By Gavin Menu; photography by Gavin Menu
One week into the spring season and the Pierson baseball team has already gone on a rollercoaster of a ride.
Preparing for a trimmed down league schedule compared to years past, the Whalers have been “fortunate” to open the season with a competitive series of non-league games against larger schools, according to head coach Jon Tortorella, who believes the early challenges will be beneficial for a team expected to make another deep run in the postseason this year.
The Whalers let a six-run lead slip away against Southampton on opening day at Mashashimuet Park last Thursday. Senior ace Forrest Loesch started the game and left after four innings with a comfortable 7-1 lead. James Sherry pitched well in relief, but four defensive errors led to seven unearned runs and, ultimately, a 10-7 win for the Mariners.
Pierson bounced back with an 8-1 road win at Mercy on Friday and capped the week with a 3-2 loss to Westhampton Beach on Monday. The Hurricanes, who expect to make the playoffs in Class A this year, won in walk-off fashion with a tie-breaking run in the bottom of the seventh inning.
“Good game, good team,” Tortorella said about the Hurricanes. “They scored two in the first, and one in the bottom of the seventh. They had two outs, and their kid hit a single to right to score the winning run.”
Tim Markowski picked up the win with a complete game against Mercy and Nick Kruel pitched well against Westhampton in wintery conditions, going the distance with his trademark knuckleball.
All in all, Tortorella said his pitching staff has been as good as advertised so far this season.
“I’ve been pleased with our pitching, big time,” Tortorella said. “They’re not in mid-season form and they’re still finding their stuff. It’s nice to see them battle through and gut out some innings even though they don’t have their best stuff yet.”
Against Southampton, a lively home crowd came out for spring-like weather in Sag Harbor and Pierson’s bats were alive during an explosive first inning. Johnny Chisholm kicked things off with a triple, and came home on an RBI single by Loesch. The Whalers batted through the lineup, with Aaron Schiavoni, Loesch, Markowski, Kruel and Jack Fitzpatrick all coming around to score.
Loesch scored again in the bottom of the second, but the Whalers bats went quiet for the remainder of the afternoon, and the defense fell apart late with Sherry on the mound. Southampton scored five runs in the top of the fifth inning, and four more in the top of the seventh. Pierson finished with a total of six errors.
“After Thursday, we really cleaned our defense up,” Tortorella said. “We scored six runs in the second inning against Mercy, and our pitching was the same. I was happy with our defense and how they responded.”
The Whalers will play one last non-league game tomorrow, March 28, at East Hampton at 4 p.m. The League IX season will begin with a three-game series against Smithtown Christian, starting on the road Monday at 4:30 p.m. The series will return to Sag Harbor for game two on Thursday, April 3 at 4:30 p.m. and will wrap up back at Smithtown Christian on April 4, also at 4:30 p.m.