By Jesse Rosenthal
The Pierson Varsity Baseball Whalers success in the 2010 season cannot be measured by reviewing their record. Considering the way in which they struggled in the beginning of the season, what they accomplished in the end was no small feat.
After losing their first eight games, three of which were blowout losses, the Whalers rallied through the second half of their schedule, winning six of their last nine games, and coming up just two wins shy of the playoffs. The last seven losses were by two runs or less.
There was no shortage of talent on Coach Jon Tortorella’s roster, which initially may have been part of the problem. A luxury problem no doubt, it was a problem nonetheless. With a staggering eleven seniors and a few talented juniors to choose from, Tortorella and his Whalers struggled early on to find a balance. Pitchers Brandon Kruel, Kyle McGowin and Jake Weingartner who played first base, center field and shortstop respectively when not on the mound, made for a difficult time moving around the defense, the infield especially, to find the perfect combination of backup in the field for the ace pitching.
Although it was officially recorded as a loss, Tortorella cited game three of the Port Jefferson series as the pivotal moment in his team’s season. The Whalers fought back from a 10-3 Port Jeff lead to tie the game at ten in the sixth inning. Port Jeff scored two in the bottom of six and the Whalers again tied the game in the seventh. Unfortunately, according to league rules the score reverts back to the last completed inning in the event of darkness, so Pierson’s runs were nullified, leaving them with a 12-10 loss.
Despite the official outcome “I think that was when we really came together,” said Tortorella. “We started to believe in ourselves and each other.”
The Whalers found that balance in the infield, bats came alive, base running got smarter, and the boys went on to win six of their next seven games.
It was a team effort the entire season, according to Coach Tortorella. His eleven seniors all played vital roles. Here are the highlights in the coach’s words.
1. George Hoglund came through big for us at the end of the season. George was injured most of the year, but he came up with some big hits when we needed him most. He also played great defense at 3B.
2. Eddie Schall improved drastically this year. He was solid behind the plate and was a vocal leader on the field. His bat really came along as the season went on.
3. Brandon Kruel was great on the mound. He threw strikes, was very effiient with his pitches and kept hitters off balance. His bat was key for our offense.
4. Kyle McGowin came along as a player and as a leader. He was hitting really well at the end of the season. His baserunning and defense was conisistent all year. He did a great job on the mound and came through when we needed him most.
5. T.J. Arreguin had a solid season. He provided some good pop at the plate and drove in some big runs. His defense improved tremendously and he also had some good innings on the mound.
6. Mark Mahoney played great defense all year. He is very consistent in the outfield and always makes the right play. He made solid contributions at the plate and on the bases as well.
7. Jake Federico played a solid 2B this year. He brings energy and hustle everyday. At the plate, he had some big hits and always had productive at bats.
8. Cesar Bernados was a tremendous part of this team. His work ethic, attitude and dedication were exactly how every player should conduct himself. He was one of the most improved and respected players on the team.
9. Jeff Schimmer made the play of the year in a very big spot. He saved the game and our season with his diving catch in the outfield against Smithtown Christian. He had a great attitude all year and was a valuable player in all aspects of the game.
10. Dane Riva is a very hard working, tough player. He played some good defense in the outfield and also improved dramatically. He conducted himself very respectfully every day and worked very hard to improve his game.
11. Joey Dowling played solid defense for us this year and he improved at the plate, having some of his best at-bats at the end of the season. He brought some real energy to this team.
Juniors Jake Weingartner, Tyler Gilbride, Gavin Kudlak and Lukas Wheeler also made invaluable contributions to the 2010 Whalers according to Tortorella.
“Jake had a tremendous year,” said Tortorella. He solidified our SS position a the end of the year and played a great 3B. He also stepped up on the mound. Offensively, he batted cleanup and was killing the ball all season.”
“Tyler did a solid job leading off for our team,” said Tortorella. He improved dramatically at SS and really stepped up behind the plate for us at the end of the season.”
“Gavin and Lukas were both tremendous in the outfield.”
Coach Tortorella echoed what was clear for anyone watching closely this season. “Our record does not indicate the success we had as a team,” he said. We improved dramatically from the beginning of the season, came together as a team and matured a lot as people. I am proud to have coached these guys. They worked hard, fought hard and played hard.”
Next season will see a younger, greener Whaler baseball squad take the field. If Tortorella can rouse the same amount of passion for the game, and hunger to win from his youngbloods as he got from his team this season, and if they can stay positive in the face of true adversity as they did this season, next season is sure to be just as exciting as 2010 was.