Close games and long bus rides for Lady Bonackers

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If East Hampton softball coach Lou Reale had it his way, the international tiebreaker rule would be banished, and given his history with the extra-innings format, it’s hard to blame him.

Under the rule, if the score is tied after nine innings of play, each team starts the 10th inning with the player who completed the last official at bat as a base runner on second base. Each subsequent inning starts the same until a winner has been determined. The rule is designed to keep extra-inning games from taking too long, but when it goes into effect, it becomes a huge advantage for the home team, which has the final at-bat of the inning.

East Hampton learned that the hard way last season, falling 1-0 in 10 innings as the visiting team to South Glens Falls in the New York State Class A final. During his illustrious coaching career at both Bayport/Blue Point and East Hampton, Reale has had a run at the state title end on three different occasions by the tiebreaker rule.

The rule reared its ugly head in the Lady Bonackers’ world again last week, when they traveled to Hauppauge on April 28 for a non-league game with the Lady Eagles. Frustration reigned on the day, as East Hampton didn’t arrive at the game until after 6 p.m. because of heavy traffic. The Lady Bonackers lost out on a chance to come away with the win when the Lady Eagles tied the game at 1-1 due to an error. The game went into extra innings but was called after the ninth inning ended due to darkness, thus forcing East Hampton to make a trip back to Hauppauge yesterday to finish the game, with the international tiebreaker going into effect.

Results from that game will appear in next week’s edition.

Reale said on Sunday that he was frustrated with his team’s inability to close out the win and with the mistakes that resulted in another road trip in an already travel-heavy week. The Lady Bonackers traveled to Rocky Point on Monday, May 5, before the continuation of the Hauppauge game yesterday and will travel to Connetquot for a non-league game on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. They’ll be at home on Thursday against Shoreham/Wading River and will be back at home on Saturday morning for a scrimmage against Kellenberg. That’s four games in a row, the first three of which are on the road, all making for a tough week for East Hampton.

The Hauppauge game will wind up being particularly crucial in determining playoff seeding in Class A. The Lady Bonackers (10-1 League VI, 12-1 overall) will most likely receive the top seed if they beat Hauppauge, assuming they can secure victories in the remainder of their regular season games. East Hampton will visit Harborfields on Monday and will take on Westhampton Beach at home on Wednesday to finish the regular season. It has already beaten both teams once this year.

Class A opponent Mount Sinai (10-0 League VII, 11-0 overall) has a better record but plays in a weaker league. But, the Lady Mustangs have a non-league win against Hauppauge to their credit this season, and if the Lady Bonackers suffered a loss to Hauppauge, the top seed would most likely be awarded to Mount Sinai.

The importance of the Hauppauge game made the inability to close out the win even more frustrating for Reale. Senior pitcher Jessie Stavola was having what Reale said was one of her best performances of the year and had 19 strikeouts through nine innings. In addition to the error that allowed Hauppauge to score the tying run, the Lady Bonackers made baserunning errors that prevented them from scoring the go-ahead run in the eighth inning.

“It was frustrating, because it’s a big game as far as seeding goes,” Reale said. “It was just a lost opportunity. When you’re the visiting team, you’re at such a disadvantage with the tiebreaker rule. Eighty percent of the time, I’d say the home team wins those games. If you’re the home team, you can be more aggressive because you’re batting last. When you’re up first, you can’t be that aggressive.”

East Hampton was on the winning end of another close game against Islip at home on April 30, getting by 1-0 thanks to an error by the Buccaneers. In the sixth inning, junior Nicole Fierro laid down a nice bunt that spun just in front of home plate and was able to come all the way home on a throwing error. East Hampton had just three hits in what was a pitcher’s dual, with only five total hits between both teams. Stavola struck out 12 batters and allowed two hits and one walk.

The game was momentous for Reale, who picked up his 400th career win as a coach. The victory put his record at 400-93 in 23 years at both East Hampton and Bayport/Blue Point.

East Hampton followed the win against Islip with a 5-0 shutout of Miller Place at home on May 1. Stavola provided all five RBIs for her team on the day, going 3 for 4 at the plate. Both Molly Nolan and Fierro were 2 for 3 with two runs scored. The Lady Bonackers had a total of eight hits while Stavola took care of business in the pitching department, striking out nine batters and allowing two hits and three walks.

Although the Lady Bonackers have been dominant once again this season, they’ve been fortunate to survive in several low-scoring affairs. Reale says he’d like to see his team improve in the hitting department in order to avoid such nailbiting finishes.

“We haven’t been hitting the ball that well,” he said. “Against Miller Place, we did better and against Hauppauge we did hit the ball, but we couldn’t score any runs. When you get in these one-run games, anything can happen.”

That was a discovery the Lady Bonackers made last year and it’s one they’re hoping to avoid this postseason.

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