By Jese Rosenthal
The Lady Whalers are poised for playoff success. Although they lost 14-7 against divisional rivals Port Jefferson last week, they rallied against Center Moriches winning 5-2 the next day and pulled out a close 2-1 victory against McGann-Mercy on Monday, who will be their first playoff competition this coming Saturday.
The first round of the playoffs is a one-game elimination round. If Pierson defeats Mercy on Saturday they will see Port Jefferson for a best of three series the following week.
The Port Jefferson game came down to the inability to make adjustments, according to Varsity Coach Melissa Edwards.
“We didn’t really know what to expect,” said Edwards about the Lady Whalers last regular season encounter with Port Jefferson. With Port Jeff’s ace pitcher out on injury, which would normally be a blessing, Pierson struggled to make adjustments at the plate against a much slower pitcher.
Edwards also cited the rivalry between Pierson and Port Jefferson as the root of what can turn the matchup into “a bit of a headgame.”
Melanie Stafford has been tremendous all season for the Lady Whalers. If nerves are to blame for her somewhat anomalous performance against Port Jefferson, she has rarely let them be seen throughout the season.
“Its frustrating,” said Edwards about the loss. “We can’t let them [Port Jefferson] get into our heads. We just have to go out there knowing that we are a great team. We’ve played great games this season. Now that we have seen Port Jefferson with the new pitching, I think we will be fine.”
If the Lady Whalers continue to perform at the level they have been, maintaining the standard they set during the regular season, then the postseason should be theirs for the taking.
The girls ended the regular season with a 14-4 record, second only to rivals Port Jefferson who ended one game ahead in league play at 15-3.
A complete team effort on any given day, a few key players on the Lady Whalers roster did really come into their own this season and give them the edge that they needed, according to Edwards.
Kaci Koehne has been huge defensively at short stop and has come up with clutch hits all season. Kasey Gilbride, an eighth grader, has also performed exceedingly well on both sides of the ball according to Edwards. “She really stepped up for us,” said Edwards. Samantha James has been solid at first base and has been “big offensively,” said Edwards.
Natalie Abbene has been the Lady Whalers “Golden Spike” according to Edwards. “Basically every time she gets on base she scores,” said Edwards. “She rarely walks, so when she gets a hit…when she gets on base, she is going to find a way to score.” Edwards is absolutely right. Abbene has 18 hits this season, and has scored nineteen runs.
Lindsey Warne, who battled injuries last season, has also played a pivotal role. “At second base, she always comes up with the ball,” said Edwards. “I don’t know how she does it.”
“I just have really good athletes,” said Edwards. “I would say that I have the best infield in league VIII, possibly in VII and VIII.”
Going into the postseason, Edwards is confident that her team will be able to make the necessary adjustments. Having just seen McGann-Mercy, they are in a unique position to learn from last week’s game and figure out ways to capitalize and manufacture runs like they have been doing most of the season.
“We’ve been focusing on hitting in practice the last couple of days,” said Edwards. “The defense has been solid. Melanie Stafford is fierce on the mound. If those bats come alive, there is nothing these girls can’t accomplish.”