COMMACK, New York, May 7
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
The best player in Commack’s lineup last Thursday almost didn’t make the pregame cut.
Cougars head coach Harold Cooley III said that he and his coaching staff had toyed with the idea of giving Michelle Principe a day off prior to a showdown for first place in League I against Connetquot (13-4).
“We were debating on what to do with the lineup. All of the kids in our lineup have been hitting so we were saying either we keep her in [as a designated hitter]… or we would just bat straight nine,” Cooley said.
The head coach noted that the latter tactic could have worked out for the Cougars, but with Principe, the cleanup hitter, having driven in all six of Commack’s runs in the 6-2 win over the Thunderbirds, he smiled, laughed and said: “I’m glad I kept her in.”
To some surprise, the game did take some time to get going offensively.
That was partly because Alyssa Persich took the mound for the Cougars and kept Connetquot’s offense silent through three innings; she ultimately pitched a complete game, allowed 6 hits and struck out 6 batters.
“I just tried to stay relaxed and not let them get into my head,” Persich, a senior, said.
In the other dugout, Commack’s offense stewed.
The bottom of the third inning saw the bases juiced for the Cougars and Principe stepping to the plate. The sophomore scorched a ball into the outfield, which got past a Connetquot defender and ultimately ended up with Principe on third base. It was 3-0 Commack.
“I wanted to make sure I hit the first pitch,” Principe said while explaining that, during her first at-bat, the Thunderbirds pitcher delivered a first-pitch strike.
An inning later, however, the Thunderbirds would respond with back-to-back solo home runs that chiseled Commack’s lead down to 3-2.
Persich stayed focused.
“I just stayed confident and knew I could get the job done with a strong field behind me,” she said.
She did just that; the senior effectively shut down Connetquot’s potent offense from then on while the Cougars’ bats responded with some more runs of their own.
Adding to her career day, Principe stepped to the plate in the fifth with two runners on base. The sophomore slugged a pitch into center field, which got past Connetquot’s defender and resulted in Principe’s second home run of the season, making it 6-2 Cougars and, effectively, game over.
“We’re executing on both ends of the ball right now,” Cooley said. “These big games going into the second half of the season, for us, are almost an opportunity to play it out as if they were for a playoff game or a county championship. That’s the mentality that we’ve been expressing: every single game we play is one step closer to our ultimate goal.”
Commack (14-3) clinched its 2015 Suffolk AA playoff spot on April 23 and, as of press time on Tuesday, sat alone atop the League I standings with three games left to play.
The first of those games was to be played against crosstown rival Northport (6-11) on Tuesday; the next is scheduled for Friday at Commack High School. In that game, the Cougars are scheduled to face William Floyd (8-8) at 4 p.m.
Originally published: Long Islander News: The Record
(Thursday, May 7, 2015; A30)