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May 14, 2018 9:45 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Lady Baymen Softball Defeats Cross-Town Rival Westhampton Beach In Class A Outbracket Game

Westhampton Beach senior shortstop Lexi Miller tries to make a running throw on a softly hit ground ball in the first inning. DREW BUDD
May 15, 2018 1:23 PM

What a difference a year makes.

Around this time last year, the Hampton Bays and Westhampton Beach softball teams were a study in opposites. The Lady Baymen missed out on the playoffs while the Lady Hurricanes were in the midst of their best season in program history, which ultimately concluded in the county championship.

On Monday afternoon, though, the two teams battled one another to see which would have the opportunity to continue their season, playing in a single-elimination Suffolk County Class A outbracket game. Hampton Bays, thanks in large part to an offensive outburst in the fourth inning, advanced to the double-elimination playoffs after its 12-4 victory over host Westhampton Beach.

The Lady Baymen played at top seed East Islip on Wednesday (look for an article on that game on 27east.com). The winner of that game will advance and play Friday against the winner of No. 4 Miller Place and No. 5 Islip. The loser of Wednesday’s game will drop down into the elimination bracket and will play the loser of Miller Place/Islip on this Thursday, May 17.

Angie Acampora pitched a four-hit shutout in a 2-0 victory at Hampton Bays back on April 10, so it was a bit of a surprise to Hampton Bays head coach Rich Doulos when he and his team got to the field in Westhampton Beach on Monday and saw that Acampora was starting at first base and Jess Ferrick was in the circle for the Lady Hurricanes.

Hampton Bays scratched across a run to take an early 1-0 lead in the first. Westhampton Beach loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the second, but a heads up play by catcher Lily Candelaria ended the threat. Ally Parascandola chopped a ground ball at home plate that Candelaria caught in fair territory. She tagged Parascandola just steps away from home plate, then tagged out Lexi Miller trying to score from third base to end the inning.

The Lady Baymen came back in the next inning and scored three runs to increase their lead to 4-0. In the top of the fourth, Hampton Bays plated six runs, which included a two-run base hit to center field by Emma Candelaria and an RBI double by Tara Brochu that one-hopped the left field fence.

Miller put Westhampton Beach on the board in the bottom of the fourth with a solo home run to left, then Brooke Walker tacked on another run in the next inning on a run-scoring double. Hampton Bays erased those two runs though with a pair of scores in the top of the seventh.

Westhampton Beach didn’t go down quietly in its final at-bats. Miller drove in her second run of the game on a base hit to left, then Acampora hit a bloop single to center field that scored another run. But Emma Candelaria was able to induce two ground balls for the final outs, the second of which was put away by second baseman Emily Peyton.

Both teams have players that have been on the team for a long time, some since seventh grade, so to say it was important to come away with a win would be a bit of an understatement.

“It’s huge. It’s something we’ve been definitely working for since October, from non-organized open gym, to our Florida trip,” said Hampton Bays senior Mackenzie Tyler, who scored three times. “As a team we’ve sacrificed so much, and to finally be at this stage, it’s huge for us.”

Having the offense come alive was a key component to the win, Doulos said, but the players didn’t think it was based off who they saw in the circle.

“In practice, we’ve just been really, really working our bats and adjusting to the pitches no matter what speed,” Emma Candelaria said. “I feel like the extra work that we put in, in practice over the past few weeks, has really helped us.”

It was a sobering moment for the Lady Canes, who, just a year ago, enjoyed their best run in program history. But that run, head coach John Vahle said, put a target on his team’s back, which proved to be difficult.

“Going to the county championship last year, returning most of the same team, like I told the girls, we made a lot of other teams better because they worked harder to try and beat us,” he explained. “Every game they were motivated, no matter if it was a team with one win or a team with 14 wins. They were looking to prove a point.”

Now the Lady Canes have to say goodbye to arguably the best class of players they’ve ever had, being that they, as juniors, led the team to its first ever county final appearance. That group includes six-year varsity player Lauren Ramos and four-year varsity players in Lexi Miller, Angie Acampora and Jess Ferrick. Vahle got a bit choked up when talking about the outgoing players and used a single word to describe all of them, “Irreplaceable.”

Ramos did admit after the game that it was a little disappointing not returning to the county final. She said that was the goal but that it’s quite possible that the team tried too hard to achieve it. She’s proud though of what the team was able to accomplish the past two seasons.

“I think, this game especially, we fought back hard at the end, which matters most. But for the six years I’m glad I got to know the girls that I did, and it builds a platform for me to carry on and help out with teammates and get used to Coach Vahle’s coaching style.

“But overall I’m proud of last year, going to [county finals],” she said. “It was a good ride.”

Hampton Bays now has at least two games left to its season and Doulos is happy that his team gets to move on in what is a wide open Class A bracket this season.

“We’re right there with everyone, and I just really felt, to me, they deserve to move on to a double-elimination tournament and I’m really proud of them for stepping up today,” he said.

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