By Bill Landon
The Commack softball team was hard for Northport to catch up to April 22, after the Cougars went through the batting order twice in the fifth inning, scoring 12 runs en route to a 12-0 nonleague road win.
Danielle Gambino went 4-for-4 with a grand slam and six RBIs and Gianna Venuti went 4-for-5 with two doubles and a triple to lead Commack (3-1) in Suffolk II. Michelle Principe also homered for Commack.
Already up 3-0 at the top of the fifth inning, Commack senior starting pitcher Emily Fox retired the side in order, and her team got to work on offense, which is were Principe started things off by cracking a shot over the left field fence for a leadoff homerun. The ball cleared the adjacent Long Island Rail Road property fence. According to Commack head coach Harold Cooley III, it was the longest home run he’d seen at the Northport field.
“As soon as I hit it, I knew it was definitely gone,” Principe said. “And then, when we hit, we followed through. When we had runners in scoring position, we scored most of them.”
Junior Ariana Arato’s bat spoke next on a stand-up double with no outs, and on missed catch on a pitch, she moved to third. Fox drew a walk, and was replaced by pinch runner Melanie Koster. The sophomore stole second with Gambino at the plate, and the junior ripped a base-clearing triple for a six-run lead.
Up to bat next was junior Stephanie Afonso, who hit a sac fly to bring Koster home, triggering a Northport pitching change. Senior Mimi Cusack took over at the mound.
“We started the game off a little slow,” Cooley III said. “The one thing that we’ve tried to execute from the beginning of the year is to make sure we get hits when we have runners in scoring position. We left a few out there at the beginning of the game, but we made adjustments as the game went on and adjusted well to a new pitcher.”
Commack junior Brianna Panzarella smacked in infield ball that rolled toward left field, but safely made it to first on a Northport error. Panzarella didn’t stay long, and stole second without a throw. Venuti singled, , and junior Sabrina Sussman drilled a pitch through the gap to plate Panzzerella with one out. Sussman stole second, and senior Kelly McKenna knocked the ball into shallow right field to score for an 8-0 advantage.
With still only one out, junior Casey Brown kept the inning going for Commack with a single, and Fox, made it to first on a Northport error to load the bases. Koster came in to run for Fox, and Gambino jumped on a pitch that she blasted over the right fielder’s head. The ball rolled to the fence as she rounded second, and got the green light from Cooley, as she made her way around third and crossed home plate for an inside-the-park grand slam.
“When I got to second and I saw he was waving me on, that’s when I knew,” Gambino said of her productive at-bat. “We’re a very strong team and we came out strong. This was one of our best games, so I’m very proud of my team.”
Because of the mercy rule of being up 12 runs by the sixth inning, the game was called with a 12-0 score. Despite the scoring drought, Northport head coach Janet Richter said she saw some bright spots.
“I was pleased with Danielle Petrunti, our senior second basemen and our first basemen Sophia DeFalco, but we made too many errors,” Richter said. “We worked the pitch count — we were able to get on base — so offensively I think we have room to grow and our infield was very tight today.”
With the win Commack improves to 9-3 and will get right back to work March 24 at home against Patchogue-Medford at 4:15 p.m. With the loss, Northport drops to 1-9, and will hit the road to take on Central Islip March 24 at 4:30 p.m.
“We had some monster shots today,” Cooley III said. “It’s the difference between having a pitcher that’s on and having hitters that are on. Sometimes, the hitters can make a run, and that’s what happened today.”