At the onset of the high school softball season, there were a ton of unknowns at West Hempstead. The Rams were very competitive in 2016 and had a half-dozen returnees, but the extended winter gave head coach Chris Van Kovics little time to assess his team’s strengths or get in much work on situational softball.
What was apparent was the fact Van Kovics had an experienced pitcher who was always around the plate, and more girls on the roster who were keeping their bats and gloves out of the closet and playing travel ball.
The results were positive for the Rams. West Hempstead finished in second place in Nassau Conference ABC-IV with a record of 10-4. Three of the losses were by three or fewer runs.
Other than a couple of games that Van Kovics felt his team could have pulled out, he was pleased with the performance and likes the direction the program is going in.
“This is about as good a season as I could have asked for,” Van Kovics said. “Other than the losses to Cold Spring Harbor and Hewlett, games we definitely could have won, we did a real nice job. We’re going to have very few seniors next year, so we’ll be young again. But it means we’ll have many of the same girls for three or four years. More girls are dedicated to getting better by playing outside of school.”
One girl Van Kovics won’t have back is senior pitcher Dana Palermo. While she didn’t possess the type of stuff to register a slew of strikeouts, Palermo threw strikes and kept hitters off balance. She picked up 10 wins, closed out her career with back-to-back shutouts of Floral Park and Carle Place, and was named an All-Conference honoree.
Catcher Kate Shanley had a big season at the plate and is improving on defense. Shanley hit a pair of home runs. Fellow freshman Jenna Evazi not only got the job done at the plate, she saw time in the field at second, third, short, and all three outfield positions. Evazi also hit two long balls for the Rams.
West Hempstead will lose a good one in Kelsey Reichert, the team’s senior second baseman. Reichert, who earned All-Conference recognition, was the team’s best slapper and bunter. She put up numerous multiple-hit games.
Van Kovics was also pleased with the contributions he got from freshman Danielle Cavallo at the hot corner. Cavallo hit a grand slam in the first inning of the team’s 11-6 road win against Floral Park. Sophomore Sydney Reitz and junior Laura Evazi had some solid games and will both play key roles in the future.
“I like the way we competed,” Van Kovics said. “We’re a small ball team, so we need to put the ball in play and make things happen. When we keep teams from having big innings, we’re always in games. This team was fun to watch.”