East Rockaway softball is headed to the postseason, but the team for the third consecutive year must endure a three-week hiatus before playing a meaningful game.
As the only Nassau Class C team, the Lady Rocks automatically qualify for the Long Island championship game and have won the past two C titles. But they must wait for the other playoff rounds to unfold to know who they’ll play next at Hofstra on May 31.
At 13-3, the Lady Rocks took Conference ABC-III, where they played schools from the A and B classes and rode the right arm of junior Emily Chelius. The fourth-year varsity pitcher took the mound every inning this season, threw seven shutouts and racked up 217 strikeouts and only 20 walks, thanks to a changeup she added to her repertoire.
“Emily is a tireless worker who is always in the gym during the offseason, she’s improved immensely, and that’s kind of why we are where we are,” coach Joe Lores said.
Lores cited two road games that shaped his team’s character this season. The Lady Rocks were tied 1-1 heading into the seventh inning at Wantagh when sophomore shortstop Hunter Vertuccio smacked a two-out double that scored the deciding run on April 9. Chelius chalked up 10 strikeouts. The other was a loss on April 20 in which the game was tied 1-1 in the tenth inning when the Lady Rocks scored four runs and Bethpage scored five to win 6-5.
“After the game, we sat down with our players and told them it’s never over until it’s over; you’ve got to get the outs,” Lores recalled. “I think they learned a lot from that.”
That loss broke the six-game winning streak, after which the Lady Rocks won four consecutive games.
Among the team’s offensive contributors are two juniors, third baseman Lia Gladstone, who is second in batting average at .429 and leads the team in RBIs, and catcher Siobhan Perini, who generated 16 hits.
Perini is also a defensive force, calling games for Chelius, adeptly blocking pitches in the dirt and throwing out seven base runners. Vertuccio flashes a gold-like glove at short and speedy sophomore and varsity newcomer Skyler Gomes chases down many fly balls in right field.
The Lady Rocks will play the Class B county champions in a contest called the BC Championship at Hofstra on May 26. Both teams will then advance to the title tournaments in their respective classes.
During the hiatus, Lores keeps his players fresh by scheduling a non-league scrimmage each week. Between daily practices, he’ll allow his players to rest for three to four consecutive days. He expects to face either Oyster Bay or Wheatley in the BC Championship, two opponents his team defeated this season, and he’s attended some games of Mercy-McGann, the Suffolk school he believes his team will play in the title game.
“We’ll have to play error-free and score enough runs for our pitcher,” he said about winning a third title. “We’ve won every game we’ve played pretty much error-free. So, it’s going to come down to that.”