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Chiara Rabeno

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Port Jefferson's Annabelle Soucy slides slides home. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Siobhan Petracca’s solid pitching and Jackie Brown’s timely hitting propelled Port Jefferson’s softball team to its first win, a 12-0 shutout of Shelter Island April 7.

Port Jefferson’s Siobhan Petracca hurls a pitch from the mound. Photo by Bill Landon

Shelter Island (0-3) struggled early on, allowing unearned runs with passed balls at the plate. After the first inning, the Royals were up 4-0.

Sophomore shortstop Taylor Catoggio’s bat spoke next as she hit the ball into the gap for a standup double that drove home teammate Ji Won Woo to make it a five-run game.

“Today’s win was very important — it brought us all together because the losses can break us down,” Catoggio said. “I had confidence that [Siobhan Petracca] could put the ball over the plate, and confidence in my team that we’d get the first or the easiest out.”

Ashley Catoggio, Taylor’s twin sister, did her job with a sacrifice fly that plated Brown, a senior, and a passed ball scored the runner from third.

“We’re upbeat and happy for this win, it gives us confidence going forward,” Ashley Catoggio said. “We fielded really well today and we didn’t have a lot of errors.”

Following the list of young Royals making their presence known was sophomore Gabriela Sanchez, who smacked a grounder through the gap, bringing home senior Annabelle Soucy for an 8-0 lead in the bottom of the third.

Port Jefferson short stop Taylor Catoggio makes a play. Photo by Bill Landon

Shelter Island mounted its first serious threat in the top of the fourth with runners in scoring position, drawing a walk to load the bases with one out, but Petracca fanned the next two batters to get out of the jam.

“I was nervous, but I was confident I could do it, especially with my team cheering me on,” Petracca said of the bases loaded situation. “It’s been a little bit rough with the games that we’ve played, but this will help us from here on out.”

Brown, who was catching for Petracca, never doubted her pitcher’s poise.

“We have a lot of confidence in each other, “ Brown said. “She puts it over the plate and we strike them out.”

In the bottom of the sixth, Soucy crossed the plate on another passed ball, as did senior Chiara Rabeno, forcing Shelter Island to make a pitching change.

The change didn’t halt Port Jefferson though, as Brown blasted the ball to right field for a home run that put the Royals ahead 11-0.

Port Jefferson head coach Deb Brown, Jackie’s mom, was relieved to record her team’s first win of the early season.

Port Jefferson’s Jackie Brown rounds the bases during her home run. Photo by Bill Landon

“We’ll take the ‘W,’” she said. “We did some positive things today — we only had two errors which is better than our last couple of games — and the girls are getting to know each other. Their confidence is building with each at bat and with each play they make.”

Another passed ball that brought the 12th runner home, and triggered the mercy rule in the bottom of the sixth inning. Petracca finished the game with seven strikeouts, eight walks and one hit.

Jackie Brown finished 4-for-4 with a home run, three runs and four steals.. Taylor Catoggio was 2-for-4 with two RBIs, a run and a stolen base, and her sister Ashley added two RBIs, a run, a steal and two putouts. Sanchez finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs, a run, a stolen base and two putouts.

Deb Brown said she was pleased with her younger players’ performances, some who are playing softball for the first time.

“We have a new person at third base, Ji Won Woo, she did a great job, and we have someone new at second, Gabby Sanchez, and she’s doing an awesome job,” she said. “This is also a confidence builder for Siobhan, because this is the third time she’s pitched this week. It’s cold, and she did a great job.”

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Jackie Brown battles a Shoreham-Wading River player for possession in a previous contest. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Although the Port Jefferson field hockey team fell to Pierson-Bridgehampton in the Suffolk County Class C championship, 6-0, the Royals can boast recording their first postseason appearance since 2009.

“It was a great feat the girls achieved,” Port Jefferson head coach Debbie Brown said. “They worked really hard to get into the position they were in, so I’m very proud of them.”

Ranked last out of the 13 teams to make the playoffs, the Royals did not expect to top the Whalers, but the team was proud of holding its opponent to a 1-0 lead by the halftime break.

“Pierson is an extraordinary team and they have a lot of girls that do travel all year round,” Brown said. “So to be 1-0 at halftime, I was extremely happy and extremely proud of them, and the score didn’t reflect how well the girls played.”

After Pierson-Bridgehampton scored a couple of goals in the second half, Brown, seeing a loss on the horizon, substituted in some of her younger players to give them playoff experience.

“They worked hard all season and they deserved it, so [Pierson-Bridgehampton] scored a few more quick goals,” Brown said.

According to the coach, the Royals had the added challenge of only fielding 14, compared to the average 25-player roster.

“So even though the score said 6-0, it was a great first-half game and, if anything, we dominated the first five minutes of the game and had the first couple of corners.”

Brown’s daughter, Jackie, who has been on the team for four years, scored 10 of the team’s 17 goals this season, despite being injured toward the beginning.

The junior forward said she couldn’t take all the credit because the goals wouldn’t have been possible without the help of her teammates. The younger Brown added that it was exciting to finally be a part of a playoff game, after previously watching from the sidelines while serving as a ball girl.

“To actually be on the field, on a team, with my teammates, playing, it was a nice experience,” she said. “In the beginning of the season we didn’t communicate well on the field, but in the end we were passing to each other nonstop, we believed in each other on the field; so I saw a big improvement.”

Port Jefferson senior defender Michelle Bourguignon said her team did not play Pierson-Bridgehampton during the regular season, but took them on last year. Leading up to the big game, her team practiced on turf to get used to the playing conditions, since the Royals’ home field is grass.

“To make it that far was a huge accomplishment,” she said. “We know they’re a very tough team, so that was pretty big for us to only be down 1-0 at halftime. Our team has always been very close and it’s going to be hard not being on the team anymore.”

The team’s camaraderie is what Debbie Brown said has been its biggest asset.

“I’ve had some extraordinarily talented teams, but this group worked hard every day,” she said. “A couple of seniors — Andreya Harvey and Michelle Bourguignon on defense, and Stacey Warm, one of our wings, junior Chiara Rabeno and freshmen Taylor Corallo and Phalina Sciara — really stepped up this year. It’s emotional because even though Jackie is my daughter, I consider them all one of my own.”

Corallo was one of the team’s key scorers until she broke her arm in a Sept. 19 game against Comsewogue.

Bourguignon earned All-Division honors for her work this season, Rabeno received an All-Conference nod, Harvey was named to the All-Tournament team and Brown earned All-County honors.

“Since the girls got a taste of playoffs this year, they’re going to want to get back there next year, so hopefully we’ll make it there again,” Jackie Brown said. “This season as a whole was pretty successful, considering that we hadn’t made playoffs since 2009, so the fact that we got that far, hopefully that carries into next season.”