Each time Hope Brenkert steps to the plate, her Eastport-South Manor teammates grin with anticipation, look at each other, nod knowingly and then begin a rhythmic chant. "Home Depot Hope!" they shout, "Home Depot Hope!"
Brenkert doesn't work for the home-improvement chain, but if Home Depot ever sold aluminum bats along with aluminum siding, she might become a frequent customer.
"There's no good reason for it," ESM coach Laura Ward said. "It just brings her luck."
It certainly did Wednesday, as Brenkert belted a long three-run homer that was key in ESM's 9-5 softball victory over host Sayville in a Suffolk crossover game that matched two first-place teams. The Sharks of League V are 10-0; the defending state Class A champion Golden Flashes (League VI) are 8-2.
"They started doing it the day I hit my first home run so now they do it every game," said Brenkert, who has hit three home runs in her sophomore season. "I sort of hear it and I sort of try not to hear it when I'm up. But it does calm me down."
There was one out in the third inning when Brenkert, who had an RBI single during a three-run first inning, stepped into the batter's box. Cue the chorus. "It was right down the middle. I was trying to swing late because usually I'm early," the righthanded-hitting Brenkert said of the fastball she launched far over the rightfielder's head for an easy trip around the bases. Cue the cheers, hugs and high-fives. "I don't believe I'm a power hitter, but I'm starting to have more confidence at the plate."
Her blast gave ESM a 6-0 lead, but Sayville rallied with three runs in bottom of the third, keyed by Olivia Kaczmarek's two-run triple. The Sharks took a 9-4 lead in the sixth on Kailah Konkel's two-run single, her third hit.
But things got a little dicey in the seventh as Sayville loaded the bases with one out against winning pitcher Marissa Rizzi. Kaczmarek drove in her fourth run with a hard groundout, but with the tying run in the on-deck circle, Rizzi, pitching to her twin sister, catcher Christina, got the final out of a gritty complete game.
"This is a team that plays well together," Ward said.
They cheer well together, too.