By Benito Vila
Pierson varsity baseball coach Sean Crowley came into this season 11 wins short of 200 for his Whaler career, knowing that 10 league wins would secure his team a berth in the county playoffs. Now, with two games still remaining in the regular season, this year’s squad has already reached both benchmarks and is looking to adding to those totals.
Heading off to play Smithtown Christian away yesterday, the Pierson boys stood at 11-5 in League VIII, in third place, and 12-7 overall. A doubleheader sweep over Southold/Greenport in Mashashimuet Park clinched the Class C tournament spot Friday and provided Coach Crowley’s milestone win. A 7-4 victory over Smithtown Christian here Tuesday secured home field advantage in the first playoff round which starts next week.
The Whalers close out league play in the park tomorrow, hosting the Knights at 4:30 p.m. The team’s playoff schedule will be announced Monday, with a home game next Thursday afternoon against Mercy or Port Jefferson being the most likely scenario.
Five Hours of Baseball
Rain last Thursday interrupted a make-up game in Southold, Pierson down 2-0 in the second inning when the sky opened up. With Southold due to miss starters over the weekend, it was agreed to play a doubleheader in the park with the Clippers being the “home” team.
Before the games, Coach Crowley cautioned his team noting the afternoon could go a few ways; “We could sweep, split or be swept, but either way we’re about to play five hours of baseball. It’s something we need everyone to commit to, win or lose. And it’s a day we’ll need every one and every thing we’ve got.”
All those pre-warm-up thoughts proved to be right on as each Whaler played a roll in earning a 6-5 extra-inning win in game one and sweeping the pair with a 6-2 victory in game two. Congratulated by his excited playoff-bound players afterwards, Coach Crowley said, “Like I said five hours ago, it could have gone one of three ways. And now we can look back at the day and enjoy what we’ve accomplished.”
In sharing his milestone with his team, Coach Crowley pointed out, “All those wins. It’s not me. I haven’t had a hit in 28 years. You guys did it. Thank you,” adding, “But I’m keeping this [game] ball.”
The afternoon did not start quite so upbeat, the Clippers taking advantage of a two-out error to build a four-run rally in the bottom of the third on a double, another error and two singles. Only a play at the plate, pitcher Casey Crowley covering and making the tag, got the Whalers out of the inning.
Down, the Pierson boys battled back to tie in the top of the fourth, a Joe Mascali double bringing in Ryan Miller and Kyle McGowin and a Joey Dowling single knocking in Eddie Schall and Mascali. The Whalers took the lead for the first time in the fifth, a walk to Crowley, a Gavin Kudlak sacrifice bunt, a Miller ground out and a wild pitch scoring a run.
The Clippers came back in their half of the sixth, a one-out walk and a stolen base and a two-out single tying the score, Crowley coming off the mound with the go-ahead run at first. Mascali closed out that threat with a one-pitch groundout, sending the game into a scoreless seventh.
In the top of the eighth the Southold pitcher struggled with his control, walking McGowin and Schall, and a stolen base and two wild pitches getting McGowin in with the go-ahead run. The Clippers did not go quietly in the “home” eighth, a two-out single and a stolen base moving the tying run into scoring position. But Mascali made all the right pitches to strike out the last Southold batter and come away with his fourth victory of the season.
Coming up first as the visitors, Pierson scored in their first at-bat in game two, Crowley drawing a walk and coming around on an infield error and a McGowin groundout. That advantage was short lived when Southold posted a pair of runs, two walks and two singles off Mascali putting the Clippers ahead.
Pierson came back to tie in the third, Mark Mahoney drawing a walk, stealing second, advancing to third on a groundout and scoring on a wild pitch. Mascali kept the score 2-2 in the bottom of the third, but was relieved by Schall in the bottom of the fourth.
Schall made the most of a three-run Whaler rally in the fifth and an insurance run in the sixth to close out the win. Coming off the bench, the junior surrendered just two hits and two walks in four innings to nail down his first varsity win.
The go-ahead runs in the fifth came courtesy of a two-out rally, started by a Crowley single to right and a Tyler Gilbride single to left. Miller followed with an RBI single to left, stole second and came into score when McGowin singled to right to drive in Gilbride and the Clipper infielders allowed the throw in to get away.
Schall helped his own cause in the sixth, his RBI single bringing in Dane Riva, who had stolen second base as a pinch runner after T.J. Arreguin earned a two-out walk. The Riva run put Pierson up 6-2 with the visiting “home” team not making much happen at the plate in their last two at-bats.
In closing out the sweep, Pierson overcame eight errors in the field, four in each game, beating a Class B Clipper team that had come in 11-2 as arguably the best hitting team in the league. Coach Crowley said afterwards, “They’re a good team but we did just a little better today. Eddie kept us close and then kept us ahead; those four innings were what we needed.”
Bases Loaded, Nobody Out
The Whalers went into Tuesday’s match-up with the Knights a little too keen on another win, an infield error and a botched rundown allowing a run to score in the top of the first. Crowley quickly evened the score, leading off the home half with a hard line drive to right center that split the outfielders and rolled so far he was able to circle the bases for a home run.
Pierson took the lead immediately at 2-1, Miller following Crowley with a single, stealing second, taking third on a wild pitch and coming into score on a RBI groundout by Schall.
The Crowley-Miller combination worked again in the third, Crowley hitting a single and Miller bunting for a base hit and alertly taking second when it was left uncovered. McGowin stepped in a delivered a two-run single to put Pierson up 4-1.
McGowin cruised on the mound into the fifth, when two Smithtown walks and a base hit cut the lead to 4-2. Crowley singled again to lead off the fifth, stole a base, and came in on a Mascali single to push the score to 5-2.
Then, the wheels nearly came off the Whalers’ win wagon in the sixth,Arreguin relieving McGowin and failing to retire a batter, four hits and a walk turning into two runs and leaving the bases full. Schall came in again on short notice and struck out the top two batters of the Smithtown lineup swinging, inducing the Knights’ third hitter to make the last out on a comebacker.
Pierson restored its three-run lead in the sixth, a Kudlak single and stolen base, a Dowling triple and a Riva sacrifice fly adding two to the Whaler total for a 7-4 advantage. Schall pitched around a hit-batsman in the seventh to close out the teams’ eleventh league win.
Looking at his scorebook afterwards, Coach Crowley said, “Eddie made me look smart today. Getting out of that jam with no one else coming in was exactly what we needed him to do.”
On the day, the younger Crowley was three-for-three boosting his team-leading average above .350, with McGowin knocking in two runs to give him a team-leading 15 RBIs.