Tag Archive | "Whalers"

Whalers Stun Port Jeff for County Championship

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By Benito Vila

It was over almost as soon as it began Thursday as Pierson outplayed Port Jefferson in game two of the best-of-three Class C championship, taking the county title in a 13-1 rout. The Whalers held off the Royals, 8-6, in the series opener in Mashashimuet Park Tuesday, a nail-biter that ended with the bases full of Royals and the go-ahead run at first base.

Both sides expected much of the same intensity in the rematch at Port Jefferson Thursday, but instead 14 Pierson batters made their way to the plate in the top of the first inning with the Whalers posting eight runs before they even took the field. After retiring the Royals easily in the bottom of the first, the Whalers came in and batted around again, re-taking the field for the bottom of the second up, 12-0.

From there the Pierson boys had an easy time of it, starting pitcher and senior tri-captain Joe Mascali making pitches that further frustrated his Port Jeff hosts. In all, Mascali threw six innings of two-hit ball, striking out four and walking only one. There were no errors in the field behind him, the only miscue coming in the middle innings on a high pop that eluded him although he quickly made up for that from the mound.

Classmate and tri-captain Casey Crowley relieved Mascali for the seventh, struggling with his control at first but finding a way to strikeout the side and set off the Whaler celebration. The one-sided win gives Pierson its eighth county title and its first since 2006 and improves the team’s record to 15-8 overall after a 12-6 season in League VIII play.

On the way home, parents, friends and fans alike organized an impromptu parade, fire department trucks greeting the team bus on the Bridgehampton Turnpike and escorting it up and down Main Street, players hooting, hollering and waving their shirts out the bus’ safety windows. Back at the school, family members gathered for more pictures and a final re-telling of what was a series of odd occurrences that all seemed to benefit the Whalers.

And it all started in that first inning, a lead-off walk to Casey Crowley kicking off a sequence that saw three more walks, two hit batsmen, two errors and some timely hitting. By the end of the 14-batter Whaler first, Crowley had walked and scored twice and Kyle McGowin had two hits and three runs batted in.

McGowin ended the day three-for-three with four RBIs, with Dane Riva, Tyler Gilbride, Gavin Kudlak and senior tri-captain Ryan Miller each coming home with two hits apiece. Riva, McGowin, Miller, Kudlak and first baseman Joey Dowling all made plays in the field that kept the Royals from finding their way around the bases.

The Whalers take on the county’s Class B champion next Friday, May 29, with the winner of that C-at-B game traveling to the Class A champion on Monday, June 1 for the county’s small school title.

Pierson can advance in the state tournament by outlasting Nassau County champ Oyster Bay in the Long Island Class C Championship and Southeast Regional on June 8.

Not So Perfect Ending for Whalers

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By Benito Vila

It seemed a perfect finish Friday. The Pierson baseball Whalers were on the field in Mashashimuet Park in the top of the seventh, up 5-4, after taking the lead in the bottom of the sixth and needed just three outs to sweep a three-game series from Port Jefferson and move within one game of clinching a playoff berth. 

When Whaler relief pitcher T.J. Arreguin induced the first Royal batter to pop out to Tyler Gilbride at second, a feel-good buzz went through the Pierson crowd on the third base side. That turned out to be the emotional high point for the home team when moments later a three-base error, a pitching change, a walk, a balk and a passed ball left Pierson down 6-5, merriment turned to sudden befuddlement and disbelief.

Coming up in the home half the first, two Whalers went down, but Joey Dowling gave the faithful something to cheer about by lining a single to center. Dane Riva stepped in, worked the count and drilled a ball down the third base line that looked destined for left field. Instead, the ball hit the bag and caromed up generously to the Royals third baseman, who fired across the infield to get Riva by a step for the last out.

The late-inning loss leaves Pierson at 8-4 in League VIII play and 8-6 overall, two wins short a post-season berth in the Suffolk County Class C tournament. The win clinched a spot for the Royals, who at 10-5 are the Whalers’ likely first-round opponent.

The rain Tuesday washed away the opener of a three-game set with 10-2 Southold, the revised schedule calling for the Whalers to host the Clippers yesterday and then travel there Thursday and Friday. Next Tuesday, Pierson has Smithtown Christian coming into the park Tuesday and Friday for a pair of 4:30 p.m. starts, the Whalers traveling to the Crusaders Wednesday. Those six games conclude the varsity regular season.


A Win Away


The Whalers went to play the Royals a roundabout way last Wednesday, an accident on 27 East sending them into Riverhead and getting them to the field 40 minutes late. A 4-3 Pierson win in the series opener the day before shortened the trip a bit and put pressure on Port Jeff to prove themselves.

Both teams moved through the first two frames without scoring, the sun starting to set behind center field. Pierson’s Gavin Kudlak drew a walk to open the Whaler third and Kyle McGowin made the score 2-0 by slicing a home run over the 325’ sign on the fence in right center.

Whaler pitcher Casey Crowley made that lead hold up, he and his fielders setting down the Royal batters without a run through the first five innings. In the top of the sixth, with the sun now directly in the batters’ eyes, Pierson added to their lead, a two-out rally making the score 5-0.

Those three runs came courtesy of a hit batsman, Crowley being plunked on the calf on an errant curveball to get the rally started. Kudlak drew another walk to put runners at first and second for McGowin, who doubled to center to drive in Crowley, Kudlak holding up at third. The pressure on the Royals to keep the game close, Ryan Miller doubled to left to bring in Kudlak and McGowin and put Pierson further ahead.

Before the Royals came to bat, the umpires stopped the game for 20 minutes to allow the sun to set. The first batter to step in against Crowley after the delay homered on the first pitch, but that was all the Royals were able to put together against the Pierson senior who struck out eight, walked four and gave up just three hits in pitching his second complete game win in four days.


