By Andrew Rudansky
In just six short innings the Pierson/Bridgehampton Lady Whalers varsity softball team overwhelmed the visiting Southold/Greenport Lady Clippers, 12-0, in the team’s season opener.
The game, played on Tuesday, March 20, marks what Head Coach Melissa Edwards hopes is the beginning to a championship season.
“It is a nice opening day, it’s definitely great to get us going, to feel like we are on a high level,” she said. “Basically I told the team to just try put the ball in play, and let it happen.”
A dominating win like the one Tuesday is exactly what the team needed for a home opener. Last year the team graduated five seniors, and the starting lineup this year contains only three returning players. After the game Edwards said that the team’s confidence is still not where it needs to be, but a game like this can really help.
“I think we will be fine once the nerves settle a little bit,” said Edwards.
Senior Melanie Stafford and freshman Samantha Duchemin shared pitching responsibilities for the Lady Whalers in the game. The tandem were an imposing force, helping the Lady Whalers to shut out Southold/Greenport in the first of their two meetings this season.
Stafford pitched the first four innings of the game, giving an impressive performance. She finished with seven strikeouts, two hits and a walk, helping her team to jump out to a 7-0 lead before Duchemin was given the reins.
“Sammy [Duchemin] did very well on the mound following Melanie,” said Edwards, “I’m thoroughly impressed by her today.”
In two innings the freshman finished with one strikeout, no walks and the all-important save.
“I am going to have her piggy-backing Melanie [Stafford] all year, because today she proved that she could do that,” said Edwards.
The strength of the team’s overall lineup was a concern during tryouts earlier in the month, however, if this game is any indication the bats of the Lady Whalers should be just fine.
The Lady Whalers jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second when sophomore Kasey Gilbride hit a missile to center field, allowing senior center fielder Sariah Cafiero to cross home for the run.
After a quiet second inning, Pierson/Bridgehampton extended this lead in the third. The Lady Whalers were able to string together a series of walks and singles into 3 more runs in the inning, one coming from a bases-loaded walk, the other two from RBI singles from senior catcher Catherine Musnicki and junior right fielder Julia Schiavoni.
Southold/Greenport had a chance to fire back in the top of the sixth when three consecutive fielding errors by the Lady Whalers infield gave the Lady Clippers a bases-loaded, no outs situation. But good defense and a inning-ending strikeout by Duchemin left all three Lady Clippers runners stranded on base and helped Pierson/Bridgehampton maintain their shut out.
“We made some errors, but after we started communicating we regrouped,” said Edwards, “I said this is easy, field the ball, make the out, build.”
Up 12-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning, after a RBI single by Stafford, the officials called the game early due to the mercy rule.
Senior center fielder Sariah Cafiero finished 5 for 5 at the plate, two of those coming from fielding errors. Sophomore short stop Kasey Gilbride went 3 for 4, with three RBI, two doubles and a walk. Stafford went 4 for 4 with two RBI and a walk. Senior catcher Catherine Musnicki finished 2 for 4 with 2 RBI.
Despite Tuesday’s 12-0 shut out, Edwards warned that future match-ups against more accomplished teams would not be as easy.
“Going forward we are going to have those tight games against teams like Port Jeff and Center Moriches that are going to be 2-1 games,” she said. “We are going to battle.”
Pierson/Bridgehampton will next travel to Miller Place, today, March 21 at 4 p.m. to battle the Panthers in a non-league game. The Lady Whalers next home game will be on Tuesday, March 27 at 4:30 p.m. when they host the Stony Brook Lady Bears.