By Connor Beach
Slugger Jillian Weinstein, of Hills West, has earned the Township of Huntington Softball Hall of Fame’s annual softball scholarship.
The Colts senior said she was “so caught off guard” when she learned she had been selected through a call from Jim Byrnes, the hall’s scholarship committee chairman.
But she probably shouldn’t have been.
Weinstein, of Dix Hills, has pitched every inning for the Colts this season, earning 14 wins in the process. Off the mound and at the plate, Weinstein is also threat; she’s hit six home runs this season, good for the second most in Suffolk.
Byrnes said this year’s applicant pool for the $1,000 scholarship was one of the best yet, but Weinstein still stood out from the competition.
“She’s the complete student athlete — just what you want on your team,” Byrnes, who coaches softball at Huntington High School, said.
In addition to on-the-field performance, Byrnes said the committee also takes into consideration GPA, community service and whether the applicant wants to play softball in college, among other things.
“This was one of the best years we’ve had, but when the committee read her application she won, hands down,” Byrnes said.
Bryan Dugan, coach of the Hills West varsity squad, said the Colts often go as Weinstein goes.
“Her senior leadership has been amazing,” Dugan said.
Pitching every inning of a season is an accomplishment on its own, but Weinstein especially impressed late in the season when weather issues tasked her with pitching seven complete games in a 10-day span. She complied six wins in the stretch, including a 5-2 triumph over Comsewogue on senior day.
“It’s nice to celebrate everything she has done, not just as an individual, but also the way she has helped our team and our program continue on,” said Dugan, whose Colts earned the fifth overall seed in this year’s Suffolk Class AA tournament.
Weinstein said she grew up watching her sister play little league softball and really got hooked after she bought her first glove when she was around 8 years old.
“After watching her play I really wanted to try it,” Weinstein said.
She’s gone on to become a four-year varsity player. She played first base through her freshman and sophomore seasons, earning All-League honors in the latter campaign.
Weinstein made the move to the pitcher’s mound her junior season and went on to earn both All-County and All-Long Island honors.
The 5-foot-7 right-hander also plays travel ball for Team Long Island, and was named one of the country’s top 100 players to watch for the class of 2018.
Weinstein, who also plays varsity basketball for the Colts, said she has been building camaraderie with many of her Hills West teammates since they were 11 years old.
“There are six or seven of us who have played together since we were little, and now we are all here,” Weinstein said. “Some of them are even my neighbors.”
Along with Dugan, the Colts are led by assistant coach Bill Mitaritonna.
“I love my coaches. I feel like we can have fun, but still get done what we need to get done at practice,” Weinstein said.
Weinstein plans to continue her softball career at Sacred Heart University, where she’s in line to pitch and hopefully continue her slugging success at the plate for the Pioneers next spring.
Before that, though, Weinstein and the Colts will get back on the diamond for the Suffolk Class AA playoffs.
The senior captain Weinstein said she believes the tight-knit team can make a deep playoff run.
“As a senior, I knew that this is our year,” she said. “If we are going to do it, it’s going to be this year.”
The Colts originally started their first round playoff game against the Lady Bulls of Smithtown High School East on Tuesday, but storms caused the contest to be postponed midway through. Play was scheduled to resume Wednesday, after deadline, but a fresh batch of storms threatened to cause further postponements.
To keep up with the Colts and the rest of this year’s softball playoff teams, visit Sectionxi.org.