June 14, 2006

Lady Bonackers Edged By Floral Park

"It was a good game and we knew that they were a good team going in," said East Hampton softball coach Lou Reale.

Sobering words for a team that saw a sparkling season come to an end at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale last Tuesday as the Lady Bonackers fell to Floral Park 3-2 in the Long Island Class A Championship final.

"They were a good hitting team and they had a very good pitcher, but we out-hit them five to four," Reale said. "It just didn't work out."

Floral Park (27-2 overall), which wound up losing to Williamsville South 1-0 on Saturday in the New York State final in Cicero, threatened in the opening inning after leadoff hitter and starting pitcher Crista Cerrone led off with a single and then was sacrificed to third with only one out. Stavola was able to escape the inning unscathed by striking out the Knights' number three and four hitters in their lineup.

In fact, the first two innings proved to be a battle of "top this" as Cerrone had five strikeouts and Stavola nearly matched her with four.

In the bottom of the third inning, #9 hitter Tori Holm lifted a double into left field and went to third on an error before Cerrone, on a 1-2 count, hit a long, towering into deep leftfield for a two-run home run, giving Floral Park a 2-0 lead. "It was a shot," said Reale. "There wasn't even a question about it . . . it was a rise ball and she caught up to it."

Strong pitching by both Stavola and Cerrone resumed from the fourth inning to the top of the sixth before East Hampton's Mylinn Nguyen led off with a single, stole second base and with two outs, Devin O'Brien singled her home and took second on the throw. Willa Johann, one of two seniors on the team, then delivered yet another clutch postseason hit, tying the game at 2-2 before Stavola grounded out to end the inning.

"We had the momentum going, it was great to see them battle back like that," Reale said. The jubilation that the Lady Bonackers felt after tying the game in the top of the inning quickly turned to despair at the bottom of the sixth. Stavola, an All-Long Island team selection who allowed only four hits, no earned runs and struck out ten, retired the first two batters before a walk to Christie Softy with two outs brought senior Katie Holm to the plate. Holm hit what appeared to be a harmless pop fly to centerfield (although Newsday inaccurately reported it as a "clutch single") that was misplayed for an error, allowing Softy to race home with the go-ahead run all the way from first base as the ball was kicked around in the outfield before finally being retrieved.

"We had the momentum. If we would have gotten out of that inning, who knows what would have happened," Reale said.

Cerrone, who struck out 15 East Hampton batters on the afternoon en route to being named the MVP of the LI Championship, struck out Nicole Fierro, Marta Johann and Kylie Titus in the top of the seventh inning to end the game

"I was just really proud of the way that they [East Hampton] battled back like that," an emotional Reale said. "Against such a great pitcher, most teams would have packed it in.

Willa really came through and Jesse did a great job . . . she kept us in the game and battled. The girls just showed a lot of character coming back like that . . . and I think the best thing was that they expected to win this game . . . they expect to win every game."

Although the Lady Bonackers will lose two key players in Willa Johann and Kristen Carozza to graduation this spring, they have seven starters returning next season, a season that promises to be successful as long as the team does what it has to do during the off season.

"The opportunity is there if we work hard," Reale said. "Nothing is a given, because you realize how tough it is to get back here. We can't take anything for granted. We expect to win every game that we play . . . but the players realize that they have to put it in the time. The girls work so hard and they get out of it what they put into it. These girls care as much as I care . . . that's the type of girls that we have in the program."

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