What to watch as the Suffolk softball playoffs begin:
1. East Islip’s ‘Redemption Tour’
Very few teams in Long Island history had reason to enter a season as confident as East Islip. After going on a Cinderella run as the No. 7 seed to last season’s Suffolk Class AA final, East Islip returned its entire starting lineup this year and hasn’t skipped a beat, finishing the regular season 18-1 to take the No. 1 seed. Led by pitcher and No. 4 hitter Courtney Greene and shortstop Jackie Carty — both committed to Molloy, Greene for softball, Carty as a soccer keeper — East Islip looks to take its season at least one win further than last season. Greene and Carty are the lone seniors, but have also received tremendous help in players like catcher Alise Colandro, Allison Dell’Orto and an experienced lineup.
2. Another year, another broken curse?
Sarah McKeveny and her Connetquot teammates call it the “Connetquot Curse.”
“We call it the ‘Connetquot Curse,’ where we have an amazing season then get knocked out the first or second round of the playoffs,” said McKeveny, a pitcher and team’s No. 3 hitter, committed to play at Division I Bryant University, next year. “We’ve been doing everything we can this year to break that curse and I think this is going to be the year where we finally get to a county championship.”
No. 2 Connetquot (17-2) has good reason to feel confident with McKeveny in the circle, who recorded her 500th strikeout this season, and senior catcher Ashley Spencer. With a deep lineup and production from players like Kayla Kenehan and Julianna Prescia, Connetquot has the balance to go on that deep run. And, hey, with the Cubs winning a World Series, Cavaliers winning an NBA Title, maybe it’s the T-Birds’ turn.
3. Deer Park and Brentwood turning in their underdog card
No. 3 Deer Park (17-2) and No. 4 Brentwood (14-5) are no longer sneaking up on people.
After finishing 8-12 last season, including 5-11 in league games, Deer Park wasn’t among the most feared teams in Suffolk. That’s no longer the case. Led by catcher Tori Fox, Genna Ferguson’s four home runs, Toni Santora, Lexie Collard and the pitching of Brittany Balboa and her 15 wins, Deer Park softball looks poised for a deep playoff run.
The Brentwood Indians, led by the courageous pitching of Atrinette Casas who has played through injury the majority of the season still recording all 14 wins, had a nice year with 10 wins last season, but only won five games the two seasons before combined. Brentwood stumbled to close the season, losing its final two games, but with wins against teams like Commack and Connetquot this season along with tough competition in Suffolk I all season, the Indians are battle tested.
4. If they get going, watch out
With 16 teams in Suffolk AA, there is talent all over the diamond and the county. And if certain players start seeing the softball like a beach ball or show pinpoint accuracy in the circle, it could create some chaos in the bracket. Here’s a few players with such potential:
Catcher Nahtica Shepherd of No. 17 North Babylon (11-0), who has seven home runs, including one in a 10-8 outbracket victory over No. 16 Bellport Friday.
Kaileen Cain of No. 9 Hauppauge (14-5), one of Suffolk’s top hitters with four home runs and had the winning RBI in a 1-0 win that handed East Islip its only loss of the season.
Outfielder Morgan Catalanotto of No. 6 Smithtown East (15-5), who has four home runs and is hitting well over .400 in her senior season.
Jillian Weinstein of No. 11 Half Hollow Hills West (13-6), who has 13 wins in the circle and ranks second in Suffolk with eight home runs. She hit a homer when Hills West pushed East Islip to eight innings, before suffering a 4-3 loss.
Taylor Epstein, of No. 7 Whitman (14-5) has 12 wins in the circle and can control the game against some of the best on Long Island.
Jayna Rios, of No. 10 Floyd (14-6), leads Suffolk with 10 home runs and plays a tremendous shortstop to anchor a deep lineup. With the toughness of Macy Kane in the circle, Floyd won’t be an easy out.
5. Expect the unexpected
With East Islip going from No. 7 to the title game last season, there’s always a few dark horses that play their best softball at the right time. Don’t forget about No. 5 Commack (15-4), the defending Class AA champions that did lose its stud pitcher, but has a strong lineup and tremendous speed, highlighted by Gianna Venuti and Ariana Arato. No. 8 Bay Shore (14-5) has the tradition that should never be counted out. No. 14 Longwood (12-7) doesn’t shy down from the big game, defeating Commack once and Brentwood twice this season and has won five of six entering the playoffs led by the pitching of Emily Koerick and hitting of Gabriella Vicidomini. It’s not only Longwood entering the playoffs on a streak as No. 15 West Islip (10-9) locked up the playoffs despite starting the season 1-6. Amanda Arena, the senior first baseman, deserves much of the credit for keeping her team striving toward the postseason and that offense doesn’t present an easy matchup for any opponent.
