By the end of Saturday’s doubleheader here with Westhampton Beach, East Hampton High’s baseball coach, Mike Ritsi, had reason to hope, though by the end of Monday’s 14-0 rout at the hands of Miller Place, Lou Reale, who coaches Bonac’s softball team, was somewhat less sanguine.
“We seemed to take a step backward today,” said the veteran softball coach. “Fly balls to the outfield and foul balls that should have been caught weren’t, our gloves aren’t in the right position to make the catches, because we’re still lacking in the fundamentals we can’t run any plays . . . we didn’t hit, we didn’t field, it was a team effort.”
“At the end of the game, I had three eighth graders out there, four ninth graders, a junior, and a senior. You can’t beat the top Class A team in Suffolk County with what is essentially a junior high team.”
Vacation defections had forced his junior varsity to cancel three games this past week, said Reale, who added that he thought jayvee baseball and boys tennis had been similarly affected. Gone were the days, he said, when his “go away, you don’t play” rule had been in effect.
It’s happening across the board,” he said, concerning East Hampton sports in general. “It comes down to making a commitment to a team. Some kids won’t make that commitment and parents make excuses for them. It isn’t the way it used to be. You might not always have had the best players, but you knew the ones who stayed were willing to make that commitment, that they wanted to be there.”
“Only two people” had shown up, he said, for a formerly popular junior high clinic he and his assistant, Jessie Stavola, planned to give following Saturday morning’s scrimmage here with Sayville. “We’ll try to give it some other day,” said the coach, who has offered Little League coaches his help in the hopes of boosting what used to be one of the high school’s strongest programs.
“I get kids now who tell me they’ve never batted off a tee. A coach will pitch to one of them and 20 others will be sitting around. It’s no wonder they can’t hit pitchers whose pitches change planes and come at you at five different speeds. We had four kids strike out today on three straight pitches.”
“We’ll keep working,” he said. “We’ll keep working on the fundamentals.”
As for baseball, Ritsi agreed that the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, a 19-3 loss (not 15-4, as reported in Newsday) wasn’t much to write home about, though Maykell Guzman, the senior shortstop, hit the ball well, launching the day’s deepest drive, to dead center, in the top of the seventh, a two-out triple that drove in Dylan Lynch with East Hampton’s third run.
The Hurricanes, who had taken a game from Bayport-Blue Point, the defending state champs, in a recent three-game series, hit four home runs over the raised left-field fence, accounting for 10 of their runs. Two of those homers were hit by the number-four hitter (and ace pitcher and C.W. Post recruit), Bret Pisoneschi, who was to go 4-for-4 in the second game, three of them doubles, one of which bounced off the fence.
When it was suggested to Ritsi that maybe the left-field fence could be raised another 10 feet, along the lines of Fenway’s Green Monster (Maroon Monster in this case), Ritsi said, “I told Pisoneschi at one point that we hadn’t any more balls to give to the umpire because he was hitting them all over the fence.”
Between games, Ritsi told his charges simply to view the first game as one loss and concentrate on winning the next one. And concentrate they did.
“We scored seven runs in the first inning of the second game, thanks to some hits and several errors. Maykell was pitching for us. They got four in their first and three in the second, and each of us scored a run in the third, which made it 8-8.”
Peter Shilowich, East Hampton’s number-one pitcher, came in to relieve Guzman after the third inning, and, said Ritsi, pitched well thereafter.
“It was,” he added, “a great game to play, to coach, and to watch. We battled them the whole way.”
The visitors’ ninth hitter, Ryan Osborne, who had hit a two-run home run in the first game, touched Shilowich for a homer in the top of the seventh, for 9-8, after which the leadoff hitter, Dan McEvoy, doubled and subsequently scored the Hurricanes’ 10th run as the result of a single.
Westhampton’s coach, Tom Hoare, brought in Pisoneschi in the bottom of the seventh, hoping (with reason, as it turned out) that he’d clinch the series sweep.
With one out, Lynch, East Hampton’s ninth hitter, who went 2-for-3 with a run batted in and a walk, singled, though Patrick Silich’s grounder forced him at second and Guzman, who went 2-for-5 in the second game (and 2-for-3 in the first), grounded out to short, ending the game.
“This week,” Ritsi said, “we have the luxury of playing Bayport. We’re playing there on Tuesday, at home Thursday [today] and away on Friday. Westhampton beat them, and we played pretty close with Westhampton in two of our games with them. The kids are competitive. A break or two here and there and some clutch hits and who knows?”