Final Playoff Blow Dealt at Sayville

A singular season in a 30-year career
This fly, as the photographer remembers it, was caught. Jack Graves

   It was made official Monday: The East Hampton High School softball team, by virtue of its 11-9 loss at Sayville, was knocked out of playoff contention.
    Thus, it’s the first time in his 20-year tenure here that East Hampton’s mentor, Lou Reale — one of the winningest coaches in the state — will not be at Bonac’s helm in the postseason.
    “We really don’t deserve to be in the playoffs,” he said during a conversation Tuesday morning. “It’s been the same the whole season — we’re not catching fly balls, we’re not fielding ground balls cleanly, and when we do we’re not throwing the ball where we should. . . . It means I’ve done a lousy job coaching.”
    East Hampton jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first inning of Monday’s game at Sayville, the second-place team in the league, but a dropped fly ball in right field with two outs and a runner on second opened the floodgates. By the end of the first, the home team had tied it up.
    After Casey Waleko, East Hampton’s pitcher, who has been hampered all season by a back ailment that has yet to yield a definitive diagnosis, tired later in the game — at which point Sayville led 11-6 — Reale replaced her with Courtney Dess, the team’s sole senior.
    “It wasn’t good,” Reale said of the game. “We must have made six errors. It was typical of the way we’ve been playing since April. We haven’t improved that much. . . . Will it get better? I don’t know.”
    As for off-season play, he said, “It’s up to them whether they play in the off-season.”
    Going into Tuesday’s penultimate game here with Elwood-John Glenn (Saturday’s rainout was to have been played at Miller Place yesterday), East Hampton was in fifth place among League VI’s seven teams with a 7-10 mark.
    Asked if he’d ever been through a season like this, Reale said, “Not really, in my 30 years of coaching. I’ve seen things this year that I’ve never seen before! It’s been tough to go through a year like this.”
    Asked if he would continue coaching, he said, “I don’t know.”
    Last year, two players, two key players — Kathryn Hess, the catcher, and Deryn Hahn, the third baseman — were lost to graduation, “but then kids quit — they didn’t want to make the commitment — and we didn’t have a jayvee. . . . I guess everything runs its course.”
    His young assistant and former high school all-American protégée, Jessie Stavola, was Reale’s assistant this season. “She did a great job,” he said.
    Stavola, who pitched at UConn and Dowling, where she became a collegiate all-American, was to have been among a half-dozen former players Reale was to have honored after Tuesday’s game. Besides Stavola, Tuesday’s honorees were Caity and Devin O’Brien (Dowling), Willa Johann (Dartmouth), Kaylie Titus (Ohio Wesleyan), Nicole Fierro (C.W. Post), and Kristen Carroza (the State University at Geneseo). Their names and accomplishments are on brass Hall of Fame plaques in East Hampton’s dugout along with Annemarie Cangiolosi (SUNY Cortland), Melanie Anderson (Bloomsburg), Mylan Le (Bloomsburg), Erin Bock (Elon and SUNY Cortland), Emily Janis (Fairfield), and Kelsey Bodziner (Florida).
    “Nicole, Jessie, the two O’Briens, and Willa were all-state when they played for me. Bloomsburg, where Melanie and Mylan went, played for the national title twice when they were there. Kelsey’s club team at Florida won the national championship.”
    This year’s team could have had no better example than Stavola when it came to commitment, Reale said. “Jessie didn’t have natural talent — she made herself better. She’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about. She made herself a high school and college all-American through nothing but hard work and determination. . . . This year has been a little frustrating for her too.”