A Good Game


A lead-off walk, followed by a stolen base, fielder’s choice and sacrifice fly, put Port Jeff up 1-0 in their first at-bat Friday. Pierson tied the score in their half of the inning, Crowley singling, taking second on a wild pitch, staying there on a walk to McGowin and coming in on an errant double-play attempt.

Whaler starter Joe Mascali, pitching through a hamstring strain, breezed through the second but saw two long hits land in the outfield and the Royals take a 2-1 lead in the third. His teammates put him back in the lead, 3-2, a high-bounding Gilbride chopper off the plate bringing in two runs and making the most of a McGowin walk and a Port Jeff error.

The Whalers extended the lead to 4-2 in the fourth when Mark Mahoney walked and Joe Dowling tripled. When the Whaler side was set down, it marked the fourth consecutive inning a Pierson runner was left in scoring position, an easy event to miss because of the score but one noticed along the foul lines and in the dugouts.

The pain of failing to bring those runners in was felt in the fifth, the Royals tying the score on a single, a walk and a hard hit double. After 85 pitches and a gritty effort, Mascali was relieved for the sixth, Arreguin coming in and setting down the Royals one-two-three.

The crispness of that inning sparked the Whaler attack in the bottom of the sixth, Riva and Crowley working out a pair of one-out walks and a Kudlak RBI single giving Pierson a 5-4 lead. But, once again, just as in the home fifth, Whaler runners were left on second and third, allowing the Royals to keep the game close.


The Unthinkable


When Arreguin retired the first Royal batter in the seventh, all seemed right in the Whalers’ world. The three-base outfield error that followed unnerved the reliever, who sent a pitch halfway up the backstop. That prompted a visit from Pierson coach Sean Crowley, who, in turn, summoned McGowin, from third in hopes of having his “ace” set down the next two Royals hitters for the save.

That was not be, the first Royal batter McGowin faced worked out a walk to put Port Jeff runners at first and third. A walk-off steal of second looked to be of no consequence until McGowin threw to first from the stretch, unaware of the steal, to balk in the tying run.

The Royals then turned to pressure up on the Whalers, a squeeze play seeing the ball bound past Pierson’s catcher as the go-ahead run came in safely, joy turning to a gut-wrenching churn on the Whaler side. McGowin gathered himself on the mound and set down the next two Royals, hoping his teammates could now keep him from a ten-pitch loss.

The throw to nip Riva at first, set off a celebration for the Royals who clinched a playoff berth with their win and left the Whalers to gather at home and consider what could have been. In the quiet there, Coach Crowley complimented his team on their effort and encouraged the Whalers to look for the good in the game.

In talking about the outcome yesterday, Coach Crowley said, “I hope they can now appreciate what they have to do when the pressure gets turned up a notch. We have to focus on every pitch, every situation. Over the years as a coach, I’ve seen kids and teams who don’t take what they’re doing seriously enough. Not this group. If anything, they were too hard on themselves. It’s a tough loss, but we can turn this into a learning experience and, now, with the playoffs starting in two weeks, we already know what it feels like to be in that kind of pressure situation.”



Two Wins Bring Boys to 7-3 in League

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By Benito Vila

This is the week the Pierson baseball Whalers have been preparing for since March. The schedule has them completing a series with Port Jefferson and opening one with Southold/Greenport, two teams that perennially play for the League VIII crown. How the boys fare against this pair has, of late, determined the likelihood of post-season play and defined their ability to compete at a higher level.

A determined 4-3 win over Port Jeff on Tuesday afternoon in Mashashimuet Park, improved the Whalers’ record to 7-3 in League VIII, 8-5 overall, and further demonstrated a playoff potential. Yesterday the boys set off for Port Jefferson for game two of their series with the Royals, looking to move up in the standings and get closer to the second-place Clippers (8-2) and first place Center Moriches (11-1).

Game three of their series with the Royals is set for tomorrow in the park, first pitch at 4:30 p.m. The Whalers make their way to Southold Tuesday to open that series there, playing the Clippers in the park Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. and finishing up away next Friday. Both of the games in Southold also start at 4:30 p.m.


Closing In


Ten league wins are required for post-season play this season and by notching two this week, the Whalers are already closing in on that mark. Last Thursday, the team blew out Stony Brook 15-3, a seven-run sixth inning breaking the game open.

Tuesday’s win was harder to earn, Pierson taking a 1-0 lead in the first, and seeing Port Jeff tie in the fifth. A three-run rally in the bottom of the fifth put the boys up 4-1, but that was barely enough, the Royals scoring twice in the top of the seven and getting runners to first and third before the final out was made.

The Whalers also played a pair of non-league games this week, four Pierson errors leading to a 9-2 loss in Hampton Bays Friday and the Baymen returning the favor in the park Saturday, their late-game fielding giving the boys a 4-3 win.


At Stony Brook


The Stony Brook game saw Pierson take a 1-0 lead in the top of the first Casey Crowley leading off with a single, stealing second, advancing the third on a Gavin Kudlak groundout to the right side and scoring on a Tyler Gilbride single to right. Kudlak preserved that lead by tracking down a deep drive to left in the bottom of the inning and nailing a runner trying to advance to third.

That play set the tone for the day, the Whalers turning three more double plays to keep the Bears from doing much on the bases. Two more came when Stony Brook runners were doubled off on infield line drives and the other came on a ground ball, shortstop Ryan Miller making the pivot on a feed from second baseman Jeff Schimmer.

Miller lifted his team to a 3-0 lead in the second, driving in Brandon Kruel, who had been hit by a pitch, and Dane Riva, who had walked.

Another walk and pair of wild pitches gave Pierson pitcher, Joe Mascali a 5-0 lead to work when he took the mound in the bottom of the inning.

