Mepham continues its rebuild


Through six innings of his team’s opener March 27, things seemed fondly familiar to Mepham softball coach Tom Simone.  

Then, in an eye-blink, they looked all too familiar.

Ahead three runs in the final frame over reigning county Class A champion MacArthur, host Mepham, looking to bounce off last season’s 5-15 follow-up to its two straight Long Island championships, was poised to do so in emphatic fashion – a statement debut win against the champs, heralding a sure return to the Pirates’ not-so-distant dominant form, about to go in the books.

Mepham, starting the spring without lone senior Giselle DeLutri, an All-County ace righthander expected to return in April, instead showed last season’s rebuild still perhaps has a phase or two left, as the young Pirates surrendered seven runs in the seventh, falling – after a gutsy bid in the inning’s latter half – to the Conference 1 rival Generals, 12-11.

“That (MacArthur) game felt really good, until it didn’t,” said third-year skipper Simone, whose 15-player roster still boasts 10 underclassmen, with seven freshmen – but, unlike last season, when there were four, no eighth-graders. “What it showed is that Mepham softball has a big future. The way we fought after going behind, almost coming back, that’s impressive. Last year, when a lot of the girls didn’t really feel ready for varsity, we would’ve just given up.”

“We’re still young,” Simone added, “but a little bigger and stronger now. We’re moving forward.”

All-Conference outfielder Avery Betancourt, who led the Pirates batting .425 last season, certainly hasn’t shown signs of regression, hitting .545 through four games with three stolen bases. The sophomore – who along with DeLutri made a list of Long Island’s top 100 softballers – switched to center field from right this season, a move Simone said "made the most sense” for the fine-fielding speedster.

“Avery’s not just a great hitter,” Simone said of the third-year starter who’s never batted under .400. “She’s really good in the field and thinks really well for a young player.”

Sisters Alyssa and DeAnna Cinquemani have combined for 10 hits and six RBIs on the young season for Mepham – Alyssa, a junior, batting .500 while sophomore catcher/infielder DeAnna ranks fourth on the team hitting .400.

“The (Cinquemani) sisters are the future leaders of the team,” Simone said. “Great athletes, willing to play multiple positions.”

Buttressing Simone’s case that his crew is youthful but potent, team batting leader Lauren Leo (.615) has been a force out of the gate. The freshman led the Pirates going 4-for-4 against MacArthur with a pair of steals and two RBIs and had a team-best three hits in a 10-5 loss at Oceanside April 5. Another freshman, Brianna Davis is starting in right field and batting sixth.

Over the weekend Mepham again had a top league foe on the ropes. Betancourt went 4-for-4 as the Pirates led through six innings over visiting first-place Syosset – which rallied in the seventh, MacArthur-style, to win 5-4 as Mepham (0-4) once more saw victory exceed its grasp.

“The talent and possibilities are there,” Simone noted. “Like I said, we’re building, And we should be at full strength in time for a playoff run.”