Merritt Was Meritorious in Hampton Bays, Mariner Wins

Southampton defeated 6-5
Sam Merritt, East Hampton’s junior pitcher, hit a home run in the 6-2 win over Hampton Bays on May 3, and her bases-clearing walk-off hit enabled East Hampton to defeat Southampton 6-5 Monday. Craig Macnaughton

In dramatic fashion the East Hampton High School softball team put itself one game away from the playoffs Monday by defeating Southampton 6-5 here, thanks to a walk-off, bases-clearing hit by Sam Merritt, East Hampton’s fireballing pitcher.

Last week, Kathy Amicucci’s girls put Hampton Bays away 6-2, with Merritt homering over the center field fence in the sixth inning, a blast that extended the Bonackers’ lead to 6-1. 

It looked on Monday as if East Hampton would cruise to a 3-1 win over the Mariners, that being the score going into the top of the top of the seventh, by which time the visitors, who had been shut out through the first four frames, had had only four hits, only one of which had been authoritative.

The top of the seventh began with Zoe Daunt, the third baseman, bobbling a ground ball hit to her. The next batter struck out — the ninth K for Merritt that afternoon. (The base runner narrowly escaped being caught in a rundown, sliding back into first under Ella Gurney’s tag.)

A third-to-first groundout notched the second out, but then things got interesting, what with a single up the middle and a bunt that loaded the bases. A run came home on a squiggler that the second baseman, Fran DeNardo, could not field in time to make the play at first. Southampton then tied it at 3-3, and went on to take a 5-3 lead as the result of back-to-back ground balls over second base that DeNardo couldn’t quite get to.

The never-say-die Bonackers, however, were to come back. Alexis Vargas, who bats second in the lineup, led off the bottom of the seventh with a bunt single, and after Rebecca Kuperschmid fanned, Maddie Schenck reached first base safely on a grounder to the third baseman, whose throw to second arrived too late to catch Vargas

Gurney then grounded to the shortstop, who bobbled, loading the bases for Merritt, who had in her previous at-bats walked, struck out, and been hit by a pitch. With the count at 2-2, the spunky pitcher unloaded, the ball soaring toward the fence in left center as Vargas, Schenck, and Gurney tore around the bases.

“I liked the way they came back, but I wish it hadn’t been that stressful,” Amicucci said afterward.

The win improved her charges to 8-9 in league play, and set up a showdown with the league-leader, Shoreham-Wading River, here yesterday.

Shoreham, whose pitcher reportedly has a dancing knuckleball, came in at 15-1, though some of its games have been close, most notably a 2-1 win over Hampton Bays on May 1. 

“If we play our best, we have a shot,” Amicucci said.

However it turned out yesterday, the team has commanded attention this season, and presumably will continue to do so as time goes on.