SOFTBALL: Early News Is Good

Thanks to early-season wins, Lou Reale’s girls were 3-0 going into Monday’s game at Sayville.
Kathryn Hess, left, Casey Waleko’s battery mate, is expected to play at the University of Dayton. Jack Graves

    Things were going swimmingly for the East Hampton High School softball team as of earlier this week.
    Thanks to early-season wins over Westhampton Beach, Shoreham-Wading River, and Rocky Point, Lou Reale’s girls were 3-0 going into Monday’s game at Sayville. Miller Place was to have played here Tuesday.
    “I’ll be happy if we can go down to Florida at 4-1,” the veteran coach said during a conversation Sunday, following a clinic he and his assistant, Erin Abran, gave for coaches, parents, and young players that morning.
    Reale also availed himself of his former protégée Jessie Stavola’s services at the clinic. Stavola, who pitches for Dowling College, worked with East Hampton’s number-one, Casey Waleko, correcting her fastball release so as to add velocity.
    “Her hand’s been hitting her hip and that’s been slowing the ball down,” Reale said of Waleko, who, nevertheless, had struck out 29 in 18 innings of work as of Friday.
    In Friday’s 2-0 win here over Rocky Point, Waleko struck out the first 9 batters she faced, and 11 of the first 12. She finished with 14Ks.
    Waleko’s battery mate, Kathryn Hess, spent some time Sunday at the University of Rhode Island with the coach of the University of Dayton, a Division 1 school in Ohio, where Hess intends to go. Reale said he’d been hoping his hard-playing catcher would have been able to make an official visit there last fall, but the girls soccer playoffs intervened.
    “Dayton’s in a conference with UMass, U.R.I., Towson State, and other D-1 schools,” said Reale. Hess, who attended a summer camp at Dayton, her mother’s alma mater, receiving favorable notice there, will be taken onto Dayton’s team as a walk-on, though she’s been assured of a roster spot, said Reale. She is the latest among a group of D-I recruits Reale, one of the winningest coaches in the state, has turned out in recent years — a list that includes Stavola, who went to UConn before transferring to Dowling, Abran (Elon), Melanie Anderson (Kentucky), Kathryn Mirras (University of Virginia), and Willa Johann (Dartmouth).
    Getting back to last week’s games, the young team, whose spunk, at the plate and in the field, has surprised its coach, demolished Shoreham-Wading River 13-1, and, as aforesaid, shut out Rocky Point 2-0.
    In Newsday’s preseason forecast Sunday, Sayville was rated as the Class A team to beat (a conclusion with which Reale agreed), with Shoreham, Islip, East Hampton, and Miller Place listed as contenders.
    The Bonackers greeted Shoreham’s starting pitcher, Chelsea Hawks, with four runs on three doubles — by Hess, Sam Mathews, and Ellie Cassel — in the top of the first inning, and with six runs on five hits in the second.
    During that barrage, Cassel, a sophomore who hits sixth in the lineup, rocketed a bases-loaded shot off the shin of Hawks’s lead leg, the ball bouncing over to the first baseman, who recorded the out as runners from third and second raced home.
    “She wasn’t the same after that,” said Reale. “She lasted until the end of the inning, but then she was done.”
    Shoreham got its run, which was unearned, in the bottom of the third. Mathews pitched the fourth, and the game was called after five innings of play because of the 12-run-margin mercy rule.
    “We’ve been hitting the ball,” Reale said afterward. “We had 18 hits in that Shoreham game, and five were doubles.”
    East Hampton got all the runs it needed Friday in the first inning. Dana Dragone and Waleko led off with back-to-back bunt singles. They were on second and third when Deryn Hahn, the senior third baseman, reached first base safely on an error, Dragone coming home on the play. Hess then followed with a base hit that drove in Waleko.
    “We should have scored four runs in that inning,” said Reale. “With Sam up I put a steal sign on for Kathryn. Their catcher in making the throw hit Sam’s bat with the ball. Sam was standing in the box, which was her right, but the umpire called her out for interference. He was wrong.”
    The same umpire had also erred, said the coach, “when he said a bunted foul ball had hit Deryn before going out of bounds in the fifth. She was nowhere near it.”
    That fifth inning offered Rocky Point its best shot. But, with the bases loaded and one out, Waleko notched a strikeout, and a subsequent fly ball caught by the center fielder, Courtney Dess, retired the side.
    Waleko struck out the first batter to face her in the top of the seventh, and threw the next one out on a ball hit back to her. She then gave up a single, but a fly ball hit to Dess ended the game.
    East Hampton was to have played a nonleaguer with Pierson-Bridgehampton at Sag Harbor’s Mashashimuet Park Saturday morning, but it was rained out.
    “We’ll be playing teams from Wisconsin, Ohio, Maine, upstate, and New Jersey in Florida,” said Reale, who added that “since its our 10th year there our name is going to be put in the concrete walkway at the [Disney World] sports complex.”
    “The kids will get a lot of at-bats and chances in the field there, and by the time we get back [on April 16] we should know where we’re at.”