Story by Frank Rizzo
JEFFERSONVILLE The first harbinger of doom came even before his Sullivan West softball team stepped onto the field for the Class B semifinal on Thursday.
“We never,” said coach Mike Ellmauer, “have done well when we’re the top seed. It’s one of those things. I don’t know what it is.”
Sullivan West was crushed 19-3 by fourth-seeded James I. O’Neill at the Lauren Hughson Field in Jeffersonville.
Ellmauer and his longtime assistant, Anthony Durkin, had been heartened by the pre-game preparation as the Bulldogs prepared to face the Red Raiders.
“We had a really good warmup and I felt we were ready. And then we waited,” said Ellmauer.
The O’Neill bus arrived an hour late.
“It took us out of our game,” noted Ellmauer. “It’s hard to get the emotion back.”
Ironically, the Red Raiders were energized by their long bus ride.
“They got themselves excited and up for the game, and felt confident,” said O’Neill co-coach Bill Gonzalez, who had just told his charges, “You saved the best for last.”
Sullivan West, the Division IV regular season champs, had crushed O’Neill in both league meetings, 8-1 and 7-1.
“Normally [Sullivan West hurler Hannah Schwatz] dominates us,” said Gonzalez. “Our aim was to make contact, get the ball past her and expose their weaknesses.”
It was several crucial fielding errors, in fact, which sealed the Bulldogs’ fate. In the top of the fourth, O’Neill sent eight batters to the plate and scored five runs (after two outs) to take a commanding 8-1 lead. The visitors added five more in the fifth, aided by aggressive base running, timely hitting and Bulldog miscues.
Raider pitcher Averee May quieted the Bulldog bats, fanning seven, and the hosts could never mount a serious rally.
Ellmauer, veteran softball coach of 30 years (20 at one of SW’s component districts, Jeffersonville-Youngsville) has seen many highs and lows in his career. His 1989 Jeff-Y team lost in the state Class D final, and he felt his 2004 SW squad had the potential to be state champs.
“This is one of the worst losses,” he admitted.
Coach Durkin judged the season the Bulldogs finished with a 79 overall record, 51 in Division IV a success.
“We only had three returning starters. The younger kids had to come up and step up,” he said.
As far for the season-ending debacle, “Today we didn’t produce,” Durkin said.
Notes: Brittany Fey and Corrina Mattison had three hits apiece for O’Neil (814), who went on to lose the final to third seed Highland 4-1 on Sunday at SUNY New Paltz. For Sullivan West, Bethanii Padu doubled and Schwatz (one RBI) and Marianne Durkin had one hit apiece.