By Benito Vila
There’s a moment in every contest when the outcome could go either way. Most often, the winner is determined by who can make the most of their opportunities and come through at a crucial time.
That timely combination of luck and skill allowed the Pierson varsity baseball Whalers to open League VIII play with a 6-3 win over Mercy on Tuesday. Down 3-0 after two innings, a hit batsman, heads up baserunning and an infield error brought the boys within two in the top of the third.
Still down 3-1 in coming to bat in the top of the sixth, the Whalers’ made something out of a Ryan Miller walk when, after Joe Mascali forced Miller at second, Kyle McGowin launched a right centerfield home run to tie the score. The pressure was suddenly on the Monarchs when Tyler Gilbride drew a walk to follow McGowin and Dane Riva stroked a two-out single to left.
The contest now on the edge, the outcome tipped the Whalers’ way when Joe Dowling’s swinging third strike rolled away from the Monarch catcher and the throw to first for the putout pulled the first baseman off the bag. Gilbride, who had taken off from second on the swing, alertly rounded third on the throw to first and headed home, sliding in safely with the go-ahead run.
Even though the Whalers left the bases loaded, Gavin Kudlak singling before the final out, that one-run lead was enough, McGowin going back to the mound enthused by his first-ever fence-clearing “dinger”. That extra shot of confidence was more than Monarchs bats could handle as McGowin added yet another zero to the home line in the bottom of the sixth.
In the top of the seventh, Mascali and McGowin posted a pair of runs to put Pierson up 6-3. Mascali started the rally with a one-out double, moving to third on a McGowin single. All the pre-season planning on both sides broke down when McGowin found himself picked off first and being chased to second; it was then that Mascali broke for home, coming in ahead of the throw, McGowin taking third when all the attention went elsewhere. The dust wasn’t quite settled when McGowin stirred it up again, taking home on a passed ball.
The Monarchs did not go easily in the seventh, a pair of singles putting runners at the corners with two outs. McGowin’s final pitch was hit sharply to third and fielded there by Eddie Schall who fired to first to earn the Whalers their first win of the season.
In completing the game, McGowin scattered eight hits and struck out eight, walking only two, the pitching highlight coming in a nine-pitch three-strikeout fourth inning that was key to keeping the Whalers close. The only notable defensive lapses behind McGowin came in the second, an infield error leading to Mercy’s first two runs and a mental hiccup sending one more home without a throw.
A Good Feeling
After the game McGowin said, “The home run felt nice. It was fun to finally hit one over a fence. It felt really good because when I went back out to the mound, the only thing I had to worry about was pitching.”
Whaler coach Sean Crowley praised both his team and his pitcher in saying, “We got down, we got tough and we came back strong in the later innings. That was nice to see and it’s a good feeling to get that first win.”
Going through his scorebook knowing the Whaler bats were quiet on Saturday in a 5-0 non-league loss to Southampton and then again early on Tuesday, Coach Crowley wistfully noted, “We have to find our groove with our hitting. We’re not there yet.” He brightened a bit in adding, “I hope this becomes one of those never-say-die teams.”
The Mercy series continued yesterday afternoon in Mashashimuet Park and concludes Friday at Mercy in Riverhead at 4:30 p.m.
On Monday, the Whalers travel to Stony Brook for a 4 p.m. start to open the next three-game set. On Tuesday the boys are back in the park, hosting the Bears at 4:30 p.m., and on Wednesday they are back at Stony Brook, first pitch at 3:30 p.m.
Whalers finished up their pre-season preparations last week with a scrimmage against Hampton Bays in the park on Wednesday and the non-league contest at Southampton.
The Whalers took it to the Baymen, taking a third-inning 8-0 lead and outscoring their visitors 11-5. The timely hitting of Dowling and Riva backed the scoreless pitching of Mascali and Brandon Kruel in the early going.
Kruel figured more prominently in the final outcome as a third baseman, cooling a rally by catching a runner in a rundown between first and second while also keeping a runner from advancing from third; that heads-up play kept the score 8-5 and sparked a final Whaler surge at the plate.
That feeling of goodwill seeped away Saturday as Mariner pitcher Chris Pike threw a masterful one-hit complete game, striking out 12 Whalers in the process. The only two Pierson rallies of any sort were cut short by over-aggressive baserunning, Southampton making the plays they had to make.
Mascali and McGowin split the game for Pierson. Mascali took the mound for the first three innings, giving up two earned runs, and McGowin the last three, surrendering one earned run before a defensive lapse allowed a pair of walks to become unearned runs.
Coach Crowley said afterwards, “Pike threw a nice game, especially for this time of year. Joe and Kyle had good early season accuracy and velocity and were able to throw a variety of pitches. That was all we were looking for.”
Heartbreak and Happiness
The Whaler baseball JV closed up their pre-season by outscoring Hampton Bays in their final scrimmage last Wednesday and then losing a close contest at home to Southampton on Saturday. The loss to the Mariners saw the game get away in the top of the seventh inning, a bases-loaded misplay in the outfield turning a 3-1 advantage into a 4-3 deficit.
Unfazed, the young Whalers came out to the park Tuesday and posted five runs in their first at-bat on their way to a 16-3 win over the Mercy JV. Jake Weingartner started and pitched five innings with Sean Romeo tossing the last two frames; all of the Monarch runs came early in the game and were unearned.
JV coach Henry Meyer was glad “to get everyone in and see some good two-out hitting.” Sean Romeo and his brother Frank were both four-for-four to lead the attack. Weingartner was also strong at the plate, going three-for-four while Jim Fusco and Emet Evgen were each two-for-four, those five batters going a collective 15-for-20.