Moriches wide receiver Taylor Johnston and pitcher Erin Cunningham both played against each other in Little League softball when they were young. But their relationship dates back to a dance class they were both in at when they were 5 years old.
That was a long time ago, as there was nothing graceful about the duo’s post-game celebration following Center Moriches’ 10-0 win over Oyster Bay in the Long Island Class B Championship game at the Moriches Sports Complex on Saturday.
What kind of dancers were the two?
“We were just bad,” Cunningham said.
5-1 Johnston tackled 5-8 Cunningham and Center Moriches followed suit in a big stack right in the middle of the diamond after Cunningham’s 13th strikeout to end the game.
“I took her out. I was aiming for the knees and I took her out,” said Johnston, who caught up with Cunningham since college. “I couldn’t have asked for more. She struggled a bit at first, but then she came back better than ever.”
Cunningham struck out eight of the top 10 hitters she faced in the first three innings. Meanwhile, Center Moriches (15-2-1) scored five times in the first set and another in the third to take a 6-0 lead over Oyster Bay (7-14).
Center Moriches added four more runs in the fourth, highlighted by a two-run homerun from sophomore Leah Franchi, who went 3 for 4 with three RBIs and two runs scored. She was a triple cycle shy. Kaylie Roberts added three hits and a run. Cunningham scored two points with a walk for Center Moriches, who lost in the LIC in 2019 and won Long Island’s final crown in 2016.
Cunningham was also superb in the circle with 13 strikeouts, two walks and allowed just three hits for the full game shutout thanks to a delicate screw ball and an efficient pitch.
“She’s doing a great job of keeping me on my game,” said Johnston’s Cunningham, “and we’re doing a great job working together.”
Like the entire Center Moriches team, since 13 players participated in the final.
“I think this is the culmination of a lot of hard work, and they deserved it,” said Moriches Center coach Rich Roberts, who went on to share a long hug with his daughter and first baseman, Kaylie.
There were many warm moments like this after the game, but none were more humorous than Johnston’s elimination of Cunningham, which would have made Center Moriches wrestling coach Mike Koscinski proud.
“It’s an amazing feeling to be able to do that [win an LIC] with someone I have known from kindergarten and played with all through middle school and high school, “Cunningham said.” It’s just amazing. “