DIX HILLS, New York, June 12
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
One of the greatest seasons in the history of Half Hollow Hills West softball came to an end on Friday. In the Class AA Long Island softball championship, the Colts fell, 3-2, to East Meadow (19-2).
“Without question it was the most enjoyable and fulfilling season I’ve ever had,” Bill Mitaritonna, head coach of Hills West (22-4), said. “We had the best season in school history, with winning the Suffolk County championship, but I think it was the best season for another reason.”
That reason, Mitaritonna said, is that his team was 100-percent together, 100-percent of the time.
Mitaritonna, who has coached Hills West to several Long Island championships in boys’ basketball, said that his 2014 season with the Colts’ softball team was by far the most fun he’s ever had.
Francesca Casalino, Hills West’s main leader and superstar pitcher, agreed.
“This is the closest I’ve ever been with a team,” Casalino said. “Since they’re all underclassmen, finally getting to know these girls one-on-one throughout the year was amazing.”
The Colts showed their appreciation for Casalino after the game at Mitchel Field in Uniondale when Casalino was visibly – and understandably – upset after the game.
“She’s as tough as nails,” Casalino’s mother said from the bleachers while holding back tears of her own. “I’ve never seen her like this.”
Several Colts came up to Casalino, patting her on the back, some leaning in for a hug, as Hills West exited the softball field for the last time this season.
“They were devastated that they couldn’t have practice on Monday,” Mitaritonna said.
As for the game itself, Hills West had trouble capitalizing on opportunities to bring runners home. In the first inning, the Colts loaded the bases with 2 outs. However, East Meadow’s pitcher, Kerri Shapiro, struck out Colts’ sophomore Sarah Auricchio to end the threat.
“Our philosophy was to jump on them early,” Mitaritonna said. “We didn’t get it done in the first inning, and then it took us another five innings to get another opportunity.”
With East Meadow jumping on the board in the third inning thanks to a 2-RBI double from Shapiro, the Colts had a hole dug out for them that they just couldn’t climb out of. After two more opportunities to score in the fifth and sixth proved unsuccessful, East Meadow widened its lead to 3-0 after Claire Travis drove a ball over the wall to start the bottom of the sixth.
“We knew that they were going to be a tough hitting team and that they were going to score runs,” Casalino, who will attending Yale University to study and play in the fall, said. “That’s what it was going to come down to, one or two big hits for either team.”
The Colts refused to go down without a fight, though.
In a situation eerily similar to Hills West’s comeback victory over Hauppauge in the Suffolk County championship, the Colts had the tying run on second with 2 outs after sophomore Nicole Graber ripped a double down the line to score 2 runs and bring Hills West within one in the bottom of the seventh. However, Shapiro induced a ground ball from Alexandra Parkas, a freshman, and the game was over.
“I just want to thank the parents, friends and fans who all came out to support us,” Mitaritonna said. “I was very lucky to be able have this team, and I’m proud and honored to have been a part of it.”
While the Colts graduate a “legend,” as Mitaritonna said, in Casalino, the future still looks bright for Hills West as she is the only senior on the team this year.
“You can’t replace a legend in [Casalino], but, long story short, we’ll find a way to get back to the playoffs,” Mitaritonna said.
Granted, Casalino, who pitched a perfect game this season, is almost assuredly the most important component of this year’s team, but the Colts aren’t letting that get them down.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen next year,” Alyse McAlpine, Hills West’s sophomore second baseman, said to Mitaritonna. “But we’ll find a way to get back.”
Originally published: Long Islander News: Half Hollow Hills (Thursday, June 12, 2014; A23)