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Stiff tests for East Rockaway

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One of the rewards for success in Nassau County softball is a jump up in competition the following season. While it is up to the challenge, East Rockaway, the three-time defending Long Island Class C champion, is discovering playing among some of the county’s elite programs isn't all beer and skittles.

After an April 11 7-4 loss to Levittown Division, the Rocks are 3-4 (2-4 in Conference AB-II). With a rugged conference schedule, and crossover and non-league games against perennial powers, East Rockaway will surely be battle-tested when the playoffs roll around.

“While we returned two All-County players, we’re really a very young team,” coach Joe Lores said. “It’s a much different game from junior high, which is where many of our players were last season. It’s baptism by fire. You can’t make mistakes in this league. The opponents will take advantage nearly every time.”

Senior pitcher Emily Chelius has been as good as advertised in the circle. The five-year starter and three-time All-County recipient, has averaged 10 strikeouts per game, and is pitching to a sub 1.00 earned run average. Chelius pitched nine innings, striking out 12 while walking none, in a 2-1 non-league win over previously undefeated Hicksville.

“She’s been equal to or better than every pitcher in the league,” Lores said. “Each team has players who can hit, strong pitching, and a catcher who can throw people out. Emily continues to shine.”

Siobhan Perini leads the team in batting average and RBI. After earning All-County honors at catcher as a junior, Perini was moved to first base in 2019. She’s had some big hits for the Rocks, including a run-scoring double that sent the Hicksville game into extra innings.

Freshman Adriana Ramirez has been a solid replacement behind the plate. Ramirez blocks the ball well and has a strong arm. She also handles leadoff duties for the Rocks. Junior Leanne Wright has been hot of late at the plate. Wright, who played second base as a sophomore, has found a home in the outfield. Senior second baseman Najeri Felton has been consistent in the field.

Freshman Riley O’Hagan has been a welcomed addition to the team. O’Hagan hit a blast in the gap in the bottom of the ninth, and scored on a defensive miscue to score the winning run against Hicksville.

It was second dramatic victory for East Rockaway. On opening day, with the team down to its last strike, sophomore Emma Pollackov singled home two runs to give the orange-and-black a 2-1 win at South Side. Chelius struck out 16 batters, including the final three in the bottom of the seventh.

“One of the big differences this season is how teams are defending,” Lores said. “Every opponent is fielding better than we are. We have to get better. The whole purpose is to be ready for the postseason. Playing teams like this should prepare us.”

The Rocks will go on the road and take on defending Class A champion Carey on Thursday, April 25 at 10:30 a.m.