Mascali, coming off a leg injury, threw three innings, striking out four, allowing two runs in the third when the Bears made the most of a pair of walks and a pair of bloop hits. Kyle McGowin came in to pitch three innings of scoreless relief, scattering three hits and two walks. Miller finished the game on the mound, coming in with the score 15-2 and getting the last three outs around a pair of walks and a run-scoring single.

Many of those 15 runs were unearned, the Bears booting balls in the fourth and fifth to put Pierson up 8-2. When a T.J. Arreguin single brought in Kudlak and Gilbride in the sixth, the rout was on, before another Stony Brook error set up a two-run single by Crowley and allowed Kudlak to get up twice in the same inning. In that second at-bat, Kudlak completed the scoring, knocking in a run with his second single of the inning.


Against the Baymen


Pierson’s stellar play in the field Thursday was a thing of the past Friday, a long drive off bouncing off a Whaler outfielder and going over the fence for a home run in the bottom of the first. Another misplayed fly ball and a pair of doubles made the score 3-1 before the inning was done, Whaler pitcher Brandon Kruel striking out a pair to get off the field.

The Baymen gave a run back in the second, a Miller single, a Riva walk and two wild pitches getting the Whalers back on the board. A pair of Baymen doubles made the score 4-2 in the third, but it was five-batter sequence in the fourth that ended the day for Kruel, four more runs coming in on a pair of infield errors.

Kruel started off his final inning well, striking out two of the first three batters, giving him six in three and two-thirds innings of work. He left the game after the second error, his team down 8-2, knowing just two of the eight runs were earned.

Arreguin came in to finish the frame and went on to finish the game, throwing two and two-thirds innings of one-run relief, striking out four and walking no one. But, despite that work, his teammates were unable to cut into the Hampton Bay lead and they all came home with a dispiriting 9-2 loss.

The boys had a chance to bounce back right away Saturday morning, but it wasn’t until the fifth inning when they came to, Hampton Bays already in the lead 3-0 after scoring a run in the first and two more in their fifth.

Arreguin was the whole of the Whaler rally in the fifth, singling with one out, taking third when an effort to pick him off first failed and scoring on a wild pitch.

Pierson closed to within one in a more traditional way in the sixth, McGowin drawing a walk, stealing second, advancing to third on an Ed Schall single and scoring on a fielder’s choice.

Down 3-2 coming into their last at-bat, Pierson tied the score, a pair of walks and an infield error loading the bases and Gilbride stroking a grounder into the middle of the infield, leaving the Baymen to get an out at second rather than at home.

With Crowley on third and Gilbride on first, the pressure was on Hampton Bays to make a play, but that was not to be, a pitch in the dirt getting by the Baymen catcher and Crowley coming in ahead of the throw to the pitcher to give Pierson a 4-3 victory.

It was Crowley who kept his teammates in the game, pitching six innings of four-hit ball, striking out 11 and walking three. Only two of his three runs were earned. McGowin came in to pitch the seventh, giving up a single but setting down the side on three strikeouts, and getting the win when Pierson went ahead.


Port Jeff Tuesday


McGowin was the starter Tuesday and cruised through the first four innings. The Whalers held a 1-0 lead after their first at-bat, Crowley drawing a lead-off walk, advancing to second on a Kudlak sacrifice bunt and scoring on a McGowin double to right. The Royals put a run together in the fifth, a lead-off walk, a stolen base and a single, tying the game.

The game didn’t stay knotted up for long Miller leading off the Whaler fifth with single and stealing second to put the pressure back on Port Jeff. Joe Dowling’s swing had the Royals back, making his little roller unplayable and giving the Whalers runners at first and third with no one out.

A walk to Riva loaded the bases and set up Crowley who delivered a long sacrifice fly to center to put Pierson up 2-1. A Kudlak single to left re-filled the bases, with McGowin stepping in and nailing a single up the middle to make the score 4-1.

The Whaler lead was safe until the seventh when the Royals bunched up two infield hits and two short pokes into the outfield around a pair of force outs to make the score 4-3. That flurry left runners on the corners with two outs, the tying run and third and the go-ahead run at first, McGowin still on the mound and urgency resonate on both sides.

With a 0-1 count, the Royals’ final batter bounced a ball to Gilbride at second who fielded it cleanly and tagged the runner going to second, ending what was a long inning for the Whalers quickly and suddenly curtailing the Royals’ rally.

After the game, Pierson varsity coach Sean Crowley seemed satisfied by his team’s position, saying, “I like 7-3. We’re all feeling good right now and we’re getting closer to where we want to be.”


Team leaders


McGowin leads the team with four wins against one loss, notching 34 strikeouts in 32 innings. Mascali is 3-1 with 18 strikeouts in his 17 innings. Crowley is 1-0 with 16 strikeouts in his 14 innings.

Crowley leads the team in runs scored with 12. He and McGowin have driven in the most, each with eight RBIs. Kudlak’s two hits Tuesday boosted his average to .358 with Crowley close behind at .325.



Whalers Win a Close One, On Track With 2-1 Victory

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By Benito Vila

“A win’s a win, no matter how it comes,” said Pierson varsity baseball coach Sean Crowley as his Whalers gathered after shaking hands with Stony Brook in Mashashimuet Park Tuesday. There was great relief in those words, Coach Crowley seeing Pierson pitchers battle out of bases-loaded jams in the both the sixth and seventh innings to send the Bears back home with a 2-1 loss.

The Pierson win was far more important than the final score, the boys having lost a league contest to Mercy on Thursday, knowing league- leaders Center Moriches, Port Jefferson and Southold are soon on the schedule. That loss makes it necessary that the boys win all of their match-ups with Stony Brook and Smithtown Christian and at least two more from the top of the league if they are to qualify for the county tournament.

