By Gavin Menu
Freshman James Sherry sparked a late-inning rally and the Pierson baseball team rebounded from a challenging start to the season with a dramatic walk-off win over visiting Smithtown Christian on Tuesday afternoon.
Trailing 2-1 with two outs in the bottom of the seventh and final inning, Sherry roped a double to the outfield fence for his fourth hit of the game. The game was tied moments later when Sherry came home to score after a pick-off attempt at third base sailed into left field.
Johnny Chisholm followed with a walk and Smithtown Christian starter Jack Palma, a senior who had been dominant all afternoon, was pulled from the game. Jimmy Seviour, a hard-throwing freshman, came on in relief but walked two more batters, including Tim Markowski, whose game-winning RBI scored Chisholm and sparked a wild and unexpected celebration at home plate.
“We’ve been close in a lot of games, but things haven’t been going our way,” said head coach Jon Tortorella, referencing the team’s slow start in non-league competition, which included losses to Southampton, Westhampton and East Hampton. “I know it wasn’t conventional, but they kept fighting. [Smithtown Christian] is a very good team and a win against them is a big win.”
The bad news came later on Wednesday when word came back that Markowski had actually broken his hand earlier in the game, even telling Tortorella moments after his game-winning walk that he likely would not have been able to swing the bat even if he had been given the chance.
Tortorella said Markowski will miss at least the next month of action as a result of the injury.
Playing at East Hampton on Friday, the Whalers lost, 3-1, to drop to 1-3 in non-league play. Then, as fate had it, Tuesday’s league opener came against Smithtown Christian, which was one of only two teams to beat Pierson all of last year.
But there was a sense following Tuesday’s victory that a new journey had begun for this particular group of Whalers, one that will continue today, April 3, with the second game of a three-game series against Smithtown Christian at 4:30 p.m. The remainder of the series, which will be the last between the teams this season, will be played on the Crusaders’ home field, and whoever wins twice will have an early leg up in the hunt for a League IX title.
“There’s no driver seat right now,” Tortorella said when asked what a win in the series would mean for his program. “We have to play for Thursday, and that’s it. There’s a long way to go.”
Prior to arriving in Sag Harbor, the Crusaders this season beat Center Moriches and Comsewogue, two good teams from much larger schools. Adding to the challenge for Pierson on Tuesday was Palma, the Crusaders’ ace pitcher, whose unorthodox delivery kept hitters off balance for much of the afternoon. Going into the final inning, Palma had recorded six strikeouts while allowing just five hits and a single run scored by Aaron Schiavoni off a sacrifice fly by Nick Kruel in the fourth inning.
But after giving up the double to Sherry and the walk to Chisholm in the bottom of the seventh, Palma left with a one-run lead and responsibility for both the tying and winning runs on base. Seviour, the freshman reliever, was unable to find the strike zone and the Crusaders left Sag Harbor with an all-too familiar result.
Kruel, who will start game three of the series, picked up the win for Pierson after tossing two scoreless innings of relief for starter Forrest Loesch.
“Forrest gave us some really good innings, and Nick battled and got us through those last two innings,” Tortorella said. “He made some big pitches when he had to.”
When asked about Sherry’s performance on Tuesday, Pierson’s head coach couldn’t help but use the word “awesome” over and over again.
“He was awesome today,” Tortorella said about his freshman outfielder, who also plays shortstop when Loesch is on the mound and will replace Markowski as the team’s number three starter for the time being. “He’s gotten better everyday and he’s getting more and more confident.
“He’s still only a freshman,” Tortorella added, “but he’s really starting to feel comfortable about himself.”