Having returned from a singular spring training trip to Orlando, Fla., where it had won all eight of its scrimmages, the East Hampton High School softball team flirted with disaster in a crossover game here on April 18 with Eastport-South Manor, but Kathryn Hess, the senior catcher and cleanup hitter, saved the day.
As a result of Hess’s two-out single to right field in the bottom of the seventh inning, a hit that scored Casey Waleko from second base, the Bonackers went home happy on the long end of a 4-3 score.
But their coach, Lou Reale, while relieved, wasn’t all that pleased. “It’s the worst I’ve seen us play in a while,” he said during a conversation afterward. “It was pretty ugly. We made errors, we looked at called third strikes — four times, I think it was — and their pitcher was no different from anyone we’d seen in Florida, and we made mental mistakes. . . . We were lucky to come away with a win.”
The coach was found to be in a better frame of mind Friday morning as he recounted last Thursday’s 7-3 win at Kings Park, a win to which Ellie Cassel, who has been batting sixth in the lineup, contributed mightily, going 4-for-4 at the plate with three doubles and four runs batted in.
“She hit well at the beginning of the season, and then dropped off a bit, and now she’s making good contact again — I’m thinking of moving her up to fifth in the order,” Reale said of the sophomore outfielder, who played last year on the junior varsity.
Cassel called attention to her power in the game with Eastport-South Manor, rocketing fouls wide of the left-field line in two at-bats, balls that would have fetched the fence had they stayed fair. But the hitting star in that contest, at least until Hess came through in the seventh, was Bonac’s leadoff batter, Dana Dragone, one of the team’s three seniors.
In the bottom of the fourth, Dragone, who had doubled in the first but was stranded there as the next three hitters, Waleko, Deryn Hahn, and Hess, were retired — Waleko and Hess on strikeouts — smacked a two-out, two-strike triple down the right-field line that scored Ali Harned, Ilsa Brzezinski, and Ceire Kenny for a 3-0 East Hampton lead.
Waleko, who was on the mound that day, held the visitors scoreless through the fifth and sixth, though she was clearly getting tired. Eastport loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the sixth, following a single, a walk, and another single, but Waleko fanned the next two batters, the first on a nice 0-2 changeup, and Brzezinski, the sophomore first baseman, snagged a lazy liner hit her way for the third out.
The visitors led the seventh off with successive singles, the second one to right. Dragone’s throw to Brzezinski arrived too late to record an out at first, and Brzezinski’s subsequent throw across the diamond to Hahn went wide, resulting in Eastport runners at second and third with none out.
When Waleko fell behind 2-1 on the next batter, Reale came out to talk things over. He left Waleko in, but, with the count 2-2 Waleko’s next pitch was ripped over third, and got by Cassel, who chased what was to be a two-run triple to the fence.
Having seen enough, Reale replaced Waleko with Sam Mathews and rearranged the outfield so that Waleko was in left, Dragone in center, and Cassel in right.
Mathews wound up walking the first batter to face her, on a 3-2 pitch. She got the next one on a comebacker to the mound, but Eastport tied the score at 3-3 as a hard-hit ball bounced off the second baseman Ceire Kenny’s shin into Brzezinski’s waiting hands.
Mathews then gave up another walk, on four straight pitches. A pinch-runner was brought in at first and a sleeveless pinch-hitter strode to the plate. With the count 1-1, the base runner stole second. But she remained there, as Hahn, after gathering in a ground ball hit her way, rifled a throw to the outstretched Brzezinski for the third out.
Dragone led off East Hampton’s last at-bat by popping out to Eastport’s first baseman. But Waleko, with the count 1-2 — she’d fouled off three successive pitches after taking two strikes — beat out a grounder to short. With Hahn up, Waleko stole second, sliding in ahead of the catcher’s throw, but she remained there as Hahn popped out to second.
That brought up Hess, who had taken a called third strike in the first, flied out to right in the third, and had been hit by her bunted ball as she ran up the first-base line in the fifth.
This time, however, Hess came through, lining a 2-1 pitch well up the right-field line, and Waleko came around to score the winning run standing up.
“Casey didn’t beat that throw by much — she should have slid,” Reale said afterward.
Waleko struck out 10 that day and walked two, but gave up seven hits — four, Reale said, in the last two innings.
The next day, Mathews pitched a four-hitter in the aforementioned 7-3 victory at Kings Park. She struck out two and walked none. Her drop ball resulted in the home team’s batters hitting 14 ground balls, Reale said, all but one of which were fielded cleanly.