ROUNDUP: Spring in Teams’ Steps

East Hampton’s athletes have been at play in the fields of Bonac. Clockwise from upper right, Kevin Brophy, during Friday’s baseball practice, checked out Cameron Yusko’s delivery, Michelle Kennedy’s charges unleashed serves, Allison Charde, the girls lacrosse team’s goalie, came under attack, and Ali Harned, who is slated to be the varsity’s shortstop, prepared to gun out a runner. Jack Graves Photos Jack Graves Photos

   The news sports-wise, as of earlier this week at any rate, is that East Hampton High School’s spring teams have not been hampered by the ordinarily hostile weather of early March.
    “The weather’s been incredible, but I don’t want to jinx it,” Joe Vas, East Hampton’s athletic director, said during a preseason conversation on March 7.
    Numbers-wise things look good, except for junior varsity softball, which couldn’t field the requisite 11 for a team. Jayvee girls lacrosse’s numbers are thin, though, with 15 or so players as of Monday, sufficient.
    The good news for the softball program is that 32 — more than twice last year’s number — have turned out at the middle school, where Robyn Mott and Kalie Peters are the coaches.
    Vas said varsity girls lacrosse, with Maggie Pizzo, the Seekamp sisters, Amanda and Carly, Melanie Mackin, and the Budd twins, Jenna and Lydia, among its stronger players, “has high hopes,” as does boys tennis, which is being coached this season by Michelle Kennedy, who oversaw girls tennis last fall.
    Lou Reale rolled his eyes when asked the other day at practice how the softball team would do. While his pitcher, Casey Waleko, and catcher, Kathryn Hess, are back, as is his third baseman, Deryn Hahn, and two outfielders, Courtney Dess and Dana Dragone, most of the players are young and thus face a steep learning curve.
    Reale’s assistant, Erin Abran, was more sanguine during a conversation at the Special Olympics bowling event at East Hampton Bowl Sunday. “They’re improving every day,” she said of the softballers, who are to scrimmage nine times at Disney World over the spring break next month.
    To raise some money for the Florida trip, Reale and Abran are to oversee two-hour softball clinics for third-through-eighth-grade girls, parents, and youth coaches at the high school field, beginning Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Clinics will also be held on April 1, and — after the team’s return from Orlando — on April 22. The cost for the three sessions will be $30.
    A brief look at the four pitchers Kevin Brophy was coaching the other day — Deilyn Guzman, Michael Abreu, Fausto Mateo, and Cameron Yusko — would seem to augur well insofar as the baseball team’s chances are concerned. Brophy had them pitching to spots, using fastballs, sliders, curves, and change-ups.
    Varsity boys lacrosse, like softball, is young, with a number of sophomores and freshmen on the roster. “Very inexperienced, Jack,” the team’s coach, Mike Vitulli, said in an aside during Friday’s practice on the grass field near the tennis courts.
    How the team will do “depends on how strong the other teams in their league are,” the jayvee coach, Steve Redlus, said at Sunday’s Special Olympics tournament.
    The biggest turnouts were in boys and girls track. “All told, we’ve got about 80,” the boys coach, Chris Reich, said Friday as boys and girls, led in stretching exercises by his assistant, Luis Morales, spread themselves out along the length of the curve leading from the back stretch to the final straight.
    Over the weekend, Shani Cuesta, who coaches the girls with Diane O’Donnell, and who was among those who helped Ashley West, presumably the first female national-meet competitor Bonac’s ever had, rehab two leg stress fractures in the past months, said the girls team hasn’t had such numbers since 1993, the year she graduated.
    While she didn’t place, West’s personal-best 60.54-second time in the national meet’s 400 at Manhattan’s Armory Friday drew praise from Reich, O’Donnell, and Cuesta, who said that the Susquehanna-bound senior hadn’t been used to starting from blocks, which the national meet required.
    Leading up to the nationals, West ran a “phenomenal” 600-meter leg in the state’s intersectional medley relay. When she passed the baton to the relay’s anchor, after having run her 600 split in 1:38.57, Suffolk’s team was in first place. “The Miller Place girl led the whole way in the final 1,600,” said Cuesta, “but got outkicked in the last lap.” As a result of Suffolk’s third-place finish, West achieved all-state status.
    When intense leg pain forced her to drop out of the county cross-country race at Sunken Meadow last fall, she was, West said during a conversation over the weekend, “limping badly, very disappointed, and crying.”
    Bill Herzog, a longtime and well-regarded track coach here, advised that if her condition didn’t improve noticeably she ought to forgo the winter track season.
    West, however, a hard worker by nature, was determined, and, with Randi Cherill, the school’s trainer, providing physical therapy, which included stationary bike and treadmill work, and with Cuesta’s go-slow coaching approach, she was eventually cleared by her doctor to compete a few weeks into the indoor season.
    “The first stress fracture happened in the summer,” said Cuesta, “and she got a stress fracture in her other leg during cross-country season. . . . The recovery time is actually faster if you break your leg . . . if the break is clean. She wasn’t 100 percent until midseason, but even then we didn’t want to push her.”
    It helped, said Cuesta, that “in the winter, because of the time constraints — they have four meets a day at Suffolk Community’s track — you can’t do more than two events. . . . She’s in fine shape now, but we’re going to stay on top of her.”
    West suffered — momentarily — from what she thought would be another disappointment following her recent third-place finish in the state qualifier’s 600. She’d run a 1:40.24, a tenth of a second off the state-qualifying time. But the fact that the runner-up had met the 1:38.74 standard opened the door for her to run in the state’s intersectional medley relay while Suffolk’s top two competed in the open 600.
    “It actually worked out very well for Ashley,” said Herzog. “That third-place finish in the relay made her all-state.”
    “It’s harder to make the states in the spring,” said West, who is expected to run the 800, the 400, and in either the 4x100 or 4x400 relays this season.
    “Though I do want to make the nationals [open to those who’ve met qualifying time standards] if I can.”