It may seem a little early to think about the end of the season already with so much of the schedule remaining and the Whalers sporting a 3-1 league mark going into last night’s game at Stony Brook, but no one seems to be saying that to the opposition. Each of the three games this week has had a playoff-like intensity, Pierson winning two and losing one, each contest ending with the tying or go- ahead runs on base.

On Tuesday the Center Moriches Red Devils will likely come into the park undefeated, providing the toughest early season test yet for this year’s Whalers. The Red Devils’ series is due to continue Wednesday in Center Moriches and then come back to the park next Friday, each of the games starting at 4:30 p.m. The Stony Brook rain out Monday will be made up April 20, giving Pierson more four tough league games before non-league contests with Hampton Bays and East Hampton take them into the Port Jefferson series.

“Earned” Runs

The 2-1 Whaler win Tuesday was the kind of game coaches and players work hard in practice to avoid, but find themselves in all too often.

Both Whaler runs went into the scorebook as being unearned–that is following an error–but the Pierson runners certainly seemed to have earned their way around to score.

The first Whaler run came in the bottom of the first, lead-off batter Casey Crowley alertly taking advantage of a dropped third strike in beating the throw to first. With Gavin Kudlak at the plate, Crowley stole second and then came into score when Kudlak singled to center.

Good pitching and defense, aided by some lackluster baserunning, kept the Whalers from scoring again until the fifth. Then, with one out, Jimmy Fusco drew a walk with Dane Riva coming in to pinch run. Riva stole second and advanced to third when Crowley knocked a ground ball to the right side, scampering home on a wild pitch during a Kudlak at-bat.

The Whalers had opportunities in other innings, leaving runners at third three times, but Bear pitcher Brian Harrington held them off, scattering three hits and four walks around eight strikeouts. Pierson starting pitcher Joe Mascali matched those totals in his six innings, and kept himself out of trouble until the sixth when a bases-loaded walk forced in Stony Brook’s run and cut the Whaler lead in half.

That walk prompted a visit to the mound from a concerned Coach Crowley, who came away leaving his senior captain in control with the game on the line. Mascali made the most of the moment striking out the next batter on four pitches to close out his day.

Junior Kyle McGowin was summoned for the save and quickly took charge striking out the first batter. He overcame a misplay in the infield by cutting down that runner at second base on a sacrifice bunt attempt. A walk and another error loaded the bases with Bears and set up a dramatic last out, a sinking liner to center caught on the run by Mascali with all the Stony Brook baserunners on the move.

It’s no wonder Coach Crowley came in relieved. Afterwards, he praised both sides saying, “Harrington had a great game and pitched and hit his way through some obvious back pain, but Joe provided the same thing we got from Kyle in last week’s series opener: dominating pitching. Now we have a win against their number one pitcher and now we go there. We have to take care of business against their number two and come back after our break to take care of Center Moriches Tuesday.”


It’s Never Over

Pierson’s last two games against Mercy ended much the same way, the outcome in question until the final out. Last Wednesday, things went the Whalers way in a 5-3 win in the park and Thursday Mercy made the final out in the field to send the Whalers home with an 8-6 loss.

A four-run second put Pierson up early last Wednesday. A pair of walks to McGowin and Riva and a sacrifice bunt by Tyler Gilbride set up an RBI single by Kudlak, with the Whalers keeping the pressure on when Crowley stroked a two-run double after an infield error.

The Whaler lead went to 5-0 in the third, McGowin singling and stealing two bases before coming in on a Gilbride RBI single. Mercy made its way back into the game against Mascali, an infield error in the midst of three hits, making the score 5-3. A long fly ball to left with two runners on was flagged down by Fusco, who made over-the-shoulder catch on the run to keep the Whalers in the lead.

Ed Schall came in to relieve Mascali and earned the save, but not before a slick double-steal moved Mercy runners to second and third with two outs in the top of the seventh. A comebacker to Schall seemed to end the threat, but it was only Mascali’s quick reflexes at first that nailed down the final out, Schall’s too hard throw nearly sailing into right field.

Errant throwing was the key culprit in last Thursday’s loss at Mercy to end that three-game set. Five errors behind pitcher Brandon Kruel put Mercy up 7-1, Kruel undermining his own day further by walking three in the fourth before a bloop hit knocked him from the game.

Determined to get back in the game, Pierson scored three in the top of the fifth, a Kudlak double and walks to Crowley and Ryan Miller setting up an RBI single by Mascali and an RBI double by McGowin. Unfortunately for the Whalers, another infield throwing error gave one of those runs back in the bottom of the fifth and made for an frantic top of the seventh.

The Whalers came up for their last at-bat down 8-4, the top of the line-up set to hit, Crowley leading off with a double. A called strike three, a walk and a force play, put the pressure back on Pierson, but Gilbride came through with an RBI single, Kruel walked and Kudlak singled to drive in another run, loading the bases and putting the tying run on second. The on-field drama became ever more intense as the count grew deeper on the next Pierson batter, but a swinging strike three sent the boys back to the bus disappointed.

Beyond the never-say-die effort, the other bright spots on Thursday were the pitching of senior shortstop Ryan Miller, who relieved Kruel with two-and-a-third innings of one-hit relief, and the hitting of sophomores Kudlak (three hits) and Gilbride (two hits), the pair adding punch and speed to the Whaler offense.

It’s All Whalers

The Whaler baseball JV played a pair of one-sided contests this week, game two against Mercy last Wednesday ending 18-1 after five innings and game one against Stony Brook Tuesday finishing 15-1 after four. The rain outs against those opponents have not yet been scheduled, but will be when school re-opens next week.

JV coach Henry Meyer was happy “to see everyone in and see almost everyone hitting.” He had his team practice slow rollers during indoor sessions this week and then saw his team successfully execute those quick pick-ups and releases for outs on Tuesday.


