Kneeland Back at the Helm of Pierson Softball
By Gavin Menu
It has been a topsy-turvy two years for the Pierson/Bridgehampton softball team, which was a perennial Suffolk County Class C champion and state title contender under Melissa Edwards, the team’s head coach through the 2014 season, and Sam Duchemin, the team’s ace pitcher for five consecutive years.
John “Woody” Kneeland and Pierson athletic director Eric Bramoff were co-head coaches for the 2015 season and Shakoya Davis led the team last year. Kneeland returns this spring as head coach, except he alone will be calling the shots, and Duchemin had joined the program as a pitching coach.
“Even though I’ve known and coached all these kids since they were in t-ball, I still feel like this is a new thing for me,” Kneeland said this week as his team prepared for its season opener this Tuesday, March 28, at home against Babylon. “It has a new feeling for me.”
Competition is the name of the game for Kneeland this spring, with just four seniors leading the way. Isabel Peters is expected to start at shortstop, and Lottie Evans is a surefire bet to start in centerfield. Bridgehampton senior Nia Dawson and Pierson’s Maizy Guyer are two of the best athletes in the program, but have been away from the game for a number of years.
“Nia has not played in a long time, but she’s such an incredible athlete and a great kid to coach,” Kneeland said, adding that Dawson will likely start in the outfield. “And Maizy brings some experience and is a very coachable kid and a great kid.”
Duchemin’s return is timely as she will be able to mentor the team’s junior pitcher, Annabelle Schroeder, who worked hard during the offseason as she continues to develop and learn the intricacies of the game. Kneeland said the team may also use two up-and-coming young hurlers in freshmen Sam Cox and Kathryn Powell as the season progresses.
“I want them to compete to the very last second and even through the season for every position,” Kneeland said.
Joining Schroeder from the junior class are four versatile players who can play infield or outfield including Lee Hatfield, who is also a catcher, Cassie Arbia, Shannon Sloane and Isabella DiRussa. Paige Schaefer, a sophomore, will likely start at third base while her classmate Katie Kneeland is a great hitter who will likely start the season with the junior varsity.
Due to the ongoing field construction behind Pierson this spring, the Lady Whalers will play games this season at Mashashimuet Park. Tuesday’s season-opener against Babylon is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
Two days later, on March 30, Pierson will host Center Moriches, which is the top team in League X along with Babylon.
“Center Moriches and Babylon are going to be the two top dogs,” Kneeland said. “After that it’s wide open. We play those two teams first, and I don’t want to walk into those games saying we’re losing. I want to challenge these kids to stand up and go at them.”