By Jesse Rosenthal
It was a tough week so far for the Pierson Baseball Whalers. The season opener at Center Moriches on Tuesday resulted in 6-0 no hitter for Center Moriches pitcher Joey Gonzalez. Two stolen bases and two singles in the second inning, followed by a lead-off homerun and a wild pitch in the fifth and some all-around tired defense through six and seven contributed to the six runs scored against Pierson.
Last night’s home opener saw a more productive Whaler offense and some solid early pitching from starter Brandon Kruel, but ultimately errors in the double digits and hot bats at the top of Center Moriches’ order led to a 15-8 loss for Tortorella’s Whalers.
Following a quick top of the first in which Kruel struck out two, walked one and made an easy play on a ground ball back to the mound, the Whalers offense came out swinging.
A lead-off walk for Tyler Gilbride and a hard hit single on the ground into left from Jake Federico found the Whalers with good speed on both bags. A failed pick-off attempt and a passed ball at first base put both runners in scoring position. A single to left from catcher Jake Weingartner gave the Whalers an early 2-0 lead.
In the top of the second Center Moriches responded with some offense of their own. Two singles, one chop to the shortstop, and two errors later the game was tied at 2-2. After some serious hustle from pitcher Brandon Kruel led to a Center Moriches baserunner being tagged out between third and home things started to get hairy. After hitting a batter and walking the next, Kruel found himself in a two-out, bases loaded jam facing Bampure, Center Moriches number three hitter. Kruel kept his cool and Bampure went down swinging to end the inning.
Center Moriches scored one more in the top half of the third on two singles to center field, a wild pitch and a hard chop to second baseman Gavin Kudlak.
A line drive single to left off the bat of Jake Federico to lead off the bottom of the third put some quick feet on first. Federico, who went 3-for-4 on the day, stole second and third and then tagged up on a sac fly to center field from Dane Riva to tie the game at three.
The top of four saw Kruel retire two batters in two pitches, both hard grounders to Federico who displayed solid defensive skills as well. Another ground out gave Kruel a three-up, three-down fourth.
A double in the gap in right center off the bat of Brandon Kruel, followed by some heads up baserunning gave the Whalers a 4-3 lead after four innings.
In the top of the fifth, however, the wheels fell off. A Joey Gonzalez triple followed by an error at third found Gonzalez scoring and a runner on first. After stealing second and then arriving at third on a wild pitch, Center Moriches picked up a walk to get runners at the corners. With one out, Federico misplayed a possible double play ball, allowing one run to score and putting Center Moriches ahead 5-4. A single to left and then a walk with the bases juiced scored one more.
Tortorella moved Kruel to first base and brought in reliever Eddie Schall to try and get out of a bases loaded situation. “Brandon pitched very well,” said Tortorella. He pitched out of some trouble and kept the hitters off balance. I thought he did a good job today.”
With Schall on the mound, a questionable call on a double up the left field line scored two more and the Whalers were able to get out of the inning, but not without allowing the lead to grow to 8-4.
Following a one, two, three bottom of the fifth for the Whalers offense and an uneventful sixth, the Whalers defense crumbled in the seventh. Multiple errors in the field, two wild pitches and another Gonzalez triple (aided by an error at second base), left the Whalers looking at an 8-run deficit.
Donald Doran came in to pitch relief with one out, but was unable to stifle the Center Moriches offense. Tired defense and another wild pitch gave Center Moriches a 15-4 lead after half of seven.
The Whalers rallied late, scoring four runs in the bottom of the seventh, but were unable to close the gap.
“We didn’t make the plays in pressure situations,” said assistant coach Benito Vila. “They are a good hitting team and they will capitalize on those situations,” he said of Center Moriches.
The Whalers were not completely unworthy of praise, however. “Jake and Brandon were impressive at the plate,” said Tortorella. “They had a great approach and hit the ball very well. Both players made a difference on the bases as well.”
Going into the third game of the series, which is at Center Moriches on Friday, Coach Tortorella is looking to make the necessary adjustments.
“Our performance was unacceptable and the boys know that. I never question their heart or attitude, we just need to make some plays out there. I know they will come back tomorrow and get us to where we need to be. We need to learn from today and make sure we play this game the right way.”