Fledglings Clipped 2-0

The team has to win 10 games to get into the playoffs
East Hampton had base runners (that’s Ali Harned with her hand on third base above) on in all but the fifth inning of Monday’s game here, but couldn’t score. Craig Macnaughton

    East Hampton High’s softball team, whose roster includes a number of freshmen and even a couple of eighth graders, missed an opportunity here Monday as it dropped a 2-0 decision to Bayport-Blue Point. A win would probably have meant that the young Bonackers would enter the second half of the season all even, at 5-5.

    Lou Reale, the team’s coach, has told the girls, who seem to be on the upswing despite Monday’s loss, that they’ll have to win 10 games to get into the playoffs. Last year was the first time in his some-30-year career that Reale did not make the playoffs.

    Missing from Monday’s lineup were Ilsa Brzezinski and Avery Balnis, each of whom had hit home runs in Friday’s 8-0 shutout of Harborfields. Reale said they were on vacation, as was another starter, Lia Makrianes, who had a hit and had scored two runs at Harborfields.

    East Hampton, whose batters worked Bayport’s somewhat shaky pitcher, Katelyn Torlincasi, for five walks, left runners on in all but the fifth inning in Monday’s game. Isabella Swanson, the freshman right fielder, who hit ninth in the lineup, came up with runners on second and third and two out in the second, but popped up to the shortstop. In the fourth, with runners at first and second and two outs, she hit a 1-1 delivery on the button, but the line drive went right to Bayport’s second baseman.

    The Bonackers saved their finest moment until the bitter end. After Zoe Daunt, who had been called up from the junior varsity, fouled out to the catcher and Swanson had fanned, Dylan Schleider, the freshman third baseman, who had singled in the first inning, was walked on a 3-2 pitch and Ali Harned, the senior shortstop, who recently returned to action after having suffered a concussion during the basketball season, lofted a hit behind second base. It was only the third hit of the afternoon for East Hampton. That brought up Shannen McCaffrey, the senior left fielder, who got all of Torlincasi’s first offering, driving the ball deep to left field as Bonac fans rose expectantly from their seats, figuring that that blast, which was heading to the fence, would tie the game up. But, alas, the left fielder, Savannah Neuhaus, made an over-the-shoulder catch that ate Bonac’s dreams.

    Casey Waleko, East Hampton’s senior pitcher, did well despite the return of the back problem that plagued her last year, striking out eight, walking none, and giving up seven hits, three of them — all doubles — to the third baseman and leadoff hitter, Lauren Petersen. She hit a batter in the third, the inning that proved to be her undoing. Again, Petersen proved to be Waleko’s nemesis as she doubled with two outs and came around to score on a subsequent grounder that got by Harned. Soon after, an infield single plated Bayport’s second run before Waleko ended the inning with a strikeout.

    At Harborfields on Friday, Waleko struck out 13 and gave up four hits. It was scoreless going into the top of the fourth inning when Maddie Schenck, an eighth grader who was batting seventh in the lineup, and catching, doubled in a run. The Bonackers broke it open with four runs in the fifth, three scoring as the result of a home run by the first baseman, Brzezinski. Balnis, a ninth grader, homered in the sixth, lining a drive down the left-field line that Reale said “kept rolling and rolling, toward Montauk.”

    The coach added that Makrianes, the ninth hitter, “drew a big walk in the fifth after fouling off three or four pitches,” and was one of those who scored on Brzezinski’s blast. Schleider went 2-for-4 Friday with a run driven in. Brzezin­ski and Schenck also went 2-for-4. Harned doubled and scored a run.

    The girls, who have cut back on their strikeouts lately — Reale counted 29 of them in the Mount Sinai and Rocky Point games, many of them as the result of called third strikes — looked quite good in defeating Shoreham-Wading River 6-1 here on April 9, though the next day, Islip, which was battling Sayville and Rocky Point for the League IV lead as of Friday, kept them pretty much in check.

    East Hampton, whose league record was 3-5 as of Tuesday, was to have played yesterday at Elwood-John Glenn, a team that as of Friday was winless.

    The win over Shoreham was East Hampton’s second of the league season. Emma Norris, a sophomore, caught Waleko that day because Cecilia Fioriello, the starting catcher, had to undergo oral surgery after having been hit in the mouth by a thrown ball that had caromed off a runner’s helmet during the previous day’s practice session. Reale said he wasn’t sure when Fioriello, a versatile player, would return.

    The Shoreham game also marked the return to the lineup of Harned, who, as aforesaid, had been sidelined for several months after suffering a concussion in the basketball season. Harned’s return prompted Reale to move Schleider from short to third.

    Shoreham’s leadoff hitter doubled, but, following a wild pitch, she was stranded at third as Waleko retired the next three batters on a popout to Brzezinski at first, and two strikeouts.

    The Bonackers got a run in the bottom of the second after Brzezinski led off with a single and McCaffrey doubled into the gap in left-center. There were runners at the corners with two out when one of Reale’s tyros was caught looking, open-mouthed, at a 1-2 changeup as it floated across the plate.

    Shoreham tied the score in the top of the third, but the Bonackers put the game away with four runs of their own in the bottom half. Schleider beat out an infield grounder to lead it off. Waleko blasted a shot over third to score Schleider, and, with Waleko on second, Harned reached first base safely on an error by Shoreham’s second baseman.

    With Brzezinski up, Harned stole second, and Waleko scored moments later as the visitors’ first baseman dropped a throw from third. Soon after, another Shoreham error, this time by the shortstop, with runners at second and third and two out, enabled Harned and Brzezinski to cross the plate with East Hampton’s fourth and fifth runs of the afternoon.

    East Hampton made it 6-1 in the fifth when Norris, after Brzezinski was tagged out at the plate trying to score from third on a passed ball, tripled to right field, plating McCaffrey, who had one batter before drilled a double off the left-center field fence.

    Waleko gave up six hits, walked one, and struck out 10.

    “It was good to have Ali back,” Reale said afterward, “though we really miss Cecilia. She’s comfortable playing anywhere. . . . It was nice to get a ‘W,’ ” he added, with a smile.

    The news was, as aforesaid, not as good the next day versus Islip, an 8-1 winner.

    “Casey’s back was bothering her again — when she’s right there aren’t too many who will hit her,” said Reale, who, in case Waleko wasn’t ready to go at Harborfields Friday, brought up two pitchers, one an eighth grader, one a ninth grader, from the junior varsity to make the trip.

    When it was noted that his young players appeared to be making some progress, Reale said, “We’re definitely improving. We’re learning where we should be. They’re going to be really good some day — we talked about that yesterday. They just need the experience. . . . We didn’t hit the ball too good against Islip. Their pitcher was a lefty, and her curve and screwball had them jumping out of the way — they’ve never seen pitching like this before.”

Casey Waleko’s back problem has returned, but thus far she’s pitching through it. Craig Macnaughton