Tag Archive | "Whalers"

Whalers Need to Win Out for Berth

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web Whalers-Breakers Baseball 09_1112

By Benito Vila

With eight games to go on their schedule, the post-season is a dim dream for this summer’s Sag Harbor Whalers. The defending Kaiser Division champions were 12-19 going into last night’s game against the Westhampton Aviators in local Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League action. The Aviators, at 20-11, are the division’s current co-leaders, sharing the top spot with the 21-12 Riverhead Tomcats.

The Whalers were among the league leaders July 10 before a seven-game stretch saw the team lose their manager, pitching coach, two top catchers, three starting pitchers, a reliever and the starting shortstop. Not faring well on the field and playing a bit like this summer’s New York Mets, the team dropped each of those seven contests, going from a playoff contender to also-ran in a week.

Splitting a pair of doubleheaders last weekend put the Whalers back in the win column, but like the Mets, the injuries have been too much to overcome. Gone are the guys that led the team to a strong start, putting pressure on the remaining players to do more, a disastrous scenario at any level.

In the midst of dealing with the injuries, the team learned pitching coach Jonathan Anderson had been recruited by the Dartmouth College baseball program and that manager Jason Lefkowitz was needed to fulfill a coaching commitment at Brown University.

Stepping in to right the Whaler ship have been Scott June and Jim Buckley, coaches from All-Pro Sports Academy in Bellport, the east end’s closest baseball training facility. Both June and Buckley played college ball, with Buckley moving on through the Red Sox’ minor league program as a catcher between 2002 and 2006, finishing his career at AAA Pawtucket.

Buckley knows the ACBL summer league program first-hand, having played in the 1999 season while he was attending Siena College. After the games in Mashashimuet Park last Sunday, Buckley said, “Summer-ball is supposed to be fun for these guys and the last week’s been hard on them. What Scott and I hope to do in these last few games is throw some knowledge at them; we’re not here to make major adjustments. We want them to pick up on the little things they can do to keep on improving and to understand how to make use of some of the things they see on the field from game to game.”

Buckley saw the Whalers’ win last Sunday’s first game, 3-1, on what he described as “key two-out hits” and drop the nightcap, 7-3, in “killing innings by leaving guys at third with less than two outs.”

The Whalers are scheduled to be back in the park tomorrow, hosting Riverhead in a 5 p.m. start. On Sunday, the team has its last home doubleheader of the season, the Long Island Mustangs (5-25) coming in for games at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.

The Whaler’s only hope for the post-season is to win those three home games and then sweep the Tuesday 2 p.m.-5 p.m. doubleheader against the Mustangs at Stony Brook Southampton. The boys would also have to continue to win out against the North Fork Ospreys in Mattituck Wednesday and against the Aviators in Westhampton next Thursday.


Scout Day


The Whaler’s record of late has not deterred fans from turning out to see the team, a loyal group of about forty regulars and another curious twenty-five or so coming each Sunday for the doubleheaders. And though the Kaiser Division title games and the ACBL’s championship finals against the New Jersey-based Wolff Division winner are not likely to be played in the park, it does appear the collegiate program is set to return next summer.

Local Kaiser Division organizer Rusty Leaver said last Sunday, “We’re in this for the long haul. We took an unusual business step in adding five teams at once this season but it’s working. The fan-base has come along in each of our towns and we’re attracting baseball talent, on and off the field, that’s making it even more interesting for everyone involved.”

Some of that talent includes major league scouts that are tracking Kaiser players. This past Monday scouts from the Red Sox, Devil Rays, Mets, Tigers and Phillies’ organizations held a showcase “Scout Day” at the Stony Brook Southampton field.

Players were asked to throw, run and hit, learning in the doing some of the rules of thumb the major league clubs are currently using in looking for talent. Those include: running the 60-yard dash in 7.1 seconds or under, with 6.8 seconds being “something we like”; throwing head-high lasers from right field to home and third that one-hop sharply on-target on at least seven out of ten tries; catchers going “pop-to-pop”, from home to second, in two seconds or less.

The scouts were also overheard speaking of ideal body types—looking for slim builds over six-foot two for first base and thinking of infielders under five-foot eleven as second baseman only. Generalities aside, a dozen or more Kaiser Division players, including a few Whalers, are already being “followed”, with dedication, effort and “nothing stupid on Facebook” also being factors in attracting further attention.

Collegiate Whalers at 4-4

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By Benito Vila


The Sag Harbor Whalers of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League played five games this week, going 2-3 and giving the squad a 4-4 start on their 40-game schedule.

The three losses came in contests with the high-flying league-leaders, the Westhampton Aviators (4-2) and the North Fork Ospreys (6-3). The Whalers split their doubleheader with the Aviators in Mashashimuet Park last Sunday, seeing game one get away 2-0 on a bases loaded double in extra innings and playing “small ball” to prevail 2-1 in game two, a bunt and a fielder’s choice scoring the go-ahead run.

