For the past nine seasons, it would be a safe bet to assume that the Eastport South Manor softball team was a lock to reach the playoffs, and this season is no different.
The Lady Sharks clinched a berth into the Suffolk County Class AA postseason with a 14-2 victory at West Babylon on Thursday, April 23. It’s the nine straight season ESM has found its way into the playoffs, and its made the postseason the first five years under head coach Laura Ward.
“Every year we see some changes on the team and it takes some time for all the different personalities to mesh together,” she said. “But we have a solid core who have been together for a long time now.
“There was a slow start to the season,” Ward added. “In March we didn’t really get outside because of the weather. The defense has been really solid, though, behind Marissa [Rizzi], who has been pitching really well.”
Rizzi’s pitching ability was certainly showcased last week, when she struck out 17 in the win over West Babylon, and threw a no hitter in a 3-0 win Half Hollow Hills West on April 21. The modest Rizzi gave all of the credit to her defense in her first no hitter of the season.
“It was all them,” she said. “The defense was absolutely amazing. They caught everything.”
Rizzi, who allowed one walk and hit one batter while striking out seven, was battling Hills West starting pitcher Alexis Kleet all game. Both were dealing shut outs, until the bottom of the sixth, where the Lady Sharks started a two-out rally.
After Rizzi and senior Jackie Chester grounded out to start the inning, junior Daniela Detore walked. Sophomore Brianna Williams and senior Hope Brenkert then followed up with base hits to load the bases for freshman Jenna Kreiling, who came through with a double over the left fielder’s head, clearing the bases and giving ESM the 3-0 lead and eventual win.
“Before I came to the plate, Brianna told me, ‘Stay in the zone and start it off,’” Kreiling said. “I thought I had to get this because we have to win this game because we were tied. I was just totally focused, and when the ball came, I just hit it.”
ESM scored two runs in the first inning in the win over West Babylon, then added a few runs here and there throughout the game. Detore went 3 for 5 with three runs scored and three RBIs and was a home run away from hitting for the cycle. Rizzi, who had the career-high 17 punchouts in the circle, also went 3 for 5 with three runs and three RBIs. Williams went 2 for 5 with a run scored and junior Kailah Konkel went 2 for 5 with two RBIs.
The Lady Sharks suffered their first loss of the season, 3-2, at East Islip on April 22 in what was a rain-shortened game that went the official five innings. ESM (9-1 League III) was down 2-0, but senior Brianna Cullen tied the game with a two-run double to left center field. East Islip scored its go-ahead run in the bottom of the fifth, and after the final out of that inning, the umpires decided to call the game.
It was a tough loss to take for the Lady Sharks, but Ward said East Islip, which is 8-2 on the season, earned it.
“The rain came in pretty hard, so the field was slippery. It certainly effected play for both teams,” she said. “It was a variable that couldn’t be ignored.”
ESM has a relatively harmless schedule this week. After hosting Bellport on Monday, the Lady Sharks played at Deer Park on Wednesday and they’ll host Hauppauge on Friday, with first pitch slated for 4 p.m. As of Monday morning, all three opponents had won a combined nine games.
The following week is when ESM will get into some of the tougher teams of the league. The game against Kings Park at home on Thursday, May 7, could determine who wins the League III title outright. That game is scheduled for a 4 p.m. start.