It was the type of performance Lou Reale said he has been waiting for all season.
The East Hampton softball team came up with a huge win on Friday, beating fifth-place Islip (12-5) in a 1-0 road game to improve to 6-10 on the year and keep its playoff hopes alive. The win was sandwiched by two disappointing losses, an 11-0 defeat at the hands of Mount Sinai on May 1 and a 13-1 loss at Rocky Point on Saturday.
The Lady Bonackers moved to 6-10 after the trio of games, but the win over Islip kept their playoff hopes alive, putting them in the position where wins in their final four games would allow them to finish with a .500 record in League IV play, the requirement for making the postseason.
East Hampton was scheduled to visit Shoreham/Wading River on Tuesday, May 6 (4:30 p.m.); host Harborfields on Wednesday, May 7 (4 p.m.); visit Bayport/Blue Point on Friday, May 9 (4 p.m.); and close out the regular season at home against Elwood/John Glenn on Tuesday, May 13 (4:30 p.m.).
And while needing to win out might be a tall order, the good news for the Lady Bonackers is that they beat three of the four teams the first time around, the exception being Bayport. Their first contest with Bayport, however, was a close 2-0 loss in which East Hampton was missing several key players who were away on the school vacation.
The win over Islip, one of the better teams in League IV, should go a long way in providing some confidence for what is a young East Hampton squad. The Lady Bonackers didn’t make any errors in the win, which was huge, as the Lady Buccaneers put the ball in play routinely throughout the day, and East Hampton didn’t produce much on offense against a quality pitcher.
The Lady Bonackers scored the only run of the day in the fourth inning. First baseman Ilsa Brzezinski led off with a single, and eighth-grader Maddie Schenck followed with a double to the right field wall, allowing Brzezinski to move to third. She later scored on a sacrifice fly by second baseman Avery Balnis.
Balnis was clutch defensively for the Lady Bonackers as well. She saved a run with a spectacular snag in the first inning, making a diving stop on a hard-hit grounder and then throwing to first for an out. That play, with no outs, also held an Islip runner at third. East Hampton got out of the inning with a fly ball to shortstop Ali Harned and another grounder to Balnis, stranding the runner at third.
Islip knocked on the door again in both the sixth and seventh innings, but the East Hampton defense stayed stout. In the bottom of the sixth, the Lady Buccaneers got a leadoff double and the runner stole third base before two fly ball outs and a groundout ended that half of the inning. In the bottom of the seventh, Balnis made another nice play, snagging a leadoff line drive for an out, then caught a fly ball for the second out before right-fielder Isabella Swanson, an eighth-grader, made a running catch of a fly ball down the right field line to end the game.
Casey Waleko got the win in the circle, allowing just three hits with no walks and four strikeouts.
Reale said he was very happy with what he saw from his team on Friday. “It proves that we can play defense against a good team like Islip,” he said. “Their kids hit the ball, but we just played really well defensively. We made all the basic plays, and Avery came up with a great play on a hard-hit ball that you don’t expect to make. So we’re capable of it.”
As far as his team feeling any pressure in the final games, Reale said he has been stressing a laid-back approach to the final stretch of the season. “There’s really no pressure,” he said. “Pressure is when you have no job and have to pay the bills. We’ve been saying it since the beginning: This is fun. At least we have a chance for the final games to still mean something.”
In the loss to Rocky Point on Saturday, the Lady Bonackers were at a disadvantage from the start, down three starters. Waleko was unable to pitch because she was attending her brother’s graduation, and both Balnis and Brzezinski were sick and couldn’t play.
The East Hampton baseball team fell to 0-12 in League VII, 2-14 overall, after getting swept by first-place Shoreham/Wading River (10-2) last week. East Hampton lost, 8-0, at home on April 29, 14-3 at home on Friday, and 6-2 in Shoreham on Saturday.
The Bonackers were scheduled to close out the season with a three-game series with Mount Sinai (5-7), with a game at Mount Sinai on May 6, in East Hampton on May 7, and at Mount Sinai on May 9. All games are set to start at 4:30 p.m.