropping down because of enrollment changes, Mount Sinai, the No. 3 seed at 16-3 and three-time defending Suffolk Class A champions, have felt a little slighted this year. But with high hopes in the postseason of completing the four-peat, two-time Newsday All-Long Island selection shortstop Lové Drumgole has posted another fantastic season, with her aggressive style at the plate, on the bases and in the field. Along with Molly Birnstill, Ilexa Skulnick at the plate and Julia Golino and Emma Wimmer both posing threats in the circle and with a bat, the Mustangs aren’t ready to hand the title over.
8. Other Suffolk A teams to watch
With the strong offense of No. 4 Miller Place (15-3) and Julia Pastrana both in the circle and at the plate for No. 5 Islip (12-7), East Islip won’t have an easy second-round matchup.
No. 6 Hauppauge (12-6), with victories over East Islip and Mount Sinai this season, looks to continue slaying giants during the postseason, led by Molly Delaney in the circle and the hitting of Jill Choinski, Molly Cain and Isabella Calabrese.
With pitching proving vital in postseason play, No. 7 Kings Park (14-6) shouldn’t be overlooked with standout hurler Taylor Eggert in the circle, along with her three home runs. She’s thrown three perfect games this season.
Offense has never been an issue for No. 8 Westhampton (9-9) led by Lauren Ramos, Brooke Walker and Lexi Miller and the trio look to make seeding a meaningless number.
9. The Suffolk B showdown
No. 1 Babylon (14-5) and No. 2 Center Moriches (13-7) are no strangers to one another, meeting yet again in a best-of-three Suffolk Class B championship series, starting May 21. Babylon, which lost in the state semifinals last season, returns eight of its nine starters from last year’s team, highlighted by Newdsay All-Long Island selection Allie Stanya in the circle and at the plate. A deep lineup, featuring Molly Cummings, Stanya, Danielle Donaldson, Emily Bell, Grace Malley, Alexa Tenety and Julia Vella, the Panthers have much more than appearing in the state tournament on their minds this season. But Center Moriches, led by Cassy Smith, won’t make anything easy for Babylon.
10. The CHSAA showdown
All signs point to a highly competitive championship between Kellenberg (18-1) and St. Anthony’s (15-2) in the CHSAA final, with each team’s lone loss on Long Island coming to the other. Although Holy Trinity (7-6) and Sacred Heart (4-5) will play tough in the postseason, the Firebirds and Friars have been the elite in the league since the start of the season.
Led by the pitching of Julia Tarantino, Lindsey Raimondi and Madison Keller (totaling 172 strikeouts in 117 innings, allowing 65 hits) Kellenberg has allowed no more than three runs in any game this season. Offensively, Riley Lim-Ellis and Stephanie Conrade have combined to score 44 runs at the top of the lineup with the help of Julia Piotrowski, Katie Hand, Julia Rigano, Caroline Bratichak and Samantha Bendig.
St. Anthony’s, the defending CHSAA champions, has one of the best pitchers on Long Island in Alyssa Seidler leading the way, along with Kayla Daly and Erin Steinert, as all three pitchers have thrown at least one no-hitter this season. The three pitchers, along with Taylor Zatyk have also provided consistent hitting throughout the season as the Friars look to repeat as champions.
Playoff schedule (Double-elimination tournament in Suffolk AA, A and CHSAA)
Class AA first-round matchups on May 15
Winner of No. 17 Eastport-South Manor—No. 16 Sachem North at No. 1 Commack
No. 9 West Babylon at No. 8 Bay Shore
No. 12 Smithtown East at No. 5 Half Hollow Hills West
No. 13 Lindenhurst at No. 4 Smithtown West
No. 14 Newfield at No. 3 North Babylon
No. 11 Bellport at No. 6 West Islip
No. 10 Floyd at No. 7 Sachem East
No. 15 Whitman at No. 2 Longwood
Class A on May 16
Winner of No. 9 Hampton Bays—No. 8 Westhampton at No. 1 East Islip
No. 5 Islip at No. 4 Miller Place
No. 6 Hauppauge at No. 3 Mount Sinai
No. 7 Kings Park at No. 2 Sayville
Class B final, best-of-three series starting May 21
No. 2 Center Moriches at No. 1 Babylon
Class C final, best-of-three series starting May 21
No. 2 Southold at No. 1 Mercy