The team is back in the park again this Sunday for a doubleheader against the Long Island Mustangs, who are off to a 1-4 start. Game one Sunday is set for 2 p.m. and game two 5 p.m.; both games scheduled to go seven innings.

Looking at how his team has performed of late, Whaler skipper Jason Lefkowitz sees “a strong offense that has run into some good pitching. We’re not putting together good at-bats consistently right now. We’re getting a good one here and then one there. Consistency will come with playing and with playing together. The guys are putting in the work and, for a lot of them, it’s just a matter of getting their timing down. I know we’re going to start getting better results. And that’s great, because so far our pitching has been strong and we’ve been in all our games.”

Going into last night’s game against the Mustangs at New York Tech, former Pierson Whaler Mike Labrozzi (Farmingdale State) led the team in batting at .500 (12 for 24), with Ed Squeri (Dowling), at .308, being the only other Whaler over .300. Bonacker-alum Gardner Leaver (Rhode Island) leads the club in innings pitched (11.1) and has yet to surrender a run.

Steve King (Farmingdale) leads the pitchers with two wins and Brian Russell (Davidson) tops the staff with eight strikeouts in eight innings. Brandon Boykin (Rutgers) is third in hitting at .292. The team has turned ten double plays on defense in the eight games while the offense has only hit into four.

This week the Whalers are at Riverhead Tuesday, at Westhampton Friday and then back in the park next Sunday for two against Southampton. The weekday away games start at 5 p.m.

Whalers Take First Two, Return This Sunday

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By Benito Vila

The Boys of Summer is legendary in the annals of sport, writer Roger Kahn capturing the cool and fire of his beloved Brooklyn Dodgers. Last Sunday Sag Harbor was introduced to its boys of summer, a group of college players coming together as “the Whalers” in Mashashimuet Park to open a 40-game season in Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League action.
The setting was familiar for one Whaler, former Pierson standout and current Farmingdale State scholar-athlete Mike Labrozzi back on his “home” field. Labrozzi and his new teammates didn’t disappoint the 80 or so that turned out, taking both ends of a doubleheader, 2-1 and 10-2, from the highly regarded Riverhead Tomcats.
Labrozzi lit up the faces of many friends, starting at first base and hitting sixth in the first game. In his first at-bat, in the bottom of the second, Labrozzi stepped in with a runner on and lifted the first over-the-fence homer seen in Mashashimuet since the wood bat league started play here last year.
The 360-foot shot gave Whaler starter, East Hampton alumnus and current University of Rhode Island pitcher, Gardner Leaver a 2-0 lead. And those runs were all Leaver needed, the righty keeping the Tomcats quiet in allowing just one hit, walking one and striking out three in five innings of work.
Brian Russell, a righty from Davidson, relieved Leaver and held the lead for the next three and two-thirds, scattering four hits. But it was Jake Donze, a lefty from Murray State University (KY), who closed out the game, getting the last out on a force at second with the bases loaded, a run in and the Tomcats scratching to get the lead.

The Runs Pile Up
The Tomcats were unable to break through in the first inning of the second game, New York Tech lefty Steve Faulkner retiring the side easily. The Whalers, meanwhile, snapped their scoreless string, Rutgers sophomore Brandon Boykin singling in a run in the bottom of the first.
Labrozzi stepped in later in the frame with two away, runners at first and third and the home crowd eager for more. A delayed double steal and a low throw home, netted the Whalers another run before Labrozzi added to the Tomcats’ misery by roping a double to right center to make the score 3-0.
Faulkner yielded a run in the second, the Tomcats making the most of a pair of singles and a wild pitch. A Labrozzi infield single in the hole at short brought home another Whaler in the fourth, keeping the margin at three and giving the hometown player four RBIs on the day.
In all, Labrozzi went five-for-seven in his team’s debut, another single in the sixth contributing to a five-run rally that put the Whalers up 9-1. A Sag Harbor run in the eighth and a Riverhead run in the ninth closed the scoring at 10-2 Whalers, Anna Maria College (MA) lefty James McNamara and Farmingdale State righty Steve King keeping the Tomcats from sneaking back into the game.