Good Sports, Good Students

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On Monday, Pierson Athletic Director Bill Madsen announced that 10 Pierson High School teams had earned team sportsmanship awards from Section XI of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association during the fall and winter seasons. Madsen described the selection process saying, “In all sports, players and coaches rate their opponents’ sportsmanship at every contest. At the end of each season, teams with the highest rating are presented with a certificate that recognizes they are the team that best exemplifies sportsmanship in Suffolk County.”

The following Pierson teams were so selected by their peers: boys’ varsity cross country, girls’ JV field hockey, boys’ varsity soccer, boys’ middle school soccer, girls’ varsity soccer, girls’ varsity volleyball, JV and varsity football (combined with East Hampton and Bridgehampton), girls’ seventh grade volleyball and girls’ JV basketball.

Madsen also announced that this winter’s girls’ varsity basketball team earned New York State varsity scholar/athlete team honors for sustaining an un-weighted, cumulative grade point average of 90 or better as a team. This is the fourth Lady Whaler team to earn that distinction this school year, girls’ varsity volleyball, soccer and field hockey all having achieved that benchmark this fall.


Coaches Set


The school board approved a series of coaching appointments Madsen submitted on Monday. Those appointments included the addition of unpaid assistant coaches for this spring: Mireille Sturmann for varsity softball and Evan DeRobertis for middle school baseball.

The fall coaching roster has a number of returnees: Shannon Judge to girls’ varsity field hockey; Stacey Springer to girls’ varsity volleyball; Claudia Ortmann to girls’ JV volleyball; Donnelly McGovern to boys’ varsity soccer; Haley Luzim to girls’ varsity soccer; Joe Amato to boys’ varsity cross country; James Kinnier to girls’ varsity cross country; Sean Crowley to boys’ varsity golf; Clint Schulman to boys’ JV golf.

The board also approved existing coaches for “new” positions: Melissa Edwards, who is currently the girls’ varsity softball coach, was approved as the girls’ JV field hockey coach and Peter Solow, who coached girls’ middle school soccer this fall, was approved to be the girls’ JV soccer coach.

Next winter’s coaching roster also features a series of returnees: Dennis Case to girls’ varsity basketball and Robin Florence to girls’ varsity cheerleading. Christian Johns, who finished the season as interim boys’ varsity basketball coach, was approved to continue in that position with Jonathan Tortorella leaving the middle school basketball program to coach boys’ JV basketball.


Whalers Clinch Playoff Berth in Win Over Smithtown Christian

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By Benito Vila

When things come together for team, it’s a beautiful thing to watch. And so it was last night as the Pierson boys’ basketball team prevailed 52-31 over Smithtown Christian to close out a tumultuous season by earning a berth in the Suffolk County Class C tournament.

A pre-game ceremony honored Whaler seniors Casey Crowley and Ryan Miller and the pair combined with junior captain Joey Dowling to put Pierson up 6-0 in the first quarter. A 15-2 run in the second quarter pushed the lead to 25-3, Miller and Dowling making the most of their opportunities.

Dowling led the charge in the second half, scoring eight to give him 19 points for the game; he was also a dominant force underneath, pulling down 16 rebounds. Miller came away with 13 points and Crowley five.

The win in the season finale, pushed Pierson’s league mark to 7-7 and took the sting out of losses to first-place 14-0 Greenport and second place 11-2 Stony Brook earlier in the week. The 73-45 loss to the Porters came at home last Friday, all-time Long Island scoring leader Ryan Creighton posting 28 points despite the tenacious defensive efforts of Tyler Gilbride and Skyler Loesch.

Monday found the Whalers in Stony Brook, down 17-7 to the Bears after the first quarter. Although Pierson closed the deficit to two in the third, the home team held on and won 48-39, making the game against the Crusaders last night a crucial “must win” if the Whalers were to play on.


Tuesday in Port Jefferson

As the county’s number four seed, Pierson travels to number one-seeded Port Jefferson Tuesday to play the Royals, who went 10-4 in League VII. The number three-seeded Mercy Monarchs (9-5 in League VIII) make their way to number two Stony Brook Tuesday. The winners of those games meet in Longwood at 3 p.m. next Friday, February 20 for the Class C championship.

In facing the Royals, the Whalers will match up against a team that has sharp outside shooters and strong inside play. Port Jefferson averaged over 60 points per game in League VII, while surrendering just over 40. Pierson meanwhile averaged just over 50 points per game and gave up 40 in League VIII.


Solid Tests

In Friday’s loss, Pierson faced a quick and physical Greenport team that used a defensive press to pick up points on turnovers and steals. The Porters took a 17-6 lead in the first quarter, but a pair of Crowley free-throws and Dowling buckets underneath with six minutes left in the second cut that lead to seven, 19-12. That run was undone by a 12-2 spurt by the Porters that gave the visitors a 31-14 halftime lead.

The second half saw Pierson score 31 but it was not enough to keep pace with the Porters’ attack, which scored 42. Crowley led the Whalers in points with 14, Dowling adding 12 and Luke Kirrane 8.

Pierson boys’ varsity coach Christian Johns said afterwards, “Our goal defensively was to make them earn points in the half-court. We tried to shorten the game and limit their transition baskets. I thought our intensity was there right from the opening tip and really didn’t drop off. Our guys definitely came forward and got after them. Obviously, Greenport is an extremely talented and athletic team that will make you pay for even the smallest mistake, their undefeated record shows that.”

In describing the loss to Stony Brook, Coach Johns explained the challenge his team faced from the start. “They hit a couple three-point shots in the first that got them going and forced us to play from behind. After we adjusted defensively and got the ball into our shooters’ hands, the game was much more even.”

