By Gavin Menu
The spring of 2012 was a dream season for the Pierson Whalers baseball team, which posted an 18-2 record and won Suffolk County and Long Island Class C championships, falling two wins short of a state title.
But on a cold day at Mashashimuet Park on Monday, Whalers head coach Jon Tortorella was focused more on fine-tuning his team’s fundamentals than with re-living past glory.
“That’s in the past now,” Tortorella said as his team prepared for a scrimmage with East Hampton. “But the thing that is going to help us from that experience last year is those guys realize how hard that was, and what a small margin of error it takes. We have to start appreciating the smaller aspects of the game.”
Pierson won the Long Island Class C championship over East Rockaway last June by scoring just one run on three hits. The result was flipped a few days later as Pierson collected only three hits itself in a 3-0 loss to Haldane High School from Westchester County.
Those memories seem all the more distant for Tortorella and this year’s team, especially since Pierson lost eight seniors to graduation last year. Returning, however, is a strong core of players who played key roles in leading Pierson last postseason and who will be relied upon again in 2013.
Senior left-handed pitcher Colman Vila returns to his spot atop the rotation after posting a perfect 10-0 record last season. He will be joined by fellow senior Jake Bennett, who, like Vila, is able to throw fastballs in the low 80 mile-per-hour range while also keeping hitters off balance with curveballs and change-ups.
Junior Forrest Loesch is coming off an outstanding basketball season and will likely be the team’s third starting pitcher this spring. From there, Tortorella said almost everybody on Pierson’s 11-man roster has the ability to pitch.
“Almost every player on our team is a pitcher in some way,” Tortorella said, pointing out that juniors Tim Markowski and Nick Kruel, in particular, should contribute right away.
Another player who is expected to contribute early and often is returning All-County catcher Aaron Schiavoni, a junior slugger who led the Whalers at the plate last season while also contributing solid defense from behind the plate.
Kruel, who comes back this spring after missing soccer and basketball seasons because of a severe ankle injury suffered early last fall, will play first base along with Joe Faraguna, who also returns to the diamond this season after having injured his knee on two separate occasions.
Junior Kyle Sturmann will be the team’s regular second baseman and Loesch is expected to start at short. Markowski and Faraguna should split time at third base, according to Tortorella.
Vila, Bennett, junior Max Yardley and two sophomores, Jack Fitzpatrick and Theo Gray, will hold down the outfield, with the exact rotation dependent on who is pitching.
“We don’t have that depth, so you have to assume more roles and these guys can do that,” Tortorella said. “We all know each other really well. We know what they can do and they’re good baseball players. The difference between this group and most groups is some teams just have good athletes. We have a lot of good baseball players.”
After two more scrimmages this week, the Whalers will start the regular season on Monday, March 25, at home against Smithtown Christian at 3:30 p.m.