SOFTBALL: Bat Way Into First Place

Casey Waleko and her teammates
Casey Waleko, left, and her teammates were pleased with the outcome of Saturday morning’s game. Jack Graves

    The East Hampton High School softball team vaulted into a tie with Sayville for first place in the very competitive League VI Saturday with an exciting, nail-biting 7-6 win here over Shoreham-Wading River, which came into the game as the league’s leader.
    It was the second straight triumphant win for Lou Reale’s team, which had two days before handed Deer Park, rank­ed third on Long Island, its first defeat of the season.
    Moreover, on Friday, the 7-2 Bonackers, with Sam Mathews pitching (and driving in the game-winning run), bested Huntington 4-2 in an away game. Ever since the 8-0 loss to Miller Place on April 6, Reale’s crew has been playing with the intensity of a playoff team.
    Things did not begin well, however. A bunt single, an error by Ricky Slater, who let the third baseman Deryn Hahn’s throw — following another bunt — get by her, and an ensuing throw-around led to Shoreham’s scoring one run in the top of the first inning.
    And, in the top of the third Casey Waleko, East Hampton’s frontline freshman pitcher, served up a fat 1-2 pitch to the Wildcats’ cleanup hitter, Katie Newell, who promptly deposited it over the left field fence, scoring Alex Hutchins, who’d been hit by a pitch, and Cali Lavey, who’d reached on an infield single, ahead of her. There were two outs at the time.
    That was it for Waleko. Reale replaced her with Kathryn Hess, the versatile junior catcher, who, according to Erin Abran, Reale’s assistant, “pitched a bit in Florida and pitched a little in middle school.”
    With Meredith Janis having come in to catch, Hess, pitching for the first time in a varsity game, struck out the fifth hitter, Maddie Massa, retiring the side, but the Bonackers had dug themselves into a 4-0 hole.
    Not to worry. With two outs in the bottom half, East Hampton went to work. Maysie Makrianes, the second baseman and leadoff hitter, got the five-run rally going by working Shoreham’s pitcher, Chelsea Hawks, for a walk. Hess then ripped a 3-2 pitch into the left-center gap, a run-scoring triple, and Hahn popped a hit over second to plate Hess with Bonac’s second run.
    That prompted Shoreham’s coach to hold a conference on the mound as Meghan Hess, East Hampton’s number-four hitter, stepped into the box. Hawks served up a wild pitch, which enabled Hahn to advance to second, and Hess then lined an r.b.i. double into the outfield to bring the Bonackers to within one run of a tie.
    Amanda Thompson, who had replaced Slater at first base, doubled to the fence as well, tying the score, and Mathews, the designated hitter, treated East Hampton to a 5-4 lead with a run-scoring single between third and short. Five straight hits, three of them for extra bases.
    Hawks finally got the third out as Newell, the center fielder, caught Janis’s shallow fly over second base at knee height.
    With runners at the corners and no outs in the fourth, Reale brought Waleko back. She walked the first batter she faced, Paige Tilton, on four straight pitches, and Caitlin Mirabell, the ninth hitter in Shoreham’s lineup, with the count full, followed with a line single to left, tying the score at 5-5.
    Waleko then caught a popup hit toward her by Michelle Gostic, the leadoff hitter, but her throw to double up Brittany Mahan off third arrived too late. Hutchins then singled in the go-ahead run, but the center fielder Courtney Dess’s throw home arrived in time for Kathryn Hess, who was kneeling in front of the plate (and who was bowled over), to tag Tilton. Hutchins popped out to Makrianes to end the inning.
    After East Hampton failed to do anything in its fourth, Waleko, who had finally settled down, retired Shoreham’s fourth, fifth, and sixth hitters in the top of the fifth, striking Christina Pagano out on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning.
    Kathryn Hess led the bottom half off with another triple, to right-center this time. Hahn promptly singled her in for 6-6. But a grounder by Meghan Hess forced Hahn at second, a high fly by Thompson was caught in left, and Mathews fanned on three straight pitches.
    Waleko retired Mahan and Tilton on infield groundouts to lead off Shoreham’s sixth. A dinky single that just made it over the second base bag enabled Mirabell to reach first, but Waleko put Shoreham away with an 0-2 riser that Gostic chased, to no avail.
    Hawks retired the side in order in the bottom of the sixth, Janis and Abbey Schutte, who was pinch-hitting for Dess, on strikeouts and Dana Dragone on a slap over second that Newell, who was playing in, caught.
    Hutchins led off Shoreham’s seventh, striking out on a 2-2 pitch. Lavey then walked after having worked the count full. This brought Reale out to the mound again as Mirabell was brought in to run for Lavey, and as Newell, who had hit the three-run homer earlier, prepared to step in.
    Waleko started her off with a strike. With the count 1-1, Newell drove a hard grounder toward Makrianes, who flipped the ball to Meghan Hess for the out at second, and Hess’s throw to Thompson was in time to complete a huge inning-ending double play.
    Thus East Hampton came to bat in the bottom of the seventh with a chance to win it, which is what it did. Makrianes, in leading off, again worked Hawks for a walk, Kathryn Hess then singled to the left of second base, putting runners at first and second for Hahn, who, following a conference on the mound and a wild pitch that moved the runners up, was intentionally walked to load the bases.
    Hawks struck out Meghan Hess on a 3-2 pitch, but Thompson, who had driven in the winning run in the Deer Park game, and who was behind in the count 0-2, came through, lining Hawks’s next offering to center field to score Makrianes with the game-winning run.
    “It was a good win — the top of our lineup is really coming through,” Reale said after the game, “though I’ve got a feeling we could beat anybody or lose to anybody the way we’re playing. We made six errors at Huntington. . . .”
    On Saturday, Kathryn Hess went 4-for-4 with two triples, two runs scored, and a run driven in; Hahn went 2-for-3 with two r.b.i.; Meghan Hess went 2-for-4 with a run-scoring double; Thompson went 2-for-4 with two r.b.i. (the walkoff single would have been a double ordinarily), and Mathews had an r.b.i. single. In all, East Hampton had 12 hits, five of them for extra bases.