 “Early in the third, we were within two but couldn’t seem to narrow the gap. They are a very fundamentally sound team and when they have a lead they are able to work the clock to maintain it. Both this game and Greenport were solid tests heading into our final game of the regular season.” Dowling led the scoring Monday with 14, Crowley contributed 11 and Jake Weingartner six.


Pierson Hoopsters Comment on a Time That’ll be Hard to Forget

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By Benito Vila

It’s hard for kids to know what to believe sometimes, especially when dealing with adults. Learning Coach Marienfeld had been fired last Thursday left more than a few Pierson varsity basketball players wondering what could possibly come next.

The team had come through a two-week stretch where the coach’s language in a loss led to his suspension, two players quit, a one-sided loss was followed by a close win, and an overtime loss at home preceded another nerve-wracking win. Still, to most, all seemed just as it should be, with the Whalers two wins away from a playoff berth, with five games left to go.

But then the news came Thursday afternoon of Coach Marienfeld speaking his mind in the press about allegations made of his treatment of players, and the school administration’s decision to dismiss him immediately, citing “misconduct.”

 “It just seemed surreal”, said team captain Joe Dowling. “If they [that hollow un-understandable ‘they’ that makes decisions far from where kids are] were going to do anything, they should have waited,” suggested sophomore Tyler Gilbride.

Gilbride’s classmate Skyler Loesch was more philosophical in saying he was “hoping for the best” and acknowledging, “It is what it is. You can’t do anything about it now.”


Emotions Run On

Coach Marienfeld had led the Whaler boys’ basketball program since 2005, his teams reaching the playoffs each year. “I’m going to miss him,” said Dowling, a sentiment shared by Loesch and Gilbride, the captain explaining, “He helped me out so much with summer league, talking to me and teaching me what I needed to do.”

All three are accepting and welcoming of interim coach Christian Johns, who worked with Loesch and Gilbride when they were in eighth grade. “I love his intensity for the game,” said Gilbride, “and how teams work for him.” Dowling describes Coach Johns as bringing “a whole new perspective on doing everything as a team,” noting, “He’s hard and he wants to win.”

The news of Marienfeld’s dismissal after all the local papers had published their weekly editions set off a slew of online reports and reader commentary. Some of those commentaries attacked the players who left the team, some their parents; many spoke well of Coach Marienfeld, while others felt he got what he deserved. Still others were critical of the Pierson administration with nearly all approaching their entries with a sense of disbelief.

In all this “posting” and “blogging,” the focus has moved away from the game on the court and the kids out there hustling; in fact, it’s moved away from Coach Marienfeld to commentaries on society, anger, and the roles and rights of parents, coaches and players.


Strains and Pains

What remains though are strained friendships, hurt feelings and an inordinate amount of despair and angst being felt by more than a few households. And the two students that chose to step away from playing are feeling it, perhaps more than most, Nick DePetris saying, “Nobody wanted this. I wasn’t out to take his job. I just wanted to have a good senior season. It’s been humiliating.”

Jake Federico spoke sadly of not knowing how to approach a person he’s known and had regard for his whole life. “It’s hard not to be able to acknowledge Fred in the hallway [at school] because I still like him as a person and love his family.”

Both players described the root of their conflict with the coach coming from his insistence they participate in summer league play, work and other sports commitments keeping them away. And both cited instances of feeling treated unfairly despite their best efforts.

The other comments made by DePetris and Federico indicate they have quickly gained a perspective on what happened between they and their coach, saying, “No one understands he can be a different man on the court”; “He made it hard on himself by lashing out”; “It’s like he wanted to make a point that if you don’t commit completely you wouldn’t play”; and “I’m just fine with it; I hope they finish up strong.”

They were also consistent in expressing surprise at the emotion and involvement of so many adults. Federico concluded, “They’re taking this far too seriously. They’re not the kids that worked and gave it their all. And they have their own ideas about what went on. I’ve never quit anything. I called everyone together during practice and said I couldn’t do this anymore. I didn’t just walk out. There was some [back and forth with Coach Marienfeld], but it wasn’t what people make it out to be.”

Plainly, in stating, “What he did was wrong” and “He was talking down on us and harping on weaknesses” both still feel hurt at being singled out and being described the way they were. But both see life going on for them at school, with talk of baseball, soccer, football and college quickly moving conversation away from a time that’s been hard for everyone.



Young Whalers Winners

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By Benito Vila

The Pierson seventh grade team came into this season both confident and uncertain. Several players had played together in the Police Athletic League the last few winters, twice playing for the championship and winning once. It was not clear how those players would gel with the others or how they might fare in the more structured state and county-regulated “junior high” program.

Coach Jonathan Tortorella took on a roster of 16 in November and demanded co-operation from the get go. Looking back this week, he said the most critical moment of the season came after an opening game loss to East Hampton. “We had set a team goal of going undefeated this year, a very tough task. After we lost the first,we were not really sure how good we were. Without a practice before our next game, we had a team discussion about our goals and what we are capable of doing. We came out the next day and played a near perfect game against Southampton, winning by 31 and getting contributions from everyone.”

That level of commitment to one another carried on after that first win, this youngest set of Whalers going on to win their last 11 games, including a 50-47 nail-biter over East Hampton in a January 8 re-match. Coach Tortorella said what he will remember most about this team is “their ability to deal with adversity. Due to either injury or illness, we only had a full team for 3 of our 12 games. No matter who was out, there were no excuses and it was barely even talked about. Other players stepped up and they all overcame everything they were confronted with. It was something that I hope they carry with them outside of basketball.”

Although the team fell short of its goal to go undefeated, it did hit two other pre-season targets, allowing less than 35 points per game on defense (34.3) and scoring more than 55 points per game on offense (55.5).

