By Gavin Menu
In the end, the rain had little effect on the reign. The Pierson-Bridgehampton Whalers are once again champions of Suffolk County Class C baseball.
“We’re finally going to sit back and celebrate,” head coach Jon Tortorella said with a smile after Pierson (21-1) knocked off visiting Port Jefferson, 9-4, in a game that was spread over two days because of rain. “And then tomorrow we’ll worry about the rest.”
The “rest” begins this Monday, June 3 at Farmingdale State College with the Long Island Class C Championship against Nassau’s Friends Academy at 4 p.m. The winner there will advance to play a New York State regional final at Dutchess County Stadium in Wappingers Falls on June 4 at 4 p.m.
Pierson senior pitcher Colman Vila, who was coming off a sickness and rested on Tuesday and Wednesday, is expected to start Monday against Friends.
“He’ll be ready to go,” Tortorella said of his lefty ace.
But with bigger games lying ahead, it was, as Tortorella said, time to celebrate on Wednesday, and the party began with a parade of fire engines and horns down Main Street in Sag Harbor.
Pierson jumped out to a 7-0 lead through three innings on Tuesday before the final game of the Class C tournament had to be postponed because of rain. Port Jefferson, which did not face Pierson during the regular season having finished with a 6-12 record in League VIII, was forced to take the long trip east twice in two days, the second time already trailing by seven runs.
“I take my hat off to Jon and all those guys over there,” Port Jefferson head coach Jesse Rosen said after the game when asked if he was disappointed that the game moved forward on Tuesday in the first place, despite forecasts for rain. “That’s the nature of the spring, and the nature of baseball. They scored more runs than we did in seven innings.”
On Tuesday, the Whalers struck first in the bottom of the first inning with James Sherry scoring on an infield single by Forrest Loesch. The real explosion came two innings later, however, with the Whalers scoring six more runs in the bottom of the third to send the Royals home soaked by rain and trailing by a sizeable margin. Loesch, Aaron Schiavoni and Jake Bennett scored runs and had RBI doubles in the inning while Kyle Sturmann, Sherry and Markowski crossed the plate as well.
But with Tortorella spreading sand on the mound following the third inning, the umpires decided it was time to postpone the remainder of the game.
“We just had to start today as a new game, and not look at it as 7-0 in the fourth but as 0-0 in the first,” Pierson catcher Aaron Schiavoni said on Wednesday. “The way we played yesterday gave us great momentum coming into today.”
But it was Port Jefferson that came out strong on Wednesday, roughing up Nick Kruel, who replaced Jake Bennett on the mound, for four runs in the top of the fourth inning, the first to be played on Wednesday.
“It says a lot about their character,” Rosen said about the Royals’ effort in the fourth inning. “To show the fight and to put in the effort after taking two three-hour round trips was absolutely fantastic.”
Kruel, throwing his trademark knuckleball, settled down and allowed just one hit and no runs over the next three innings.
“It was weird circumstances, but you have to deal with that,” Tortorella said about the start of the game coming in the fourth inning. “Everything we did after that was good.”
The Whalers, meanwhile, tacked on two insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth inning on RBI’s by Loesch and Markowski. In the top of the seventh and the final inning, Kruel got stellar defensive help from Loesch and Sherry on hard-hit infield groundballs, and it was Markowski at first base who squeezed the final out and with it a second straight county championship for the Whalers.
“It’s definitely something we looked forward to, and to do it again is a huge honor,” Schiavoni said after the game. “Every game, every practice, every swing we took came down to these games right here.”
And with that, it was time for a parade down Main Street.