By Gavin Menu; photography by Michael Heller
There’s a bright and confident aura surrounding the Pierson softball team as it heads into the spring season. And rightfully so.
The Lady Whalers have returned almost their entire lineup from last year’s team, which advanced to the New York State Class C Final Four before losing to eventual state champion, Frewsburg, in the semifinal round. The returning players include co-captains Kasey Gilbride, Emma Romeo and junior pitcher Sam Duchemin, all who have championship pedigree to spare and high hopes of overcoming last season’s semifinal loss.
“They’re focused, they have their goals set, they know what they want to do,” head coach Melissa Edwards said this week, speaking specifically about her co-captains, who were part of the school’s state championship field hockey team in the fall. “They are the leaders of my team, but this is a team thing. There is an overall family aspect to it. This is a group effort, and they get that.”
Gilbride and Romeo return for their senior years after having played varsity for the last four seasons. Gilbride is the team’s “coach on the field,” according to Edwards, not to mention its best hitter and sure-handed shortstop.
“Kasey overall is the consummate athlete,” Edwards said. “She’s lights out in field hockey, but she’s a very good softball player as well. She has speed and power.”
Romeo, who was injured for most of field hockey season, returns as the starting catcher and battery mate to Duchemin, who should be one of the top pitchers in the league, if not Suffolk County.
“Pitching is the only thing I worry about in the offseason,” Edwards said. “But Sam plays travel all year long, and as long as she is throwing, that’s all that matters. Pitching has to be a year-round thing.”
Also returning to the infield this spring are juniors Sabrina Baum, at second base, and Meg Schiavoni, at third. Freshman Lottie Evans returns at first base, giving the Lady Whalers a formidable, albeit young, infield that is stacked with talent.
“We are a returning squad, but we’re still a very young returning squad with only two seniors,” Edwards said. “Meg Schiavoni has gotten so much better, and Sabrina is so much better as well. Lottie’s so strong, she’s tall, she’s got it all. My infield is insane.”
Edwards is also excited to bring back a strong core of returning players in the outfield, including junior Zoe Diskin and freshman Isabel Peters, who started last year as an eighth grader. Freshmen Cali Cafiero, Maizy Guyer and Mackenzie Beadenbeck will compete for time in the outfield as well.
The Lady Whalers’ charge upstate began last year with a win over Port Jefferson in a three-game Suffolk County Class C Championship series. Port Jeff has moved up to Class B this year, so the only teams that could stop Pierson from another county title are Southold-Greenport and Stony Brook. There are no Class C teams in Nassau County, so a win in Suffolk would advance Pierson straight to regional competition.
There has been a re-alignment with league play this season, and Pierson will compete in League V with all of the Suffolk’s Class B and Class C schools. The league season will begin this Monday, March 24, with a home game against Mattituck at 4:30 p.m.
“It’s pretty neat coming off the run we had last year,” Edwards said. “And there’s an expectation to go back. Kasey, Emma and Sam are doing a dynamic job of keeping everyone focused.”
“Overall this season, we’re very optimistic,” she continued. “Our goal is to go back to states and we’re working hard at it.”