On Senior Day on Monday, Rye Neck parents filled the home team’s softball bleachers while light blue and black balloons bobbed in what little breeze there was.
By Mitch Silver
On Senior Day on Monday, Rye Neck parents filled the home team’s softball bleachers while light blue and black balloons bobbed in what little breeze there was. Handmade signs saluting each graduate-to-be were pinned to the back of the softball dugout.
Inside that dugout, the Panthers, having just beaten Mt. Vernon 19-0 in a mercy-rule, five-inning game, surrounded their coaches, Joan and Frank Spedafino. It was win No. 451 in a nearly 30-year career for Head Coach Joan, one more notch in the belt of the winningest softball coach in Section 1 history.
The 447th win, the one that broke the record of Eastchester’s longtime coach, Skip Walsh, was achieved two weeks ago against Hastings. The Panthers then defeated Mamaroneck 4-1 and Sleepy Hollow 16-1 before sweeping a doubleheader from Dobbs Ferry, 8-0 and 3-2.
On the hill against most of those teams, as she was against the Lady Knights, was flame-throwing senior Diana King, only the latest in a long line of standout hurlers for the Spedafinos.
The coach was happy to report that King’s predecessor as Rye Neck mound ace, Jessica Calvini, had called her to report her Lehigh team’s victory in the Patriot League championship game.
“It’s amazing the way the girls stay in touch,” the coach said after the game. “They keep inviting us to their big events…the graduations, weddings, christenings…it’s really heartwarming,”
The coach was a record-breaking athlete in her own right at Mamaroneck High School in softball, field hockey, and basketball, her husband confided. “She’s too modest to say it, but for years Joan held the record for most points scored in a high school basketball career — that’s for both boys and girls!”
In turn, Coach Spedafino complimented her partner. “Frank is our pitching coach. A lot of our success comes from his calling the pitches during the game. That, and our being blessed with all the great players we’ve had making those pitches.”
A fourth-grade teacher at Bellows School when she’s not patrolling the diamond, Coach Sped will have her hands full in the coming weeks as Rye Neck, with only two losses on the season, is a lock to earn a high seed in the sectional playoffs. And it couldn’t happen to a nicer person.