Softball One Shy of the Playoffs

Things can be expected to be even better next year
East Hampton’s seniors, Fran DeNardo, Zoe Daunt, Sophia Foglia, and Alex Rutkowski, from left with bears, were honored by their coaches, Nicole Fierro and Kathy Amicucci, center, following the regular-season finale with Shoreham-Wading River. Jack Graves

For a while there on May 10 it looked as if East Hampton High School’s softball team might well make the playoffs, and in so doing hand Shoreham-Wading River, the League IX champion, its third league loss.

But a five-run sixth inning effectively did the Bonackers in. Still, Kathy Amicucci, the young team’s coach, said afterward that her charges had improved markedly over last year, and, given the fact that there were only four seniors — Zoe Daunt, Alex Rutkowski, Fran DeNardo, and Sophia Foglia — this season, things can be expected to be even better next year.

As the result of the 10-4 loss that day, East Hampton finished at 8-10 for the league campaign.

A three-run home run by Shoreham’s sophomore catcher, Melissa Marchese, on the first pitch she saw from Sam Merritt with runners at the corners and one out in the top of the third staked the visitors to a 4-0 lead. 

East Hampton went down one-two-three in the bottom half, but came back to score three runs of its own in the bottom of the fourth after an Isabella Swanson-to-Ella Gurney double play had ended the top half.

Alexis Vargas, East Hampton’s left fielder, and the second hitter in the lineup, fanned on a knuckler change to lead it off, but then Rebecca Kuperschmid, the center fielder, and Maddie Schenck, the catcher, singled — Schenck’s blooper landing just out of reach along the third-base line. Gurney’s fielder’s choice grounder scored Kuperschmid, after which Merritt teed off on a 3-1 pitch, driving the ball to the center field fence for a run-scoring double. Raven Biondo came in to run for her. A subsequent base hit by Swanson drove her home. DeNardo flied out to left to end the inning, but the battle had been joined.

Shoreham loaded the bases with one out in the top of the fifth, but East Hampton got a force at home before Hannah Longboat, the designated hitter, fouled out to Sophia Ledda in right, ending the threat.

The Bonackers had a chance to take the lead in the bottom half. Foglia reached first base safely on an error by the pitcher, Victoria Coman. Ledda then drove the ball into the outfield where Bailey Rand made a one-handed catch as she backpedaled. 

Vargas, after extending the count to 3-1, laid down a perfect bunt to put runners at first and second for Kuperschmid, whose point-blank shot up the middle knocked Coman’s glove off, but the pitcher nevertheless recovered in time to make the play at first as Foglia and Vargas moved up. Schenck then drove a hard grounder to the right side, but right at Shoreham’s second baseman, Lindsey McKenna, who threw to first for the third out.

Coman, who batted sixth in the visitors’ lineup, grounded out Swanson-to-Gurney to begin the ill-fated sixth frame, but then things began to unravel, beginning with three straight base hits, by Olivia Baudo, Katherine Opiela, and Longboat.

That brought up the leadoff hitter, Katlynn McGivney, a lefty who had previously singled twice and reached on an error. McGivney’s soft but well-placed single to the right side drove in Shoreham’s fifth run. 

The next batter, Joy Papagianopoulos, was called out on strikes, the strike-three call eliciting an incredulous “Oh!” from her, leaving just one more out to get. But East Hampton couldn’t do it. 

With Marchese at bat, and with the bases loaded, Merritt wild-pitched a run home, for 6-3, after which Marchese rifled a 2-2 shot up the third-base line that Daunt couldn’t handle. As the ball bounced off her glove into foul territory, two more runs came in. Before the third out was nailed down, Shoreham, thanks to r.b.i. singles by Rand and Coman, was leading 10-3.

The Bonackers got one more in their last at-bat. With two outs, Vargas got on on an infield hit, after which Kuperschmid and Schenck reached safely on errors by Shoreham’s shortstop and center fielder, the latter enabling Vargas to come home with East Hampton’s fourth run, its last of the season.

Amicucci, who began coaching last year, told the girls, just about all of whom played last year as well, that “it was like two different teams — you played as a team this year. You were a joy to coach.”