After two losses last week, the East Hampton softball team was in serious danger of missing the playoffs in what would be the first time in head coach Lou Reale’s 20-year tenure with the program.
It’s been a season of ups and downs for the Lady Bonackers, who have become one of the most successful programs in the county under Reale’s direction. After crushing three of the weaker teams in Leagues V and VI two weeks ago by a combined score of 30-0 to get back to a .500 record—including a no-hitter by East Hampton’s Casey Waleko—the Lady Bonackers took another step back with a pair of close losses, a 4-1 defeat at Islip on May 1, followed by a 4-2 home loss to Rocky Point on May 3.
The losses dropped East Hampton to 6-8 in League VI, 6-9 overall, and put them in the position of needing to win four of their last five games in order to qualify for the Class A postseason. The Lady Bonackers were scheduled to begin that quest on Monday against Mount Sinai (6-7), another team battling for a playoff spot. (For results, see this week’s Monday Roundup article.) After that, East Hampton will face Westhampton Beach (5-9), Miller Place (12-2), defending state champion Sayville (12-2), and Elwood/John Glenn (0-14) to close out the regular season.
The losses to Islip and Rocky Point were largely a tale of untimely errors and missed opportunities, according to Reale, and he said that has been a pattern for his team this season. Waleko started off strong against Islip, with seven strikeouts in the first two innings. But the Lady Buccaneers managed to score two unearned runs, capitalizing on Lady Bonacker errors. One of the runners who eventually scored got on base initially after a dropped third strike.
East Hampton battled back in the fourth innings, when Waleko blasted an RBI double to cut it to 2-1. The Lady Bonackers had started hitting the ball with more success in that inning, but their momentum on offense was cut short by baserunning errors. In the sixth inning, Waleko gave up three walks and a home run, which allowed Islip to score its insurance runs.
Reale said that the errors on both offense and defense hurt his team in what was a close game.
“If we don’t make those mistakes, we could have been ahead,” he said. “Then you’re playing a little differently and putting more pressure on [Islip]. But it’s been the same story in every game, basically.”
Waleko was not as sharp in the Rocky Point loss, coming off a day where she was unable to practice because of a doctor’s appointment for a back injury that has been limiting her effectiveness all year. Reale benched Waleko in favor of backup pitcher Courtney Dess, who came on in the third with Rocky Point leading, 4-0. Dess was the star for her team that day, pitching a shutout the rest of the game while also blasting a two-runner homer in the fifth. She hit a double in the sixth, but was ultimately stranded on base as her team could not find a way to bring her home.
“Courtney did a great job,” Reale said. “She had their hitters off balance and she has six assists as a pitcher. They were hitting everything right back to her.”
Reale said his team simply didn’t do a good enough job on offense, and he was frustrated in particular that batters went down on called strikes on more than one occasion. The continued errors on defense, he said, have also been a problem as well.
“We can’t make those mistakes we’ve been making,” he said. “You’ve got to at least make the basic plays. And we’re still missing signs too. It’s not good.”
ON THE SCHEDULE: Thursday, 5/9, vs. Westhampton Beach, 4:30 p.m.; Saturday, 5/11, at Miller Place, 10 a.m.; Monday, 5/13, at Sayville, 4:30 p.m.; Tuesday, 5/14, vs. Elwood/John Glenn, 4:30 p.m.