The Deer Park Falcons came into East Hampton riding high last Thursday, boasting an undefeated record in League V and undoubtedly buoyed by the fact that Newsday had ranked them third last week among the high school softball teams on Long Island.
Moreover, Casey Waleko, East Hampton’s imperturbable freshman pitcher, who’s still trying to find her way following a long layoff this past winter caused by an operation on her pitching hand, couldn’t for the most part find the plate.
And still East Hampton won! By a score of 5-4, which sent everyone — at least everyone from here — home happy.
Waleko got off on a good foot (with two strikeouts and a lazy fly to Courtney Dess in center field in the top of the first inning) and ended on a good one (setting the Falcons’ one, two, and three hitters down in order in the sixth, and, in the seventh, following a line double to the fence by the cleanup hitter, Aly Dzierzynski, clinched the heady win as she induced a popout to Deryn Hahn at third, a foulout to Ricky Slater at first, and a flyout to Amanda Thompson in right). But the innings in between were rocky indeed!
According to one count, Waleko threw 139 pitches in those seven innings, during which she faced a full count 12 times. She gave up six hits, walked seven, struck out nine, and unleashed four wild pitches.
Kathryn Hess, Bonac’s catcher, was kept busy that day, for Waleko’s riser often sailed high, and her drop frequently was in the dirt.
“Between all those walks and the hits, they had a lot of people on base!” Lou Reale, East Hampton’s coach, said afterward, adding that “the only pitch of Casey’s that was working was her fastball, which had some movement. That’s how she got their batters to fly out, foul out, and pop out in the last two innings. But it was a good win for us, a very good win. The girls battled back and showed a lot of character.”
East Hampton, 4-2 in League VI as of Friday, was to have played the once-defeated league leader, Shoreham-Wading River, here Saturday morning.
The Bonackers, whose intensity was to Reale’s liking — “much better than in the [8-0] loss to Miller Place” — jumped out to a 3-0 lead in their first at-bat. After Maysie Makrianes, the leadoff slap hitter, was thrown out on a comebacker to Deer Park’s pitcher, Lisa Bonacasa, Kathryn Hess, whose shallow fly was dropped by the center fielder, Sam Johrden, went right on around to second, sliding in under the throw.
“That set the tone,” said Reale. “It was heads-up baserunning. Kathryn didn’t hesitate.”
Hahn, who was to go 3-for-3 that day, promptly doubled Hess home, and Meghan Hess, Kathryn’s older sister, followed with a double of her own that plated Hahn, prompting a conference on the mound.
Bonacasa then struck out Thompson on three pitches, the last one a changeup, but Sam Mathews lined a single through the left side of the infield, scoring Meghan Hess with East Hampton’s third run. Waleko grounded out short-to-first to end the inning.
The visitors got one back in the top of the second on a sacrifice fly that scored Dzierzynski, who had singled and had moved to third as the result of a walk and a wild pitch. A strikeout, a walk, and a strikeout prevented any further scoring.
Deer Park had runners at the corners with two outs in their third, but Waleko, with the count full, got the fifth batter, Sam DeMarco, to fly out to Dana Dragone in left-center field.
Through the first three innings then, Waleko had given up just one hit, had walked four, and had struck out five.
Hahn began East Hampton’s third with a line drive double to left. Meghan Hess popped out to the shortstop, Sabrina Riley. The next batter, Thompson, grounded a ball off Bonacasa’s glove, but the second baseman Jackie D’Aries’s throw home caught Hahn as she tried to score.
Later, Reale said that his hard-hitting third baseman had got a late start.
Mathews followed with a single, putting runners at first and second for Waleko, who worked the count full before hitting a rope to left-center field that the left fielder, DeMarco, caught on the run.
The visitors had a runner on second with two outs in the fourth, but Waleko caught Johrden, who was batting ninth in the order, looking at a called third strike.
After East Hampton had gone down one-two-three in the bottom half, the Falcons finally cashed in in the top of the fifth, with three runs on four hits.
After Waleko had retired the leadoff hitter, Riley, on a short-to-first groundout, Marie Racaro, the third baseman, D’Aries, and Dzierzynski all singled, loading the bases. A fielder’s choice plated one run, another single, which curled tantalizingly over Meghan Hess’s head, tied it up, and a bases-loaded walk gave Deer Park the lead before Waleko, with the bases still loaded and two out, stopped the bleeding with another inning-ending strikeout of Johrden.
East Hampton went to bat in the bottom half trailing 4-3. Kathryn Hess led it off and drew the sole walk Bonacasa was to give up that afternoon. Hahn followed with a single, and Meghan Hess drove in her sister from second with a hard ground ball over the third-base bag, tying the score at 4-4.
With runners at second and third, Thompson’s grounder to the right side drove in Hahn with what proved to be the winning run. Meghan Hess also tried to score on the play, but was gunned out at the plate. With Thompson on second and one out, Mathews grounded out pitcher-to-first and Waleko grounded out short-to-first to end the inning.
Waleko, as aforesaid, set Deer Park down in order in the top of the sixth. Meredith Janis, pinch-hitting for Slater, almost found the fence in left field in leading off East Hampton’s sixth, but DeMarco gathered the ball in. Bonacasa then retired Dragone on a pop to D’Aries at second, and Makrianes on a ground ball slapped to Riley at short.
Dzierzynski led off the visitors’ last at-bat with a roped double to the fence in center. But Deer Park’s catcher was stranded at second base as Waleko induced, as aforesaid, DeMarco to pop out, Ari Tedeschi to foul out, and Bonacasa to fly out, clinching the win for East Hampton.
There were no postgame cupcakes, but it didn’t matter.