Whalers up one in a best of three series
by Andrew Rudansky
The Pierson Whalers took the first game of the best-of-three playoff series with the Southold Settlers, 1-0. The low scoring game, held on Wednesday, May 23 at Mashashimuet Park was the product of a defensive effort by both teams.
With the win, the Whalers are one step closer to being crowned the Suffolk County Class C champions. The winner of the series will move on to the Long Island Class C game later in June.
Frustration had settled in for both teams leading up to the finals, as rain delays pushed game one back on two successive days this week.
The Pierson Whalers were originally slated to host Southold in game one of the best of three series on Monday, May 21 at Mashashimuet Park. That game was cancelled by officials hours before the scheduled start time due to scattered showers.
The same happened when the rescheduled date for game one, Tuesday, May 22, was similarly cancelled due to rain delays.
Whalers Head Coach Jonathan Tortorella said that the rain delays could have been a blessing in disguise, as they gave the Whalers a few extra days to practice.
“We are better after these two days of practice, we got a lot of stuff worked out in that time,” he said.
Tortorella said the extra time afforded to the team by the rain delays has also allowed some of his injured players time to heal. He said that he has as many as 12 players on the roster who he could use as starters in the playoffs.
The extra days off seemed to do the trick, as the Whalers looked sharp in all aspects of their game.
Lefty strikeout artist Colman Vilá started the game for the Whalers. Vilá has been dominant on the mound all season, winning all seven of his starts.
In Wednesday’s game Vilá effectively managed the game through all seven innings, not allowing a run while tallying seven strikeouts.
The lefty did slow down in the later innings of the game, but later ended the match with two back-to-back strikeouts in the top of the seventh inning.
“If he is keeping guys off base, I don’t care about strikeouts. With a team like Southold they are going to put the ball in play,” said Tortorella. “I thought he was as good as he has been all year.”
The Whalers scored in the bottom of the third inning when Forrest Loesch hit a grounder to the second baseman. A wild throw to first base attempting to get Loesch out, allowed Hunter Leyser to run home from third base.
The Whalers were put in danger in the top of the sixth inning, with runners on first and second with no outs. The Whalers defense — including Vilá’s great play throwing out a runner at third — was able to hold the Settlers at bay, leaving two runners stranded.
“Kyle [Sturmann] was great at second base, Aaron [Schiavoni] was awesome behind the plate, Colman [Vilá] fielded his position, there wasn’t that many hits into the outfield, so overall I think it was a great day defensively,” said Tortorella.
The Whalers reached the Class C playoffs this year after posting a stellar 18-2 regular season performance. The 18 wins allowed the Whalers to run away with the league IX title, their first in over a decade.
The Southold Settlers placed third in League IX, after they closed out their season with a respectable 13-7 record. Southold was one of only two teams this season to hand Pierson a loss in the regular season. That Settler win came on April 21, when a late inning grand slam by Southold put the Whalers away in their first loss of the season, 4-8.
This season Pierson won the regular season head-to-head series 3-1.
With game one now in the books, the Whalers will next travel to Southold for game two today, May 24 at 4 p.m. Pierson’s Jake Bennett is scheduled to pitch in the game.
Game three, if it is necessary, will be played at Mashashimuet Park on Tuesday, May 29 at 4 p.m.
“Is there pressure on them, yeah, but there is also pressure on us tomorrow as well, because we don’t want a game three,” said Tortorella.