On the seventh grade roster were Caleb Atkinson-Barnes, Ian Barrett, Jack Bori, C.P. Cook-Firquet, Charlie Dickstein, Patrick Ficorilli, Joe Gengarelly, Drew Harvey, Nick Kruel, Forrest Loesch, Cooper Marienfeld, Gavin O’Brien, Garrett Potter, Aaron Schiavoni, Tim Markowski and Max Snow.


One Step Up

This year’s eighth grade team will forever remind the seventh graders about their sole scrimmage, where the older boys used their height and quickness to make the outcome a one-sided affair. That intra-program match-up was a welcome change for the eighth graders after routinely facing opponents with six-footers inside and confident shooters outside.

Coach Hank Katz described his approach as going beyond the score of any single game and looking ahead to a higher level of play. “At this level I never really pay much attention to the win/loss record. We did however finish 4 and 7. This record was no reflection on our actual success this season. A middle school team’s responsibility is to one day get ready to contribute to the high school team’s success and I believe this group will do just that.”

He also added, “It was a privilege to have been with these kids for the past two years. They worked hard, were very coach-able, and I believe that not only will they contribute on the basketball court, but most importantly, they will contribute as good kids who will be a positive influence whatever their plans.”

Making up Coach Katz’ first unit, and playing quarters one and three, were Jake Bennett, Dillon Decker, Joe Faraguna, Dana Harvey, Aidan Kirrane, and Jackson Marienfeld. The second unit, playing quarters two and four, were Abu Brown, Joe Butts, Gabe Denon, Liam Doyle, Raleigh Gordley, Patrick Sloane and Colman Vila.


Early Season Gut Check

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By Benito Vila


Sometimes games go the other way and coaches are left with very little to say. So it was after Pierson’s 56-28 loss to Mercy on Tuesday, Whaler varsity coach Fred Marienfeld making no excuses for a poor performance, disappointed in having to admit, “We had more turnovers than a bakery.”

Coach Marienfeld calculated that by making 26 turnovers and recovering only seven offensive, his team gave Mercy all the extra chances they needed to put the game away. “With the advantage they had on turnovers and rebounds alone, they had the ball 23 more times than us. We can’t give it to the other team like that and expect to win.”

The score was close at the half Tuesday, Mercy up 23-16 after Pierson battled back from being down 20-11 to make it 20-16. A breakaway bucket and foul shot shut down the Whaler run and allowed the Monarchs to regain momentum. That emotion carried into the second half, Mercy outscoring Pierson 33-12 to close out the game.

Under Pressure

The Whalers have had trouble getting the ball in the basket of late, scoring just 37 points in the pre-holiday win over Shelter Island at home and 28 Tuesday. “That’s simply not going to get it done,” said Coach Marienfeld Tuesday night. “We have Ross coming in Thursday and then we have Greenport and Stony Brook. They’re all good teams that can score and we’re putting ourselves under a lot of pressure with our shot selection and ball-handling.”

Describing his team, Coach Marienfeld feels he has a good group that can potentially make the county’s Class C play-offs, although noting that “we’re fairly even talent-wise and we’re going to have to work for whatever we get. I know we’re young and expectations weren’t high, but we’re more capable than this. We have three tough games this week and this is a chance for these guys to prove themselves. While we’re struggling with the ball, to be good rebounders and defensive players we just have to put our minds to it. If we can control the ball there, we’ll get more chances on the other end.”

Coach Marienfeld did manage to play the entire roster Tuesday, glad to see “everybody get minutes” and made more substitutions than he has with any of his previous four varsity squads. “Again, there’s not a huge disparity in talent, so I can do that. I’d like to see some of the younger guys step up and earn more time. That’s going to help us now and later on.”

Juniors Joe Dowling and Luke Kirrane and senior Casey Crowley led what little scoring there was for the Whalers Tuesday, each coming away with six points. Sophomore Jake Weingartner recorded four points and classmate Seamus Doyle two. Senior Nick DePetris scored three from the line and sophomore Skyler Loesch had one.

 What’s Ahead

The Whalers, even at 2-1 in League VIII, are at a defining point in the season. Their next three games are against teams that have started strong and sport a collective 6-1 mark in league play; 8-5 overall in competing against much larger schools.

Coach Marienfeld expects Ross to come into Pierson this afternoon “amped up and looking to get themselves to 3-1. After our game, somebody is going to get out 3-1 and in a good spot [for the playoffs]. The Pierson boys travel to league-leading Greenport Monday, matching up with all-Long Island scoring sensation Ryan Creighton and an offense that has scored 100 points twice and is averaging over 83 a game. The Whalers are home again next Wednesday hosting second-place Stony Brook at 6:15 p.m.

 Local League VIII highlights

 Bridgehampton’s Ainsley Wyche scored 22 in the Killer Bees’ loss to Greenport on Tuesday. That was not enough to offset the 23 points registered by both Ryan Creighton and Wally Sorenson or the 55 tossed on by the rest of the Porters.

With Shelter Island visiting Tuesday, Ross freshman Liam Chaskey hit three three-pointers to finish with 15 points in the Ravens 64-41 win. Ross senior Jasper Creegan also knocked down 15, with Brendan Pettaway posting 11 and Taylor Wilson adding 10. Mike Mundy led the Indian attack with 13 points.

A 15-7 run in the third quarter allowed Ross to build on a 27-20 halftime lead and take control of the game.


Shootout at the Hive

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By Benito Vila

It was standing room only in the Bridgehampton School gym Tuesday evening, the Killer Bees varsity basketball team hosting the Pierson boys in the League VIII opener for each squad. Tuesday’s contest was a close battle between two young and up-and-coming teams; the Whalers coming away with a 62-59 overtime win.

In years past the hoops-only rivalry has seen the Bees sting the Whalers often, especially in “the Hive” as their remarkably undersized gym is known locally. There was a buzz in the building Tuesday well before tip-off, long-time friends greeting each other and then sitting on different sides.

