June 07, 2006

Hail To The Champions!

It was a result befitting a season of hard work, dedication, perseverance, and successful use of talent as the East Hampton varsity softball team defeated Islip 5-1 in eight innings on May 30 at Kings Park's Flynn Field to capture the Suffolk County Class A championship.

"It was a tough game," said Lady Bonackers head coach Lou Reale. Jessie [Stavola] showed a lot of heart, going ten innings the day before. It felt like it was close to 90 degrees in the shade and we didn't have any shade to begin with…Jessie just gutted it out, going back to back like that."

East Hampton's sophomore hurler Stavola limited Islip to three hits, no earned runs and one walk in eight innings. Less than 24 hours earlier, Stavola had pitched ten shutout innings to help the Lady Bonackers defeat Sayville 1-0 in one of the Suffolk Class A semifinals.

"I was a little tired, but I couldn't allow them [Islip] to see that," said Stavola. "You try to keep yourself up and show that you're strong. You can't let them see that you're tired. I have a lot of support from my teammates and they helped push me."

Islip (19-2 overall), took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning as a hit, a sacrifice, and an error by East Hampton's shortstop allowed pinch runner Casey Fontinell to score the first run of the game.

In the top of the fourth inning, Lady Bonackers catcher Caity O'Brien led off with a base hit, was sacrificed to second, and had a strong chance to tie the game when Willa Johann hit a hard shot deep in the hole at second base. O'Brien made the turn at third and was sent home where she was tagged out on a close play. "The way Islip was celebrating, they were acting like they had won the whole thing right there," said Reale. "But there was a lot of softball left to play."

Willa Johann, who smartly advanced to second base on the play, scored moments later as Stavola drove her home with an RBI single to tie the game at 1-1. "The momentum really changed right there," Reale said. Stavola then proceeded to strike out the side in the bottom of the fourth. "They [Islip] went from celebrating to 'Whoa — we're in a game here.'

Caity O'Brien singled again in the top of the eighth and Willa Johann hit a mammoth blast to right-centerfield for an RBI triple to score her easily. If not for the high outfield grass, it would have surely been an inside the park home run.

Nicole Fierro had a big two-out RBI single in the eighth to score Willa Johann as East Hampton went up 3-1, and, following a walk to Marta Johann, third baseman Julianna White delivered her third hit of the day, a two run single that put the Lady Bonackers up four runs. "Julianna really came through for us and Willa showed a lot of character to get a hit like that when we needed it the most," said Reale.

In the bottom of the eighth, Islip's leadoff hitter was thrown out at second base as a mishandled fly ball by outfielder Deven O'Brien turned out to be a blessing in disguise as O'Brien fired a laser beam to Kalie Titus, who applied the tag for the out. A fly ball out to second baseman Mylinn Nguyen ended the game as East Hampton's players celebrated in the infield, achieving what had eluded them last season: a county championship.

"It was really rewarding, especially beating Sayville in the semifinal the day before because they beat us for the county title last season," Reale said. "The girls were looking forward to getting to this game all season. It was definitely our goal to get here and we would have been very disappointed not to win this game. I'm just so proud of them all because at this level, one mistake and you're done. It's a lot on the kids, mentally. When Islip took the lead in the third, I told the girls, hey, we've been down 1-0 a lot of times this season so just relax. And that's exactly what they did. They just battled back. We've been battling all year and this team does what it needs to do in order to win the game."

When asked how she felt to win her first county championship, Stavola said, "It's just indescribable. To win the counties and keep going, we believe that we can go farther now. We have a great team and a great coach who tells us that we can do it."

East Hampton (23-2 overall, one loss via forfeiture) was scheduled to play Nassau County Class A champion Floral Park (25-1 overall) at Mitchell Field in Uniondale yesterday afternoon to determine the Long Island/Southeast Regional champion. The winner of that game would advance to the Final Four which is held in Syracuse this weekend.

Floral Park is "a tough team," said Reale. "They have a good pitcher who has a scholarship to Stony Brook; they also had a very good catcher and several very strong hitters. But we're not done yet. Everybody's looking forward to this. The girls have worked hard. No one's given them this. They've earned everything that they've accomplished this season."

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