What’s to Come
Whaler skipper Jason Lefkowitz, an assistant baseball coach at Brown University, was satisfied with his team’s play, saying “I thought our team played well-played games considering we have only been on a field as a team twice leading up to the games. It was a great team effort with many of the guys giving up their at bats to move runners over and get runners in. Mike Labrozzi came up clutch for us in both games, having a great at bat in the first game and hitting it out with two strikes.”
Seeing what needs work, Coach Lefkowitz pointed out, “I feel we need to work on our defense a little more as we made more errors than I would have liked, causing our pitchers to make more pitches. Also, we will be working on our hitting a little bit, but I don’t have any concerns for that part. If we were able to put up 10 runs on limited hits, we should be able to do well once we start playing everyday.”
Citing individual contributions, Coach Lefkowitz added, “I thought all our pitchers did a great job throwing strikes, letting our defense make the plays. Gardner Leaver did a great job throwing more innings than we expected him to throw with the limited pitch count we had our pitchers on. Brian Russell also threw the ball very well and Jake Donze got us a big out to get the save.”
“In game two, I was very happy with how James McNamara pitched; he was a strike-throwing machine, getting us deep in the game. Before the doubleheader, we were told we were playing two nine-inning games where I understood from the ACBL we were going to play two seven-inning games, so we were a little thin on pitching as a few of our pitchers had just got to Sag Harbor Saturday.”
The nine-inning format will be used in games from hereon in, the Whalers at North Fork (Mattituck) today at 5 p.m. and at Southampton (on the high school field) Thursday at 5 p.m. On Saturday, the Whalers will play the Breakers on the new baseball field at Stony Brook University’s Southampton campus at 5 p.m.
The boys are back in the park again this Sunday against Westhampton, games at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., with Sunday doubleheaders continuing each weekend this month and next.

Whaler Get-Away
The Sag Harbor Whaler Host Committee, which has housed the team’s players and made arrangements for local work while the boys are not playing ball, has scheduled a team fundraiser for June 19. The committee has negotiated the use of one of the South Ferry’s fleet for a sunset getaway cruise in and outside the harbor.
The ferry will launch from Long Wharf next Saturday, Whaler players meeting those that turn out at 5:45 p.m. Shortly after 6 p.m. beverages and appetizers will be made available. Tickets for the cruise can be purchased for $40 at B. Smith or from Rich Kudlak at Prudential Real Estate. The ferry is due to come in just before 8 p.

Collegiate Whalers Ready for Sunday Debut

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By Benito Vila

The Sag Harbor Whalers, last year’s runner-up in the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League, will make their 2009 home debut in Mashashimuet Park this Sunday at 2 p.m. hosting the Riverhead Tomcats. A second game follows at 5 p.m.

The Whalers came together for practice Tuesday in Southampton, many players meeting each other for the first time after traveling in from colleges all over the country. The team opens play today at Hite Field in Westampton, taking on the Aviators at 5 p.m.

The Whalers are scheduled to play 42 games between now and the end of July, with doubleheaders in the park each of the next eight Sundays. Those interested in tracking their schedule can go to acbl-online.com.


Meet the Team

The 2009 Whalers will be managed by Jason Lefkowitz, an assistant baseball coach at Brown University and a graduate of Loyola Marymount University. A starting infielder and a psychology major as an undergrad, Lefkowitz earned student-athlete academic honors in each year he was at LMU. He is currently working towards his master’s degree and just completed his third season with the Brown program.

Duke assistant coach Jonathan Anderson joins Lefkowitz in the Whaler dugout. Anderson is a former Blue Devil outfielder and pitcher, who has been in charge of the Duke Baseball Academy for two years and oversees the academic development of the program’s student-athletes.

Notable Whaler players include right-handed pitcher Ian Dickson of Lafayette College (PA), an All-Long Island pitcher from Northport who consistently hits 88-92 on radar gun. Also on the roster is shortstop Tony Bernazard of Jacksonville University (FL), a son of the former major leaguer who is currently vice president of player development for the New York Mets. Former Pierson Whaler and current Farmingdale State scholar-athlete Mike Labrozzi will be vying for playing time on his “home” field.

The other Whaler players are from collegiate programs at Rhode Island, Rutgers, Hofstra, Harvard, Seton Hall, Stanford, Fairfield, Elon and Davidson. Their league rivals in Mattituck, Westhampton, Riverhead, Southampton and Old Westbury will have players from UNLV, UNC Wilmington, UConn, Notre Dame, Princeton, Iona, C.W. Post and North Dakota State among others.

There is no admission fee to Whaler games but donations may be requested to help cover team and league expenses.


ABCL Grads

The ACBL is opening its forty-third season this summer, collegiate players making up the rosters of 12 teams. Six of those teams are based in and around northern New Jersey and western Pennsylvania and make up the Wolff Division and the other six teams are on Long Island and make up the Kaiser Division.

The east end component of the league was brought to life last year by Montauk resident Rusty Leaver and a host of local volunteers, who saw their Whalers earn the 2008 Kaiser Division crown. Leaver hopes to expand the Long Island contingent so that it evolves locally along the lines of the Cape Cod Summer League, which has brought together top amateur baseball talent and professional scouts since 1885.

The ACBL has showcased many major leaguer in its time, recent 250-game winner Jaime Moyer (Philadelphia Phillies) being one name many recognize of late. Craig Biggio, John Flaherty, John Valentin, Pat Kelly, Keith Osik, Matt Morris, Pete Harnisch, Walt Weiss, Terry Mulholland, Frank Viola and Kevin Cash are names that Yankee, Met and Red Sox fans alike are sure to remember.

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.