6. Suffolk A has a clear leader
There has been plenty of parody in Suffolk Class A softball this season. Not at the top, however. Mount Sinai (18-0) has been as dominant as they come on Long Island this season as only five of Mt. Siani’s 18 games have been decided by three runs or fewer. The Mustangs are led by Love’ Drumgole, one of Long Island’s top shortstops only in her junior season. Providing the support is a pair of sophomores in Holly McNair at third base and Julia Golino in the circle. Lexi Skulnick also leads the Mustangs with six home runs.
7. Enjoy offensive production? Tune into Suffolk Class A
Mount Sinai has been perfect against Suffolk A, yes. But that doesn’t mean it won’t change under the bright lights of postseason play. And even if the Mustangs roll into the final, there will be plenty of high-scoring affairs that determine who they play. Probably no lineups deeper than No. 2 Shoreham-Wading River (16-2) and No. 3 Miller Place (14-4).
Shoreham-Wading River, which finished one win shy of the playoffs last season, hasn’t forgotten about that ‘oh-so-close’ feeling. Scoring double-digit runs in 10 of 18 games this season, led by six home runs by Melissa Marchese and five each from Joy Papagianopoulos and Lindsey McKenna and Victoria Coman pitching all 16 wins, Shoreham is a team to keep an eye on.
Miller Place, which has double-digit runs in eight games, lost a pair of one-run games to Mt. Sinai and Shoreham-Wading River, and certainly won’t be intimidated at any potential future matchups.
8. There’s still more to watch for in Suffolk Class A
One of the most intriguing matchups of the entire bracket may come in the first game when No. 4 Islip (13-5) hosts No. 5 Sayville (13-5). Islip, led by two-time league pitcher of the year in Maddie Feddersen, hopes to carry a 2-0 record against Sayville and winning its final four games into a deep postseason run. Sayville, however, led by one of Long Island’s top catchers in Lyndsey Shaw, hopes to use its potent offense to its advantage. One thing is for sure, whichever team wins won’t roll over in a potential second-round matchup with Mt. Sinai or whatever team is next in the loser’s bracket.
9. The Class B race to the top
No. 1 Babylon won’t be playing for a while. And for good reason. Babylon is 20-0, including 17-0 in Suffolk X. That record says it all. Led by Allie Stanya in the circle, Molly Cummings behind the plate and Gwen Donaldson at shortstop, the Panthers appear on the fast track to a state tournament appearance in Glens Falls.
But first, Babylon must get past No. 2 Center Moriches (13-4), which defeated Babylon in last season’s final. Although Babylon has two wins over the Red Devils this season, Center Moriches’ Kayla Hujber, destined to play Division I softball at Iona, won’t make anything easy. Babylon has immediate vengeance on its sight before moving upstate and its county title quest begins May 23.
10. The playoff format
Whereas Nassau has a combination of single elimination and best-of-three series’, Suffolk has double elimination through to the championship. Therefore, an early loss sends teams back to the drawing board, rather than home for good. With the parody seen this season, that’s probably for the best. When champions are crowned the weekend of May 26, you can be sure they are the most deserving and battle tested.
Let the games begin.
Class AA first-round matchups on Monday
No. 17 North Babylon at No. 1 East Islip
No. 9 Hauppauge at No. 8 Bay Shore
No. 12 Smithtown West at No. 5 Commack
No. 13 Kings Park at No. 4 Brentwood
No. 14 Longwood at No. 3 Deer Park
No. 11 Half Hollow Hills West at No. 6 Smithtown East
No. 10 Floyd at No. 7 Whitman
No. 15 West Islip at No. 2 Connetquot
Class A first-round matchups on Wednesday
No. 8 Rocky Point at No. 1 Mount Sinai
No. 5 Sayville at No. 4 Islip
No. 6 Westhampton at No. 3 Miller Place
No. 7 Comsewogue at No. 2 Shoreham-Wading River
Class B first-round matchups on Friday May 19
No. 3 Mercy at No. 2 Center Moriches (Winner plays No. 1 Babylon Tuesday)