By Benito Vila
The snow started to come down late Monday afternoon a week to the day after a nor’easter closed schools and made for a wild white start to March. Throughout Pierson these flakes were not quite as welcome, baseball and softball players looking out windows, holding their gloves and heading for the gym for their first practices of the spring.
Incredibly enough, their teams are scheduled to play outdoors for the first time next week. The Lady Whalers open up their pre-season scrimmages next Thursday in Mashashimuet Park, the varsity and JV squads hosting Westhampton at 4 p.m. The Whalers scrimmage Southampton next Friday, the varsity at home in the park at 4 p.m. and the JV away at 3:30 p.m.
The boys are due to continue scrimmaging the very next day, the varsity heading over to East Hampton for a 10 a.m. start that Saturday and the JV meeting the Bonackers in the park. The girls have a non-league match-up with the Lady Bonackers away Tuesday, March 24 and are back in the park the next day to scrimmage Riverhead.
A Lucky Start
The Lady Whaler varsity will be led by Melissa Edwards, a 2001 Riverhead graduate and a 2005 Springfield College graduate who has previously coached softball at Suffolk University and at Brandeis University. The JV will once again have Kathy Amicucci at the helm.
Coach Edwards saw 26 players turn out for her first official practice practice Monday, and is looking to keep 14 on varsity. Having seen the girls throw in open gym sessions during the winter, she said afterwards, “I am very pleased with the core that we have returning. All the kids want to play; they are showing up, they’re working hard, and they all want a spot. When you have everyone there wanting it as bad as these kids do, you can’t not be happy with what they are bringing to the program.”
In describing what she wants to do in the next week, Coach Edwards added, “I am looking to see who wants the nine starting spots out there. I am fortunate to have more than one player at each position, and on top of that more than one player that can play the position well. I just need to sit back and watch who is going to run with it.”
Coach Edwards’ concern for her team goes beyond the field, noting, “These kids all like one another, so as a staff we are lucky. However, they sure can chat it up. They need a little more focus, because when these kids are focused their play improves tremendously. I would like to see all of them doing the little things, and that’s what this coaching staff is here to do: make these girls the best ball players we can, while making them great people. I want to see the girls to play instinctively and trust their stuff; I always want them looking ahead to the next play. Being a student of the game is a huge part of succeeding as a program.”
Ball in the Sky
Sean Crowley enters into his 22nd season as Whaler varsity baseball coach, looking to notch his 200th Pierson win and secure another berth in the county playoffs. The Whaler JV will be led by Bridgehampton history teacher Henry Meyer, a former Bonac baseball player and coach, who played catcher for Pace University.
The baseball Whalers were in the gym Monday and outside Tuesday, 30 strong, with the team assignments in flux. Coach Crowley said he expects “to use the first ten days to get the arms in shape, let the boys see the ball fly in the sky and set the focus on hitting so that we can take it to the opposition.”
With most of last year’s varsity pitchers returning, Coach Crowley admits he has “high expectations for the new season. Whenever a team returns with pitching, it should have high hopes.” Even with that seasoned talent, making for the playoffs will take some extra effort this spring, the Section XI (Suffolk County) rules committee recently requiring all qualifiers to have a better than .500 record; in years past, .500 was sufficient.
Coach Crowley likes the mood of both squads, having watched them come together in some informal winter workouts, which he said were “enough to prepare, but not so much that they aren’t fresh and enthused about a new season.”
Softball and baseball are not the only options for Pierson students this spring. Lacrosse, track and tennis are also available through a “shared sports” program involving Ross, Shelter Island and East Hampton.
Pierson girls are the majority of the Ross girls’ JV lacrosse team, those Lady Whalers donning Ross blue to play with their Lady Raven and Lady Indian teammates. Pierson boys are also making their way down 114, delighted to be a part of the first Ross boys’ varsity lacrosse team.
Ross will also have Pierson boys and Pierson girls on its track teams, while East Hampton will have four Whalers coming to play tennis.