By Andrew Rudansky
The winter months have come and gone, and before all of the heavy snow clothes have even made their way out of the closet we find ourselves on the cusp of spring. Heralding the arrival of the new season is the beginning of baseball season in high schools across Long Island. For the Pierson/Bridgehampton Whalers that means varsity tryouts on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.
Barring any unforeseen circumstances that means third-year Head Coach John Tortorella will have a completed roster for League VIII play by Thursday afternoon.
Last year the Whalers finished the season with a solid league record of 11-7, and a trip to the Suffolk County Class C Championship Game. The team fell to McGann-Mercy in the finals.
Tortorella expects to field to the same team from last year, excepting the three seniors that graduated last may.
Those graduated seniors left some large holes in the Whalers’ roster this season, none bigger than the one left by starting pitcher Jake Weingartner.
Weingartner had been the team’s number one pitcher last year. He also played as one of the team’s shortstops and proved to be an offensive presence at the plate. He was named to the 2011 All-County team for his performance last season.
The Whalers also lost two key bats last year, those of All League center fielder Tyler Gilbride and outfielder Gavin Kudlak.
Tortorella said that the team will miss both players for their versatility on defense and their power hitting.
“We will have to pull up some underclassmen,” said Tortorella about replacing the graduated seniors, “we will see how that goes.”
Junior Coleman Vila will take over the one spot on the team’s pitching rotation. While Aaron Schiavoni and Forrest Loesch, both All League freshmen last season, will occupy the next two spots in the starting rotation.
The rest of the bullpen has yet to be decided according to Tortorella, with players competing for the role in tryouts next week.
“I hope our pitching turns out being good,” he said, “we have some depth and we have some potential.”
Among the other returning players from last year, Tortorella expects Jake Bennett, Hunter Leyser, Michael Heller, Emet Evjen and Brendan Hemby to return to the team.
“This year I think we are just solid across the board,” said Tortorella.
The defending Class C Champions Mercy left League VIII after last season, and have moved up to the more competitive League VII. With the champs out of the league, that gives a lot of hungry teams their own chance to capture the title.
“Right now [the field] is wide open,” said Tortorella. “Every team in the league is bringing back a lot of players.”
This year League VIII will be comprised of the Whalers, the Port Jefferson Royals, the Southold Settlers, the Smithtown Christian Knights, the Greenport/Shelter Island Porters and the Stony Brook Bears.
The Whalers begin their season with a series of scrimmages in mid-March. These scrimmages will have no effect on the Whalers overall league record. The first of these “friendlies” is at the Southampton Mariners on Saturday, March 17 at 10 a.m. This is followed by two more scrimmages against East Hampton, the first will be held at Mashashimuet Park on Monday, March 19 at 4 p.m., the other is an away game at East Hampton on Wednesday, March 21 at 4 p.m.
The first league game of the season is a home game on February 27 at 4:40 p.m. The match will be the first of four league games the Whalers will play against the Port Jefferson Royals.