Women’s softball opens with a blast

Two close games and a blowout started off the League’s 10-week season.

Rug sox batter Elizabeth Clark hits a single during their opening night softball game. — Photo by Michael Cummo

The six-­team Martha’s Vineyard Women’s Softball League (MVWSL) opened its 10-week season Tuesday night at Veterans Park in Vineyard Haven with two nail-biters and a blowout.

In early games, Mocha Mott’s Creamers came back against defending champ Long and Meehan Snaps to win, 7-­5, and the Wharf Restaurant’s Shady Ladies scored five times in the first inning and held on to defeat the MacDonald’s Rugs and Carpets Rug Sox by an 8-­7 score.

The Shady Ladies are sponsored by Vineyard Complementary Medicine. In a murky nightcap played under dense fog and sub­par lights, the 2013 league runner-­up Honeys defeated Mama’s Girls, 21-­3, with a 10-­run explosion in the fourth inning. The mercy rule was invoked after Mama’s Girls batted in the fifth inning, scoring once.

The MVWSL plays a 10-­game regular season and up to 11 playoff games between now and Aug. 14. The games are played at 6 pm in Vineyard Haven on Tuesday evenings and on Thursday evenings in Vineyard Haven and at the West Tisbury School field in West Tisbury. Children, sports fans, and dogs are welcome at no charge.

The 2014 Island softball campaign includes some significant changes. For one, a large square orange mat has been added behind home plate, expanding the strike zone for the men’s league.

There is no change in the women’s strike zone, though the mat does seem to give catchers a truer bounce on pitches in the dirt. Perhaps the biggest change will be the absence of Ralph Stewart, the recently ­departed sports editor of The Times who was the beloved chronicler of league play since its inception. Mr. Stewart was in attendance Tuesday night but modestly declined a public introduction, citing his completely unreasonable fear of applause.

Several teams have experienced significant roster turnover. Honeys coach Nicole Gazaille has replaced four players, bringing on shortstop Sarah Wennes, catcher Amanda Gonsalves, and outfield sister duo Kat and Emily deBettencourt. Ms. Wennes, an Iowan transplant, felt right at home, homering twice in a four­-hit debut.

Across the diamond, Big Momma Mike Magaraci has brought in four new Mama’s Girls: shortstop Danielle Pappas, second baseman Jess Matus, multi-­position player Diana Nash, and right fielder Hayley Panek who joins sister Jackie on the team. And yes, Mr. Magaraci said he is hoping for multiple “Panek attacks” this season.

One Island softball icon remains unchanged. Richie “Ripper” Roy began his 30th year umpiring men’s and women’s softball this week. Mr. Roy was behind the plate for the Honeys­–Mama’s Girls tilt, issuing his stentorian and choreographed “Stee­rike” calls.

Winter rust was not apparent in the season openers though outfield play turned problematic late in the game when several seemingly catchable fly balls disappeared into the misty fog and came to rest untouched.

Infield play was steady, spectacular at times, in all the contests. The ladies brought their hitting shoes, scoring 46 runs in 19 innings of opening day play, aided by some heady and gambling base running by Shady Ladies Harriet Broun and Megan Lizotte and by Dylan Spencer Kenney in close contests.

The Creamers­–Snaps affair was particularly tense. The Snaps nursed a 2­-0 lead into the fifth inning when a booming triple by Nicole Bodeau scored two Creamers to knot the score. The Snaps went up in the bottom of the sixth, stealing a run on a two-­base scoring dash by Dylan Spencer Kenney on a groundout. They added two more on a throwing error to take a 5-­3 lead into the seventh.

The Creamers took a 7-­5 lead, tying the score on four consecutive hits, highlighted by Becka Gorham’s triple. Zoe Nugent singled in the winning runs to end the scoring.

The games showcased heady play by the infielders. Of particular note were shortstop Carol Bailey of the Rug Sox, Snaps third­-sacker Ryann Gold, Ms. Wennes and Ms. Pappas, and left­-handed Shady Lady shortstop Sue Sanford.

In Thursday games this week, the Creamers face the Honeys in West Tisbury and the Rug Sox face the Snaps in Vineyard Haven