By Gavin Menu
The Pierson-Bridgehampton softball team, which overachieved all the way to the New York State Class C semifinals, had its run come to an end with a 7-0 loss to the eventual state champion Frewsburg Lady Bears in Queensbury on Saturday.
It was the second consecutive season that the Lady Whalers lost a semifinal game to the eventual state champion, as Frewsburg went on to defeat Sandy Creek, 2-1 in the afternoon final.
“We graduated a lot last year and we had a very young team,” head coach Melissa Edwards said. “But I always have high expectations because I expect a lot from these kids. Did I expect we would go back to states this year? No.”
After exploding for 24 runs in a win over Haldane in a Southeast Regional on June 4, the Lady Whalers had their bats silenced on Saturday by Frewsburg ace Sam Mott, who allowed no hits through six innings before being replaced on the mound by Kaitlyn Blanchard, who finished off a combined no-hitter for the Lady Bears by pitching a shutdown seventh inning.
The loss marked the end of a season in which the Lady Whalers built a roster comprised largely of young and inexperienced players, with only one senior in Julia Schiavoni and two juniors in Kasey Gilbride and Emma Romeo. The team fought through illness and injury to post a 14-8 record while winning Suffolk County and Long Island Class C titles.
“The second half of the season, we really started to click,” Edwards said. “People were upset on Saturday, obviously, but everyone said we were going to be stronger next year. They all have no doubt in their minds we will be back next year.”
Frewsburg, which had eight seniors on its roster, including Mott, got on the board early on Saturday, scoring three runs off a combination of hits and defensive errors. Pierson starter Sam Duchemin settled down over the next two innings, but more defensive mishaps in the sixth inning allowed Frewsburg to score three more runs and push the lead to 6-0. The Lady Bears tacked on a run in the seventh inning and their pitching took care of the rest.
Edwards on Tuesday said Schiavoni would be missed for her leadership and willingness to play any position on the field. The loss on Saturday ended an impressive three-sport career for Schiavoni, who was All-County in soccer, played two years of varsity basketball and was a four-year member of the varsity softball team. At the school’s athletic awards banquet last week, she was recognized as the top female senior athlete.
“Julia has been great, she gives 150 percent and she wears her heart on her sleeve,” Edwards said.
With Schiavoni lost to graduation, Edwards and the Lady Whalers would turn toward next season and the goal of a third consecutive trip to the state final four. The team started four eighth graders this year in Cali Cafiero, Isabel Peters, Lottie Evans and Alyssa Kneeland, and Duchemin and second baseman Sabrina Baum are only sophomores.
“Our eighth graders have become impact players,” Edwards said. “Lottie Evans has done an amazing job and has grown so much as an athlete and as a player. Isabel Peters has done an amazing job in the outfield, they all did.”
Edwards praised Duchemin for her hard work and dedication to becoming one of Suffolk County’s top pitchers. She pitched every inning for the Lady Whalers this year.
“Sam is going to be amazing,” Edwards said. “She’s smart and very coachable.”
Then, of course, there is Gilbride and Romeo, who will be two of the best returning players in Suffolk County. The two came up to varsity together as eighth graders and will enter their senior season with a legitimate chance at winning a state title.
“Kasey is a great athlete, a phenomenal athlete,” Edwards said. “And she’s only going to get stronger and faster and more confident. And Emma will be playing travel ball again this summer so she will improve as well.
“Everyone can improve,” Edwards added, which is a scary thought for next year’s Class C opponents.