By Benito Vila
All too often the tempo and tenor of a game can turn on a single play. So it was Monday in the Long Island Class C championship, a sinking bases-loaded fly ball eluding the glove of Pierson’s normally reliable center fielder, two runs scoring.
That miscue set mayhem into motion, a dropped flip at second, an elusive high pop on the right side and a throwing error on a steal allowing Nassau Class C champion Oyster Bay to roll up a 6-0 lead in their first at-bat. Senior pitcher Joe Mascali managed to finally work his way out of the first, getting a grounder to third and a strikeout to end the inning.
Though a Mascali double and a Gavin Kudlak groundout scored a run for Pierson in the top of the second, it was not enough to get the Suffolk C champs back in the game. As the innings played out, the Whalers were unable to spoil Baymen pitcher Jake Robinson’s rhythm nor were they able to find theirs, heading home with a rotten 11-1 loss.
The sure-handed play of the Oyster Bay infield offset the Whalers’ swings, shortstop Matt Capozzo scooping up everything hit his way with first baseman Jared Frydman ably handling each infield throw and three tricky grounders. That solid defensive combination helped Robinson settle in and toss an assortment of breaking pitches in sending the Whalers away with just three walks and one hit.
It’s not that the afternoon was without some bright spots for the Whalers: Mascali, Mahoney and Riva making their plays in the outfield; Kyle McGowin coming into pitch three innings of one-run relief; Tyler Gilbride and Ryan Miller keeping the left side of the infield tight; and catcher Casey Crowley nabbing an out at third with a pump fake to first on a sacrifice bunt.
The loss closes out a 15-10 season for the Whalers, who earned their county title in taking two of three from defending Suffolk champion Port Jefferson. The Class C championship is the third one for Pierson baseball in the last 10 years and will soon be the only “ball” to grace a banner in the gym for a boys’ team this school year.
The season’s other highlights include a doubleheader sweep of eventual league champion Southold, a breakthrough outing on the mound from Crowley after two one-sided losses to Center Moriches and errorless defense in a stretch of mid-season games.
The team came to rely on the pitching of Mascali, McGowin and Crowley, the trio running up a collective 13-7 mark. Mascali was 6-2, McGowin 5-4 and Crowley 2-1. Eddie Schall recorded the other two wins in relief and Brandon Kruel took three hard-luck losses.
Crowley (.315) and McGowin (.313) were the team’s top two hitters, and set the pace in most offensive categories. McGowin led in home runs and runs batted in (2 HRs and 21 RBIs); Crowley contributing one long ball and knocking ten home. Crowley scored 26 runs, Miller following with 16 and McGowin next with 15. Crowley scrambled for 18 steals, Miller and McGowin swiping 12 apiece.
Though the bats were quiet in the last two tournament games, the growing confidence of underclassmen Dane Riva, Gavin Kudlak, Joe Dowling, T.J. Arreguin, Gilbride, Schall and Kruel leave skipper Sean Crowley an experienced core to work with next year. The work put in by Mahoney, George Hoglund, Jeffrey Schimmer and Jim Fusco will make the 2010 squad even stronger, as will the addition of JV players Jake Weingartner, Frank Romeo and Paul Dorego, who were called up for the post-season.
In wrapping up his season, Coach Crowley said, “No matter how you define success, we had a championship season. We had the team concept and senior leadership working all season long at the varsity level and we had program-wide success at the JV and middle school levels. It’s good to know that school age boys want to be a part of Whaler baseball.”