By Benito Vila
There are two League VIII titles on the softball banner in the Pierson gym where even as recently as three years ago there were none before. Those two championships, earned in 2006 and 2007, almost became three in a row last season, but an extra-inning title game got away against Port Jefferson.
This year’s Lady Whalers have been part of that competitive run, eight seniors returning to play for a shot at another title. Joining them are three talented juniors and three underclassmen who once played for the county softball title as Little Leaguers.
Coming in to lead the Pierson varsity this season is Melissa Edwards, a former collegiate player, at Springfield, and a former Brandeis University coach. In considering what she has seen so far, Coach Edwards describes herself as “lucky because any day anyone of these kids can be the star. They are all very talented and want it. I couldn’t ask for a better group of kids to get started with.”
The team is due to take the field in uniform for the first time today at 4 p.m., hosting Westhampton in Mashashimuet Park in a scrimmage. That starts a busy week that has the team in Longwood Saturday for a set of scrimmages, in East Hampton Tuesday for a non-league contest and back in the park next Wednesday to scrimmage Riverhead. The varsity’s season opener is next Friday at Center Moriches.
Coach Edwards expects to see competitive squads when matching up with Hampton Bays, Southampton and Port Jefferson. The League VII “cross-over” schedule will also see the Lady Whalers play Mt. Sinai, Babylon and Bayport-Blue Point, all teams that typically make the county playoffs.
The Lady Whalers go into the season 14-deep, with every high school class represented on their roster. Selected captains by their teammates last week were seniors Samanthe Federico, Katie Osiecki and Megan Pintauro and sophomore Kaci Koehne. The other seniors on the team are Brianna Hand, Nell Kruszynski, Diana Rodriguez, Danielle Schiavoni and Alicia Tagliasacchi. Joining them on the roster are juniors Natalie Abbene, Abby Gawronski and Kara Gengarelly, sophomore Lindsay Warne and freshman Melanie Stafford.
Looking ahead to this week’s scrimmages, Coach Edwards says, “I want to see the girls just play. With the team I have, we can put any kid almost anywhere. With that being said, I will be playing around with the infield until I find what will work for us the best. I also want to see these kids gain the confidence in themselves that they should have. They are all ballplayers; they need to hear that they are doing things well. We need to step our confidence up a little.”
Also due to play in the park today is the Lady Whaler JV, a squad led by Kathy Amicucci, who once coached most of the current varsity when they started their high school careers. Coach Amicucci has given over much of her practices to working on game situations, reacquainting her team with tactics and seeing who can play where. Coach Amicucci said she liked that, “We have players that can play more than one position.”
Going into this week’s games, she is looking forward to seeing the combination of pitcher Lindsey Duran and catcher Catherine Musnicki and expects Taylor Boutcher and Brittany Scala to get time in the outfield. Samantha James, Jessica Warne, Dominque Clark and Rebecca Speckenbach will likely be in the infield, along with Kerrianne FitzPatrick and Hayley Schimmer. Chelsea Freleng, Gemma Gardella and Nina Hemby are also playing and will be filling varied roles.