On Monday night, Lou Reale found himself attempting to explain something he’d never had to explain before in 30 years of coaching high school softball: why his team failed to make the postseason.
Coming into the 2013 season, Reale had guided the Lady Bonackers to the playoffs in each of his 19 seasons with the program, and had been to the playoffs for 10 straight years as the coach at Bayport/Blue Point before that. But an 11-9 loss at defending New York State champion Sayville on Monday dropped East Hampton to 7-10 in League VI play, assuring that it would not finish the season with a winning record in league games, the requirement for making the playoffs.
The way East Hampton lost on Monday was particularly painful, and a microcosm of how the season has gone for the team, which had high expectations after losing only three starters from a squad that advanced to the county final against Sayville last year.
The Lady Bonackers jumped on the Lady Golden Flashes early, sprinting out to a 6-0 lead in the first inning, and had made two outs in the bottom of the second, leading 6-1, when a fly ball was lofted to the outfield. The ball was not caught, and a run scored. And then the floodgates opened—Sayville scored five runs in that frame with the two-out rally, tying the game at 6-6. Two more errors by East Hampton in the fifth allowed Sayville to go up 9-6, and more errors in the sixth increased that lead to 11-6.
The Lady Bonackers rallied in the top of the seventh, but a baserunning error cut off the momentum in that inning, and East Hampton could not complete the comeback.
As he has done after other tough losses during the year, Reale took responsibility for his team’s inability to make the playoffs. “I didn’t do a good enough job,” he said. “Because we really didn’t get better over the season, and that’s a reflection on me.”
When asked if he did anything differently this season than he had done in his previous 19 years coaching at East Hampton, Reale hesitated before saying: “No—we spent more time on fundamentals, but I just couldn’t get it across to the kids.”
Reale didn’t expect his team to go undefeated or even to win the league title, acknowledging that there are several strong teams in Leagues V and VI. But it was losses to teams he felt his squad was better than that hurt the most, he said.
“In 20 years here, we never lose games that we should win,” he said. “This year, we lost games that we should have won. That’s one thing I’ve been proud of coaching for all this time, is that we’ve always won the games we were supposed to win.”
The good news for East Hampton is that only one senior will be lost to graduation, although she will be a big loss. Courtney Dess played a variety of positions for East Hampton this year—infield, outfield, and she even stepped in to pitch on several occasions, as starter Casey Waleko had a tough year struggling with a nagging back injury. Dess was also one of the team’s top hitters.
Dess was slated to be honored on Tuesday, May 14, as part of Senior Day. The team planned to recognize several of the program’s great players in a ceremony after the game. Seven former players who went on to play in college were having their names added to a plaque at the dugout that honors all East Hampton alums who went on to play in college. The newcomers to the list include: Jessie Stavola, Caity O’Brien, Devin O’Brien, Kaylie Titus, Willa Johan, Kristen Carrozza, and Nicole Fierro.