Last year, the East Hampton High School softball team did not make the playoffs — a “first” in Lou Reale’s 30-year career, and at the time he said he wasn’t sure that he’d return.
But he’s back, and once again focused, given the great amount of mentoring he’ll have to do to bring along a large number of players, some of whom, he said during a conversation Friday, “have no clue.”
There are only four seniors — Casey Waleko, an all-county and (as an eighth grader) all-state pitcher, Cecilia Fioriello, who catches, Shannon McCaffrey, an outfielder, and Ilsa Brzezinski, who plays first base.
Reale said he expects them to step up, at bat and in the field, and also as mentors.
In addition to the four seniors, there are two juniors, Ali Harned and Lia Makrianes, one sophomore, Emma Norris, 19 ninth graders, and three eighth graders, the veteran coach said, “enough for a varsity and a jayvee, which Robyn Mott is going to coach.” (Softball didn’t have a jayvee last spring.)
The good news is that Waleko seems to have fully recovered from a back problem that limited her effectiveness last season. “You’ll have to ask Casey,” Reale said, when asked what the final diagnosis was. “It has a long name. But she’s looking as good as Jessie [Stavola, his record-setting assistant] and I have ever seen her.”
The fact that Waleko pitched at all last year was a tribute to her grit, Reale added. “She was told pitching wouldn’t make the back problem any worse, so she bit the bullet. Most kids wouldn’t have done that.”
Obeying doctors’ orders, Waleko rested — as far as pitching was concerned — over the summer and fall, “though she’s been rehabbing all along,” said her coach.
The bad news is that Harned, Reale’s hard-hitting shortstop, is out “for I don’t know how long, because of a concussion she had in the basketball season. She just got cleared to run and to warm up, but she can’t do anything yet, like fielding balls and hitting, that requires her to focus. . . . I don’t know how long she’ll be out. We definitely need her there.”
The mixed news is, as aforesaid, that there are so many neophytes, and that, because there are so many positions to fill, a number of them will be starting. “I’ve never had so many freshmen,” said Reale.
“They’re working hard, they’re all eager to learn, but some of them don’t even know the fundamentals yet, much less how to react in game situations. Casey pitched to them in the cage in the gym a couple of days ago — the first time they’d seen live varsity pitching — and a lot of them were overwhelmed. It was a lot different from what they’d seen in junior high!”
Essentially, he said, he was starting from scratch.
When this writer said it looked as if the 2014 season would be for him “an adventure, and fun,” he replied, “It will definitely be an adventure!”
The team is to make its debut in a scrimmage at Southampton today. Reale said that as of Friday his field remained unplayable. “The infield is soggy, and there’s a snowdrift along the third-base line that’s adding to the wetness as it thaws.”
Deer Park is to scrimmage here this Saturday, at 10 a.m.