“She had a phenomenal year last year and she’s having a phenomenal year this year,” Debbie DeJong, who coaches Dowling’s softball team, said Tuesday morning when asked how Jessie Stavola, East Hampton High’s former record-setting pitcher, was doing.
With their regular season drawing to a close, the Golden Lions, whose record was 35-3 as of Tuesday (20-1 in the East Coast Conference), are ranked eighth among the nation’s Division II schools, having moved up from 12th last week, and Stavola, whose personal record is 15-2, leads the nation — as she did last year — in strikeouts (16.1) per seven innings.
“We’ve got a tough week, with games against Post, Molloy, and St. Thomas Aquinas,” said DeJong, agreeing that, “barring disaster,” Dowling should get the top seed in the conference tournament, which is to be played at the Brookhaven school from May 5 to 7. The National Collegiate Athletic Association regionals are to be played from May 13 to 20.
Jessie’s parents, Jim and Dawn, who live in Montauk, have seen most of their daughter’s games this spring, and have been delighting in the fact that, in Jim’s words, “the team is fielding and hitting better this year. They’ve got two good power hitters in Stephanie Tarango and Kristen Weeks, and Jessie keeps the other team in check. . . . They’ve been playing like gangbusters. The record they have now surpasses last year’s tremendously. They came on from the middle of the season last year, but this year they’ve been gangbusters since the very beginning.”
Stavola, a junior who’s majoring in physical education, pitched the first perfect game of her collegiate career on April 19, a game in which Dowling defeated Queens College 4-0. It was her fourth no-hitter — she had three in 2010, a year in which she was named the E.C.C. and Eastern College Athletic Conference’s pitcher of the year and led the nation in strikeouts and runs allowed per seven innings.
The Golden Lions were to have played a doubleheader at Post Tuesday afternoon, and wind up the regular season with home games with Molloy (tomorrow at 2 p.m.) and St. Thomas Aquinas (Saturday at noon).
DeJong said she has “a one-two punch” in Stavola and Felicia Mendoza, whose record as of earlier this week was 17-1. “Felicia will usually start the first game of a doubleheader, with Jessie ready to relieve, and Jessie will pitch the second game,” said Jessie’s father, who added that “it’s been exciting for us.”
Asked how Jessie, who began her college career at the University of Connecticut, liked Dowling, Jessie’s father said, “She loves the school — especially the fact that the faculty and advisers and students are so close.”
“She also likes the level of play there,” he added. “These Division II teams like Dowling, Molloy, and Post could battle with the D-1 schools and it wouldn’t surprise me. Dowling played Hofstra in the fall and gave them a good fight. Jessie pitched three innings and no one got a hit.”
It had been great to follow their flame-throwing daughter as she played across the Island, he continued. “We’ve made just about all of her games. The D-1 schools play in Florida . . . Virginia — you can’t make them. Dowling’s an hour and a half from Montauk, off the William Floyd Parkway. So, it’s been great — especially after this tough winter.”