By Jacob Sisson
“I don’t want to lose any games this season.”
Those are bold words from Pierson/Bridgehampton Lady Whalers softball coach Melissa Edwards on the eve of the 2011 softball season. Considering that Edwards and the Lady Whalers graduated just two seniors last year, that goal could be a reachable reality.
“We’re definitely taking this season a day at a time, but there’s no reason that we shouldn’t be headed upstate this season,” says a confident coach Edwards. The Lady Whalers are hoping to improve on last year’s 14-4 mark that saw them finish second in Suffolk County’s League VIII.
“A lot of the team was on the field hockey squad this year, so they got to go up and experience the state tournament. I know they’re all eager to get back up there again.”
Despite last year’s excellent league record, the Lady Whalers met with disappointment in the first round of the Suffolk County Class “C” tournament, losing in the semi-finals against Mercy. Many of League VIII’s top talents have moved on, but that isn’t the case for the Lady Whalers.
“We’re bringing back a lot of our top talent from last year. We’ve got a great group of seniors who are really going to be the center of our team this year.
“We’re looking for a lot of leadership from our returning players. We’ve got seven or eight returning starters and with that I expect a lot.
“Offensively we should be pretty solid throughout the lineup, we have speed and power so I am expecting big things. Last year I focused a lot on our defense, but this season I am pretty confident in that and now it’s time to manufacture runs, get them on and get them around.
“We’re going to be very good from the top of the lineup to the bottom. We’re not going to be relying only on our one-through-five hitters. We’re going to be solid from the leadoff hitter to the number nine hitter.”
Those seniors are going to be critical, as the team is looking to leapfrog over perennial League VIII contenders Port Jefferson in the chase for the league title. The Royals finished last season with a 15-3 record, including winning both of the two teams’ matchups. The Lady Whalers’ only other losses came against Babylon and Bayport-Blue Point, who finished at the top of last season’s league seven standings.
“I’m expecting big seasons from Kaci Koehne, Kasey Gilbride, and Melanie Stafford.
“I have an amazing infield returning. With Melanie on the mound, we get really solid pitching. We have Catherine Musnicki as the catcher, Samantha James, who is one of the best defensive first baseman, I’d say, on Long Island, Lindsey Warne and Alexa Lantiere as our second basemen, Kaci Koehne holds down the short stop area, and Kasey Gilbride, who has grown so much as a softball player this past summer and winter will be at third. She can get to balls you’d never think anyone can get to.
“In the outfield I have Nina Hemby, Sariah Cafiero, and Julia Schiavoni, with help from Lindsey Warne and Alexa Lantiere. Newcomers India Hemby and Rebecca Spechenbach will see time in the outfield primarily and some infield here and there.”
Pierson/Bridgehampton gets their first crack at the top of the league when they welcome Port Jefferson to town on April 6. Other key matchups on the road to the post season will come on April 27, when the Lady Whalers welcome Bayport-Blue Point and on May 4 when the Lady Whalers head to Babylon.
The season closes on a high as the Lady Whalers square off against Port Jefferson and Mercy in back-to-back away matchups in the final two games of the 2011 regular season.
With that kind of roster, and that kind of motivation, you can see where coach Edwards gets her confidence.