A winning streak, a winning streak. The East Hampton High School softball team this past week strung two wins together, defeating Hampton Bays 8-5 in extra innings on Saturday and following up on Monday with a 5-2 win over Harborfields, improving as a result to 4-5 in league play.
The team, which was to have played at Islip yesterday and is home to Sayville today, was still not at full strength Monday, though it wasn’t as if the two missing starters, Isabella Swanson and Alex Rutkowski, were lying on a beach in the Caribbean: They were to return that night from Africa, where, along with about 15 fellow East Hampton students under Bill Barbour’s supervision, they’d been helping to fund and build a school in Malawi during the spring recess.
Maddie Schenck drove in what was to prove to be the winning run at Hampton Bays, smashing a one-hopper down the third-base line with one out and a runner (Alexis Vargas) on first in the top of the ninth that broke a 5-5 tie, and also broke the nose of the third baseman, who was not wearing a mask.
The ball bounced into dead ball territory as Schenck advanced to second, and as Vargas, who reportedly hesitated as the fielder, obviously in pain, lay on the ground — wondering momentarily whether she should offer help — was waved home by the third base coach, Nicole Fierro, who had been equally dismayed, but nevertheless put first things first.
The Bonackers went on to score two more runs, thanks to a triple by Ella Gurney, the first baseman, that followed a walk to the pitcher, Sam Merritt.
Merritt struck out eight that day, and followed up on Monday with 10 Ks.
She breezed through the Harborfields lineup in the first three innings, though in the fourth she walked the leadoff hitter on a 3-2 pitch, after which came two singles that loaded the bases with no outs. But the hard-throwing hurler set down the next three on a flyout to right and two strikeouts.
East Hampton, facing a pitcher who threw about half as fast as Merritt, finally got on the scoreboard in the bottom half. Vargas, who hits second in the lineup, reached first base safely on an infield error, and Rebecca Kuperschmid doubled to right-center. Schenck plated Vargas with a sac fly to center, and Merritt likewise scored Kuperschmid with a sac fly to left.
Gurney then lined a base hit up the middle, but Sophia Swanson grounded out short-to-first, ending the inning.
The visitors got one back in the top of the fifth. After Merritt had notched her eighth strikeout, Zoe Daunt, the second baseman, dropped a popup, having collided with Gurney, and the next batter walked on a full-count pitch, after which a single to center drove in the first run for Harborfields.
East Hampton added three more in the bottom of the sixth, thanks to run-scoring hits by Schenck and Gurney (who tripled) and a wild pitch that allowed Gurney to come in.
The visitors tried mightily to tie the score in their last at-bat. The first hitter tried to bunt her way on, but Merritt pounced on the ball and fired to Gurney for the out. A strikeout followed, but then things began to happen.
A miscue by Gurney, a single, and an error by Swanson, who let a ground ball pass through her legs, resulted in a run crossing the plate and put base runners at the corners for the cleanup hitter, who drove a 1-1 pitch toward the gap in right-center. Kuperschmid ran it down, making a neat one-handed catch that ended the game.