Baldwin pinpoints its struggles

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Some would say even the bible opens with talk about the “big inning.”

The topic is certainly one that the Baldwin softball team has grappled with, as the Lady Bruins – 0-6 in Conference AA-II, 3-6 overall – seek an antidote to the single-frame lapses that have plagued them in league play this spring.

Following a tidy 2-0 start which saw the Lady Bruins produce 23 runs, against only eight allowed, an irksome pattern began to emerge kicking off a 1-6 stretch. Hosting Long Beach in the conference opener March 29, Baldwin was chipping away at a 4-1 deficit until a six-run fifth inning broke the game open for the Marines, who would keep the Lady Bruins at bay 16-6. Similar events yielded similar results in Baldwin’s later matchups with Oceanside, Plainview, Syosset, and Hicksville.

“Basically, if you take away the big inning from the other team, we’re playing a one- or two-run game every time,” said Baldwin coach Tom LLewellyn, whose club last season advanced to the Nassau Class AA quarterfinals. “We’re playing great for five or six innings, and then we don’t get a break or we make a mistake, and it just gets away from us.”

Meanwhile, as reminders of the club’s potential, Lady Bruins perennial standouts – such as All-State catcher Juliet Bernstein and Honorable Mention All-County outfielder and pitcher Katelyn Borello (both seniors) – have been their usual steady selves, churning out production without breaking stride.

Bernstein, who batted .593 last season, is raking at a .450 clip, with a .590 on-base percentage and two home runs (third in conference), and has gunned down seven base runners attempting to steal. “Juliet is the heartbeat of our team right now,” LLewellyn said. “She runs on all cylinders. She at least keeps us in games because teams are scared to run on her. Once she throws them out, they stop trying.”

Borello – who abdicated shortstop duties this season when pressed into service as a pitcher – has upheld her reputation as a top defensive player with solid work in centerfield in between starts in the circle, while batting .340 with one round-tripper. “Katelyn’s a phenomenal defender,” LLewellyn said. “She’s been pitching well enough for us to win, too, but our defense hasn’t held up for a full seven innings yet.”

Another beacon of hope for Baldwin is first year-starting junior first baseman Merysee DeJesus, whose .350 batting average is second-highest on the team. “Merysee’s done a great job in the field,” LLewellyn said. “And she’s hitting the ball hard now. She’s only a junior so she’ll be coming back. We really need her to be successful.”

Now at season’s midpoint, Baldwin has faced each of its conference opponents once, and will get another crack at every one, starting on the road against Long Beach April 24.

“We need to limit mistakes, limit walks, and have some timely hitting,” LLewellyn said. “And we need a little luck. The ball has to start bouncing our way. We’ve got the talent to win.”