West Hempstead took another step in the right direction on the softball diamond, this spring. The Rams compiled an overall record of 10 -4, finishing a couple games behind Nassau Conference ABC-VI champion Valley Stream South and just short of a playoff berth.
Despite a lack of overall numbers, which left the program unable to field a JV, the future looks bright at West Hempstead. The nucleus of the varsity team, including its pitcher and catcher will return in 2019, and there’s no shortage of potential at the junior high level.
The Rams went on a tear in the middle of the 2018 campaign, winning eight consecutive games before falling to Floral Park. The run included a sweep of the team’s six crossover games with Conference V, with one triumph being a 6-4 victory over a Hewlett team that won its league championship.
Year in and year out, West Hempstead coach Chris Van Kovics relies on the same recipe for success. It calls for consistent pitching, strong defense, and an offensive strategy that keeps opposing teams on their toes.
“When we’re successful, we’re bunting, slapping, stealing bases, and doing whatever it takes to make the defense work,” Van Kovics said. “On many occasions, playing small ball kept us in games. If you put the ball in play, good things can happen. I was pleasantly surprised with the season, especially in beating every team in a higher conference than us. I was hoping to be at least .500.”
The battery of pitcher Danielle Cavallo and catcher Kate Shanley did a tremendous job. Cavallo doesn’t blow batters away, but throws strikes and keeps batters off balance with effective use of her screwball and changeup. She pitched every inning of every game.
Shanley was a solid defensive backstop and a masher at the plate. She led the conference with seven home runs and hit for an average of nearly .400. Van Kovics also got a great effort from Jenna Eivazi. The sophomore third baseman was sterling at the hot corner, had a high on base percentage, and was constantly a pest on the base paths.
The team’s defense will only get better in the future. With Shanley, center fielder Syndey Reitz, and shortstop Sara Welti all returning in 2019, the Rams will be strong up the middle. Welti, who has outstanding softball IQ, is the glue in the infield for the Rams, and is always a tough out. Van Kovics lauded the performance put on by senior outfielder Julia Rizzo.
“We only lose a few seniors, and have most of the starters coming back,” Van Kovics said. “We’ve made good progress and have improved in a lot of areas, and will likely move up a conference. We need to get a little stronger, both physically and mentally, on the field. In the games that we lost to South and Floral Park, the opponents were a little tougher than us.”