The game proved to be a thrilling roller coaster ride for both sets of fans, the Whalers going up eight at 18-10 to start to start the second quarter and the Bees building an eight-point cushion mid-way through the third at 37-29. Pierson rallied to within one to close the third and pulled ahead 47-44 with 3:12 to go in the fourth.

Whaler forwards Joe Dowling and Nick DePetris powered that 18-7 run, the pair scoring 14 of Pierson’s points in the go-ahead push. But Bridgehampton bounced back, Ainsley Wyche shooting in a three-pointer and Nate Hochstedler lifting the Bees up 49-47 on a steal and breakaway bucket with 2:30 remaining.


A Wild Finish

That frenetic pace, the product of having high school players on an elementary school-sized floor, continued the rest of the way, the emotion swinging from one-side of the room to the other on every point. In the final minute neither team could put the game away, Pierson holding a 54-52 lead with 57 seconds left but the possession arrow pointing towards the Bridgehampton bench.

In that last minute, both teams showed their youth in turnover-prone decision-making that prompted the ball to go the other way. The ball stayed on the Bees’ end for three shots, the Whalers unable to clear the rebounds back up-court.

When traveling was called against Bridgehampton with seven seconds left, some of the Whaler faithful started up to leave, seemingly satisfied to game was finished. But that was not the case, the visitors sitting back down when Wyche and Hochstedler closed in to deny an in-bound pass and Hochstedler hit a jumper to tie the score at 54-54 with two seconds on the clock.



With :00 on the clock and the score even, overtime seemed a forgone conclusion to the crowd but the two coaches and the referees gathered at the scorers table for what was obviously a meaningful discussion. Unheard by most was a whistle blown before the buzzer in the final second signaling a foul on Bridgehampton during Pierson’s final in-bound pass.

That call earned the fouled player, Dowling, two free throws. The crowd was hushed, the nine other players on the court gathered at behind mid-court, as Dowling toed the line, the pressure on the Pierson captain to make a shot and end the game.

Having shot 8 of 10 from the line at that point, it seemed Dowling was the right player in the right situation for Pierson. As fate would have it, both shots bounced away, negating a Bridgehampton protest and forcing overtime.

The extra period saw both sides struggle to control the ball, the Bees scoring first two minutes into the five-minute frame. Those points came when Wyche made the most of a steal and Cesar Banados sank a free throw. Fouls under the Pierson basket sent Whalers Nick DePetris and Luke Kirrane to the line, with each netting one to keep the score close.

With just 2:22 remaining, an in-bound play to Dowling put Pierson up 58-57 and a breakaway bucket by the captain with 1:33 remaining made up for the missed free throws and gave the Whalers a 60-57 lead. Pierson pushed their run to eight points when point guard Dylan Hmielenski scored on a floater in the lane with 49 seconds left, making the score 62-57 visitors.

Adding to the drama of the finish was Bridgehampton battling for the ball and controlling possession for most of the game’s final 39 seconds. But the Bees managed to tally just two points, those coming from Evan Marzan at the free throw line, making the final 62-59 Pierson.


Coaches Agree

When asked the difference in the game, Bridgehampton coach Carl Johnson simply said, “Joey Dowling. Every time they [Pierson] needed a basket to stay in the game, he came through. When they needed a rebound he got it.” In all Dowling totaled 24 points, 18 in the second half and four in OT, and pulled down 17 rebounds.

Reflecting on Dowling’s effort and leadership, Pierson varsity coach Fred Marienfeld said, “I need that kid on the floor. He played every minute and had no fouls. He hustles; he scrambles; he gets after loose balls. There’s nothing he won’t do.”

Both coaches cited the intensity of play as positive, each hoping it carries over into this week’s contests, the Bees hosting Mercy tomorrow at 5 p.m. and the Whalers heading upstate for a weekend tournament. The coaches also noted their teams need more work on rebounding, free throws and offensive execution.

In identifying key contributors, Coach Johnson pointed to the play of junior guard Wyche, who led the Bees with 25 points and is “quickly learning to be a leader, a coach on the court.” He also liked the hustle of Hochstedler, who created several turnovers and scoring opportunities, adding, “This might have been a breakout game for him; a big confidence booster.” Mainly, he applauded the team as whole, saying, “They came out a little nervous, kept playing when they were down and gave me all they could give me. They never gave up.”

Meanwhile, Coach Marienfeld praised the play of forward Luke Kirrane (eight points) and the effort of his sophomores, particularly Hmielenski and Tyler Gilbride who “did a good job up top both ways” after starting guard, senior Casey Crowley (seven points) fouled out late in the third period. When senior sixth man Nick DePetris (13 points, six rebounds) fouled out in overtime, Coach Marienfeld had sophomore Skyler Loesch step in to fill a big spot at forward.


Joey D.

After the game Tuesday, Dowling described his focus going into Tuesday’s game saying, “I really wanted that one. We had to get it, especially since we started 0-3 [in non-league], all games we should have won [two of the losses coming in overtime].”

In describing that moment alone at the line, Dowling humbly expressed a dislike for those sorts of pressure situations and was surprised to learn that he was 8 of 10 before those two avoided the net. He said the best part of the game “was how everybody came together at the end, the young guys stepping up when we needed them.”


Whalers Home Tuesday

The weekend has the Pierson boys in playing in Syracuse and Rochester as part of the annual Charles J. Finney School tournament, an event the team won last year. They are back for school on Monday and open their home schedule Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. against 1-0 Shelter Island in the Pierson gym.

 “That’s this team’s only league home game for 2008,” noted Coach Marienfeld. “It’d be great if these guys could get themselves an early Christmas present upstate and then show everyone their best Tuesday. After six games away, I’m sure everyone will be glad to be home.”