The last time out against Islip, the East Hampton High School softball team made six errors in the final two innings, frittering away a 2-0 lead on the way to a 4-2 loss.
This time, on Friday, it was the Buccaneers’ turn to play fumbleitis, and the Bonackers took full advantage, pulling out the county Class A semifinal 6-5 in the 10th inning.
“I didn’t even want to look at the book afterward,” said Lou Reale, East Hampton’s coach, who added that it was a good thing he was 90 feet away when his pitcher, Casey Waleko, served up an 0-2 meatball in the sixth inning that was transmogrified into a three-run home run over the fence, a shot that put the home team ahead 4-2.
But then, wonderful to tell, Reale’s crew came back.
Courtney Dess, the eighth hitter, led off the top of the seventh, but was replaced by Shannon McCaffrey after falling behind 0-2 in the count. McCaffrey lined a shot to short, but Islip’s shortstop snagged it, diving flat-out.
Ceire Kenny, the second baseman, then grounded toward third, but the third baseman threw the ball away, an error that allowed Kenny to reach first base safely. Dana Dragone, the leadoff hitter, was walked, which put runners at first and second for Deryn Hahn, whose double plated one run.
With runners at second and third, Waleko popped out to the pitcher for the second out of the inning, and it looked initially as if Kathryn Hess, the senior catcher, who lofted a routine fly ball to right, would make the third — the out that would end Bonac’s season. “But their kid dropped it,” said Reale. “A two-run error — we were up 5-4.”
“Wait, it gets worse,” he added, looking back at the scorebook. “They tied it 5-5 in the bottom of the seventh. Their ninth hitter bunted for a single, stole second, and then Casey got a strikeout. With that runner on second and one out, the next kid hit an r.b.i. single for 5-5. Casey got the next two on infield popups.”
“Ellie [Cassel] lined to the fence to lead off the eighth for us, but it took her forever to get to second and she was thrown out. I’m getting sicker. . . . Ilsa [Brzezinski] popped out, Ali [Harned] singled, and Shannon struck out to end the inning.”
“They threatened again in the bottom of the eighth. Casey walked the first batter, which isn’t good, and then, after a strikeout, the girl who hit the home run singled, putting runners at second and third with one out. A popup to Casey and another strikeout took them out of the inning.”
“In the top of the ninth, Ceire popped out to the first baseman, Dana flied out to third, Deryn singled, and Casey was thrown out third-to-first.”
“With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Ali made an error and Casey walked the next one on four straight pitches. So there were runners at first and second. The next girl hit a catchable foul fly behind first, but Ceire didn’t get it. It wasn’t an error, but she should have caught it.” A subsequent 6-3 groundout ended the inning.
With the 10th, each team began its at-bat with a runner on second, Waleko in East Hampton’s case. And there was a new pitcher on the mound for the Buccaneers.
Waleko advanced to third on a 5-3 groundout by Hess, Cassel struck out, and, with the count 1-1 on Brzezinski, a wild pitch enabled Waleko to come across with what proved to be the winning run. Brzezinski then grounded out third-to-first, but East Hampton had, without a hit, managed to wrest the lead back, at 6-5.
There was, of course, more to come. With a runner on second in the bottom of the 10th, Islip’s first batter popped out to Hahn at third, “and then came the defensive play of the game for us,” said Reale. “The runner on second went to third on a passed ball by Kathryn, and the next batter hit a little fly between Casey and Ilsa that was trouble. Ilsa dove, and caught it inches from the ground. The girl stayed at third. Casey struck out the next one on a 2-2 rise. . . . It was unreal. It’s not over ’til it’s over. This time it was their turn to make the costly mistakes.”
Waleko, in recording the big win, gave up six hits, hit a batter, struck out 14, and walked four.
“We only had seven hits,” said Reale, “but, somehow, we got it done.”
And so, for the first time since 2008, East Hampton was to have begun playing for a county championship Tuesday, at Sayville, the first game of a best-of-three series. The second game is to be played here today, and the third, if necessary, is to be played at Sayville tomorrow.
Sayville defeated East Hampton twice in the regular season, by scores of 3-2 (in 10 innings) there and 8-2 here, the latter loss largely the result of a five-run fifth inning during which Waleko was hit hard.
“We’ve been in a lot of close ones, so we’re used to the pressure,” said Reale, whose team was 16-5 going into the finale. “Hopefully, all the hard work the girls have done will pay off.”