By Benito Vila
In every great story there’s a moment when the hero seems destined to fail, the challenges and the particulars having grown beyond what can reasonably be overcome. But in every hero there’s a resolve that makes the impossible possible.
While not every high school varsity baseball game follows such a storybook script, last Friday’s contest between Pierson and Center Moriches in Mashashimuet Park certainly had a sweet ending for the Whalers. The boys fired out to a 9-0 lead and held off the Devils, 9-3, to give the visitors their first league loss of the season and improve their own league mark to 5-3.
The win keeps the Whalers within sight of the playoffs, five more wins in their next ten league contests being required for a Class C berth. None of those wins will come easy if the first eight games of the season are any measure of what the Whalers are likely to face the rest of the way.
Today, the Pierson varsity travels to Stony Brook in a make-up of a twice-postponed series finale. The other two games of that series went to the Whalers, but both times the Bears had the tying or winning runs on when the final out was made.
Tomorrow, the boys are in Hampton Bays for a non-league contest at 4 p.m. and Saturday they host East Hampton at 10 a.m. in another non-league match-up.
League play resumes Tuesday, undefeated league-leader Port Jefferson coming into the park to open a three-game series at 4:30 p.m. The boys take the long ride to the Royals Wednesday and are back home next Friday, again at 4:30 p.m.
Center Moriches made off with the first two games of the Pierson series by scoring in bunches, the top of the Devil line-up getting on and the middle hitters launching long blasts. The scores in those games were 10-3 and 12-0, perhaps leaving the Whaler faithful to wonder whether the one-sided outcomes were a true measure of their team.
When Pierson’s starting pitcher, Casey Crowley, walked the first two Devil batters Friday, it looked like the Whalers were in for more of the same suffering. But then everything changed, Crowley striking out two long-ball hitters, one swinging, one looking, and getting the Devils’ biggest home run threat to bounce out weakly to third.
That intense resolve to win carried into the Whalers’ first at-bat. Crowley led off the Pierson first by drawing a walk and stealing second, coming into score when Gavin Kudlak singled into left field.
Kudlak kept the rally going, stealing second on the first pitch to Joe Mascali and moving to third when Mascali singled. Eddie Schall drove in Kudlak by knocking a grounder to the right side and although Mascali was eventually left stranded, the 2-0 lead was all the Whalers needed to feel the game was theirs.
One, then Six More
Crowley made short work of the bottom of the Devils order in the top of the second and bunted the Whalers to another run in the home half, bringing in Joey Dowling on a squeeze play. Dowling had lined a one-out single to left to get on, advancing to third on a single to right by Dane Riva.
In the third, Crowley pitched through an infield error and earned an out at home the hard way by quickly covering the plate on a pitch that skipped through to the backstop. That heads-up defense kept the pressure on the Devils, the Whalers taking advantage in the bottom of the inning, a walk, an error, an infield out and four singles running up six quick runs and pushing the lead to 9-0. The rally started with Schall drawing a one-out walk and the Devil infield misplaying a Brandon Kruel grounder in a hurried attempt at a double play. After a Tyler Gilbride single loaded the bases, Dowling drove in one run on a fielder’s choice before Riva singled again to knock in two more.
Crowley singled right after Riva, Kudlak stepping in and swatting a single to right field to bring home two more runners and knock the Devil starter from the game. A walk to Mascali loaded the bases for Schall, who battled long enough to have Crowley scamper home on a wild pitch before being set down on strikes.
Pierson’s 9-0 lead lasted until the sixth when a walk, a single, another walk and a ground out earned Center Moriches their first run. The Devils added a pair in their half of the seventh, a double, a triple and a sacrifice fly making the score 9-3, before Crowley induced a ground out and a fly ball to right to end the game.
In going the distance in his first start of the season, Crowley scattered five hits and seven walks, striking out four. The error in the third was the only one made behind him, the Whaler outfield tracking down the long fly balls hit by the middle of the Center Moriches line-up and the infield picking up everything else.
In coming off the field after the last out, Crowley came in to hug his coach, his father Sean Crowley, who later described the moment asÂ “heartfelt. It was great; the stars aligned. All the things we did Friday worked and we earned ourselves a big win. Now everyone knows that we’re for real and that we can play with the best. That means we have to keep working even harder than we have been, because now we’re a team to beat.”
Going into yesterday’s game with Hampton Bays, Kudlak, a sophomore, led the Whalers in batting with 11 hits and a .407 average. Team captain and senior Crowley trailed him with a .357 average and a .438 on-base percentage.
On the mound, Kyle McGowin is 2-1 with 14 strikeouts in 14 innings and Mascali is 2-1 with 22 strikeouts in 21 innings.
The relief pitching of junior T.J. Arreguin, who came into the second Devil’s game on short notice and threw four innings of three-hit ball, has given Coach Crowley more to work with in the middle of the diamond. Also, the line drive hitting of juniors Riva and Dowling has added a new dimension to the bottom of the batting order, setting up Crowley and Kudlak as they come to bat.