By Benito Vila
It’s something that happens in every season to every team: not everyone is good to go and it’s up to the coach and the players to improvise. That’s when all involved learn the measure of the team and its abilities.
The 2009 Pierson varsity baseball Whalers are in the midst of a nine-game stretch against the top of the league, going into today’s game at Center Moriches 4-2 in League VII and 4-3 overall. A 5-2 win at Stony Brook last Wednesday and a 10-3 loss to Center Moriches in Mashashimuet Park, keep the Whalers’ sights on the post-season but leave them short-handed, injuries and absences limiting who Coach Sean Crowley has available.
When the school vacation left the team without two starters against Stony Brook, the boys battled and took two close games, 2-1 last Tuesday at home and Wednesday’s win away. But late in the game at Stony Brook, it became obvious the Whalers were going to have more holes to plug when starting center fielder and pitcher Joe Mascali went down with a strained hamstring.
That injury left the boys short on the field against undefeated Center Moriches, but not on resolve, the team taking a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first. In gaining the lead, starting pitcher and top hitter Kyle McGowin rolled his ankle while coming into score, limiting his mobility and ability to drive off the mound.
After seeking assistance from the trainer, McGowin pitched through the second, retiring the bottom of the Devils’ line-up in just eight pitches. The injury proved too much in the third and then again in the fourth, the top of the Center Moriches line-up getting on base by pluck, McGowin unable to cleanly field little rollers just off the mound.
With those batters on, the core of the Devils’ line-up came through, a double and a sacrifice fly making the score 4-2 in the third and a long home run leaving the Whalers down 7-2 in the fourth.
Though McGowin was relieved in the fifth, Eddie Schall coming out from behind the plate, he stayed in the game at third base and managed to bring the Whalers to within 7-3 with an RBI single in the bottom of the fifth. Another three-run Devil rally in the sixth pushed the score to 10-3, once again the top of the visiting line-up getting on with singles and the bats in the middle driving them in.
In the win against the Bears last Wednesday, the Whalers played errorless defense and that trend continued for the most part Tuesday, McGowin’s inability to move being the exception. At the same time, the Pierson bats banged out timely hits in both of this week’s games, creating more confidence at the plate throughout the line-up.
The hits started coming for the Whalers at Stony Brook, a run-scoring single by Schall in the fourth following a one-out double by Brandon Kruel. Though Schall was called out at second, Mark Mahoney kept the scoring going on his own, blasting a pitch over the right fielder’s head and beating the throw home easily. Kruel and Schall singles combined to spark another rally in the sixth, Schall driving in two with his shot.
The plays of the game came courtesy of Mascali in centerfield, a throw home nailing a runner attempting to tag up on a fly ball to end the fourth and a diving catch ending the sixth with runners at second and third after Stony Brook had scored two. Those were not the only plays to keep the Bears away from the plate, Mahoney recovering a ball that bounced away in right, relaying it to first baseman Joey Dowling who fired in to Schall at the plate for an out in the fifth.
Schall relieved McGowin at Stony Brook in the seventh and earned a six-batter no-hit save, leaving the bases full on three walks. McGowin came home with the win, going six innings, scattering nine hits, striking out six, walking two and allowing two earned runs.
Hits in Bunches
The timely hitting continued Tuesday in the team’s first turn at-bat, Casey Crowley leading off with a single up the middle, advancing to third on a wild pick-off attempt and McGowin singling him home with a line drive to right. An infield single by Schall put pressure on the Devils, who then misplayed a Kruel grounder to score McGowin and give Pierson a 2-1 lead.
Down 7-2 in the sixth, Crowley sparked another rally with a one-out single. Gavin Kudlak followed with a double down the left field line and McGowin drove Crowley in with a soft single. But that’s when the hits stopped coming, a swinging strikeout and a ground ball ending the inning.
The Whalers are home again tomorrow at 4:30 p.m., hosting Center Moriches in the final game of that series. Monday the boys go back to Stony Brook to make-up a game rained out last week and Wednesday they are in the park against Hampton Bays in non-league action.
JV Rolls On
The Whaler JV kept up its winning ways, outscoring Stony Brook at home last Wednesday by more than 15 runs and coming away from Center Moriches ahead 8-1. The team is 5-0 in league play and 5-1 overall.
The JV plays in Center Moriches tomorrow, at home Monday against Stony Brook and in Hampton Bays Wednesday.