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Conference crown for West Hempstead

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West Hempstead’s softball season could not have gotten off to a more inauspicious start when the team took the field for the first time back in March. The Rams suffered an ignominious defeat at the hands of Valley Stream North, and looked like a team that would struggle mightily.

Fast forward two months, and West Hempstead has an overall record of 16-1, and the fifth league title in program history and first since 2010. The Rams wrapped up their Conference AB-V schedule with a 6-1 victory over Jericho last Friday afternoon.

Danielle Cavallo scattered just four hits and struck out eight batters. Senior center fielder Sydney Reitz was 2-for-3 with a run scored, and junior Kate Shanley had a double and a sacrifice fly to lead West Hempstead’s offensive attack. It’s the first time the team has ever gone through its league schedule with an undefeated record.

Coach Chris Van Kovics isn’t surprised by the team’s success. “When you pitch well and play good defense, you’re going to be in games,” Van Kovics said. “We feel we’re always at an advantage because we have the strongest pitcher. The girls were disappointed when we didn’t accomplish what we wanted last season. They’re excited about going to the playoffs.”

Despite being just one of two teams in Nassau to go unbeaten in conference play, the Rams will open up the postseason on the road. West Hempstead’s opponent and the time and date of its opening round playoff game were unavailable at press time.

Cavallo’s improvement in the circle has been the chief reason for the team’s performance. While every now and then she’ll run into trouble, Cavallo has been consistent. The junior right hander has yielded an average of fewer than two runs per game of over the team’s past 12, and averages 9.4 strikeouts per seven innings pitched.

“Danielle is walking fewer batters and letting the defense make plays behind her,” Van Kovics said. “We talk all the time about how walks will come back to haunt a team. Danielle has been dominant at times. We’ve benefited a lot because she’s always around the plate.”

Shanley, who is Cavallo’s battery mate, calls a great game and is seemingly always on the same page as her pitcher. Shanley’s offense has been superlative. She hit a conference-leading six home runs while batting over .500. In a 15-3 rout of Manhasset, Shanley was 3-for-4 with a homer and four RBI.

The left side of the infield comprising shortstop Sarah Welti and third baseman Jenna Eivazi has been impressive. Welti has been nearly flawless in the middle of the diamond, and nobody plays the bunt better than Eivazi.

“It’s been a fun season,” Van Kovics said. “We only have 10 girls and there were games where we only had nine. They’ve all bought into what we’ve been talking about. Now, we’ll have a jump up in competition, but they really need to just focus on what they’ve been doing all season long.”