Defending Champs’ Playoff Run Cut Short

HALF HOLLOW HILLS, New York, June 4

BY: Andrew Wroblewski

The Half Hollow Hills High School West softball team had its season come to an end late last month with a 12-1 playoff loss to Sachem East.

Yet, while the game ultimately eliminated the Colts, it’s not the game that defines them as a team, head coach Bryan Dugan said.

Alexis Kleet, a junior pitcher for Hills West, led the Colts to 11 wins this season.
Alexis Kleet, a junior pitcher for Hills West, led the Colts to 11 wins this season.

“We lost to the better team on that day… There was nothing to be ashamed of,” Dugan said of the setback. “We didn’t beat ourselves up after that game; it’s just something that the girls can and should learn from. That’s what we want to take out of it.”

Entering the 2015 postseason as the defending Suffolk County champions, the Colts were awarded an out bracket game with no. 18 Riverhead. No. 15 Hills West defeated Riverhead 6-5 and advanced to a first-round matchup with no. 2 Commack. The Colts went back-and-forth with Commack in that game, but successfully knocked off the Cougars in a major upset, 5-4.

“That’s the game that we’re going to remember from this season,” Dugan said. “That win was such a team effort where everyone knew their roles and executed them.”

Then came the matchup with no. 7 Sachem East – a team that would eventually fall in the Suffolk championship to no. 1 Eastport-South Manor. Alexandra Parkas provided the Colts with their lone run in the defeat off of a solo home run.

Moving forward, the Colts will now enjoy some much deserved rest, Dugan said, in order to clear their minds before next spring.

Many of the Colts from the 2014-2015 squad will be eligible to return for the 2015-2016 campaign, as Samantha Katz was the only senior on the team’s roster.

Katz will be thoroughly missed, Dugan said; she provided the Colts with a spark on the field whenever she came in as a pinch runner and helped keep the ladies close off of the field.

“She stole bases, scored runs and made things happen all year,” Dugan said. “And she took control of the little things in helping the team become a family… She was great.”

The rest of the girls, however, will take the invaluable experience they’ve gained over the last two softball seasons as they consider returning to the team next season. Including Parkas, a sophomore, the Colts had 10 juniors on this year’s roster, two sophomores and one freshman.

Pitcher Alexis Kleet is one of those juniors who Dugan said performed exceptionally well this season. Kleet was asked to step into the “impossible-to-fill shoes” of Francesca Casalino – who graduated from Hills West a year ago as the best pitcher in the school’s history – and did just that as she led the Colts to 10 wins this season and was named one of two team MVPs.

“She didn’t even think about the pressure – or at least she didn’t express it,” Dugan said. “She far exceeded anything we could have imagined; she was fantastic.”

The second MVP was Alyse McAlpine, a junior second baseman, who provided the Colts with plenty of offense and lockdown defense throughout the season.

“She carried us down the stretch with her clutch hitting,” Dugan said.

Dugan, who completes his first season as head coach, commended the entire Colts team for the effort throughout the season and said it was one he’ll never forget.

“I could not have asked for a better group of girls to coach during my first year as head coach,” Dugan said. “They were perfect. This was a great experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world.”

Originally published: Long Islander News: Half Hollow Hills
(Thursday, June 4, 2015;  A22)

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