Going into last week, the East Hampton softball team’s hopes for securing a spot in the Class A postseason were still alive, even if the odds weren’t great. The Lady Bonackers needed to win their last four games of the regular season, a tall order but one that was within the realm of possibility, considering they’d beaten three of those final four foes the first time around in league play.
But their shot at a playoff berth was quickly snuffed out on May 6, after a heartbreaking 6-5 loss at Shoreham/Wading River. Alex Hutchins was the hero for the Lady Wildcats, hitting a walk-off two-run homer—her third of the game—with one out in the seventh inning to give her team the win and officially end East Hampton’s chance at making the playoffs, as the loss assured the Lady Bonackers would finish with a below-.500 record in League IX play.
It marks the second straight year the Lady Bonackers will miss out on the postseason. Before last season, head coach Lou Reale had guided the Lady Bonackers to the playoffs in each of his 19 seasons at the helm, and he’d led teams he coached to postseason berths in 10 seasons before that before coming to East Hampton.
East Hampton looked like it was on its way to a win early on, going up 5-0 and taking that lead into the sixth inning. But Hutchins was simply unstoppable at the plate, and she made the most of her final trip to the dish in the seventh. The Lady Bonackers went into the bottom of the final inning with a 5-3 lead, courtesy of two previous homers by Hutchins, a solo shot and a two-run job. Shoreham drove in a run with a one-out single in the seventh, and Hutchins, the next batter, brought her teammate home and ended the game with her third homer of the contest.
“We couldn’t walk [Hutchins] because we already had the tying run [on first] and that would have put the winning run on base,” Reale explained. Hutchins hit the game-winning shot on a 1-0 count.
“She did a great job,” Reale said of Hutchins, who also got the pitching win for Shoreham. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a girl hit back-to-back-to-back homers.”
East Hampton pitcher Casey Waleko and shortstop Ali Harned led the team with two hits each on the day, but Reale said his team squandered other chances to pad its lead throughout the game, stranding runners in the second, third and sixth innings that ultimately made the difference between a win and a loss.
“We had opportunities to score more runs,” he said. “We just didn’t get the hits when we needed them.”
The tough-luck loss appeared to have a hangover effect for the Lady Bonackers, as they lost 5-0 at home to Harborfields the following day and were edged, 4-2, at Bayport/Blue Point on Friday. The losses dropped East Hampton to 6-13 on the season. They were scheduled to close out the year at home against winless Elwood/John Glenn on Tuesday, May 13.
In the loss to Harborfields, Lady Tornadoes pitcher Erin Walden recorded 12 strikeouts for the no-hitter, an unlikely feat considering East Hampton had hit two homers off her and had 12 hits in an 8-0 win back on April 11. East Hampton eighth-grader Sam Merritt was in the circle that day and pitched well in what was her first varsity start, only giving up six hits.
Reale was happier with his team’s effort defensively in the loss to Bayport, but his team lacked the timely hitting to get the win. Bayport scored two runs in the first and added two more in the second to go up 4-0, before East Hampton cut it to 4-2 with two runs in the fourth. The Lady Bonackers had runners on first and second with one out in the seventh, but a groundout and foul pop-out ended the threat and the game.
East Hampton will say goodbye to four seniors, including Waleko, first baseman Ilsa Brzezinski, infielder Cecelia Fioriello and outfielder Shannen McCaffrey. The Lady Bonackers were mostly a young squad this year, often starting three eighth-graders and four freshmen.
“It’s a big jump for those guys to come up from the junior high ranks,” Reale said. “They got better as the season went on and I don’t think they were as intimidated toward the end of the season. If they play over the summer and work on things a little bit, it should be pretty good next year.”
The East Hampton baseball team was eliminated from playoff contention weeks ago, but it still had something to prove—and something to play for—in its final three-game series of the League VII season with Mount Sinai. After losing the opening game of the series, 5-1, at Mount Sinai on May 6, dropping to 0-13 in league play, 2-15 overall, the Bonackers both avoided a winless league season and played the role of spoiler, winning 3-2 at home the following day. The Bonac win officially ended Mount Sinai’s playoff hopes, assuring the Mustangs would not finish with a winning record in league play.
Mount Sinai won the rubber game on Monday, edging East Hampton 4-2 in Mount Sinai. East Hampton finished the season with a 1-14 mark in League VII, 3-16 overall, while the Mustangs finished 7-8, 9-11 overall.
In the second game, East Hampton was down 2-0 going into the bottom of the final inning, but a one-out, two-run, walk-off single by Jack Abrams-Dyer gave the Bonackers a reason to celebrate after what had been a long season. Peter Shilowich started off the inning with a single, and Brendan Hughes followed with another single. When Hughes’s hit was mishandled by the Mount Sinai fielder, Shilowich and Hughes advanced to second and third. Kyle McKee then hit a hard grounder to third base, and the throw to first was off the mark, pulling the first baseman off the bag and allowing Shilowich to score, making it 2-1. After McKee stole second, the Bonackers had runners on second and third with one out when Abrams-Dyer stepped to the plate and provided the winning hit.
The seventh-inning hits were the only ones of the game for East Hampton, as Mount Sinai’s Matt Katzsaros had tossed a no-hitter up until that point.
East Hampton head coach Mike Ritsi said he was happy to see his team persevere and get the win.
“They stayed competitive and kept battling,” he said. “The kids were very excited, and seeing their faces was great. I told them, I wish there had been more of these moments, but nevertheless, it was a good win and it knocked Mount Sinai out of the playoffs.”
East Hampton was slated to close out the season against Mount Sinai on Monday, May 12. (For results, see this week’s Monday Roundup article.)
East Hampton will graduate five seniors: Shilowich, who pitched and also played in the infield; Hughes, a shortstop/first baseman; Maykell Guzman, who played a variety of positions, including pitching, infield and catching; and outfielders Danny Page and Ben Newbery.
Ritsi, who coached the JV in previous years before taking over the varsity this season, said he hopes his returning players can see more success next year.
“We have a young team, and we have a lot of guys coming back, which is encouraging,” he said.