After the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 spring athletic season across all of New York State, this spring marks the first time in two years that sports such as baseball, softball, lacrosse, girls golf and track and field will be played in two years.
Because of that fact, Section XI, the governing body of Suffolk County high school athletics, has dedicated itself to ensuring that this season goes off without a hitch. To that end, the county has scheduled the spring season to run from May into the second week of June, which it was able to do when the state canceled all of its championship tournaments. Typically the season starts late March/early April, but the fall season was pushed back and ended in late April.
The county has used the previous two seasons, the winter and the fall, as a springboard to this season, and has taken what it’s learned during that time as a way to improve how high school athletics are run during a pandemic. Furthermore, the county just loosened its COVID testing requirements (see separate story) for high-risk sports such as boys lacrosse, in an effort to give those athletes as normal a season as possible, which is the ultimate goal for this season.
The following are brief previews of where each program stands going into the spring.
Pierson’s only team this spring, with softball not fielding a varsity team and the other teams being shared with East Hampton, is also its most successful team in recent years, having reached the New York State Class C semifinal in 2019. That roster had its handful of seniors but also had a number of strong underclassmen, many of which remain on the team for this spring.
Tucker Schiavoni will lead the team behind the plate as its starting catcher. The senior has committed to playing baseball at Roanoke College and head coach Jonathan Schwartz said “no one should run on him in our league all year.”
Also returning from the team that went to states is junior Daniel Labrozzi and sophomore Christian Pantina. Both are expected to be the team’s top starting pitchers and will play shortstop when they’re not on the hill. Sophomore Gavin Gilbride was a late-season callup in 2019 and is also returning. He’ll play second or third base and backup Schiavoni behind the plate.
New to the team this season are a pair of freshmen in Dominick Mancino and Charles Schaefer. Mancino will play center field and see some time on the mound while Schaefer will play around the infield. Senior Wilson Bennett, who stared on the basketball team, has come out to play baseball for the first time in while, as has junior Charlie Culver. Both Bennett and Culver will play the outfield and Schwartz said both have good pop in their bats.
Junior Reid Kelsey will start at first base and be the team’s third starting pitcher behind Labrozzi and Pantina. Senior Truman Yardley (third base/outfield), sophomore Brendan Burke (outfield), senior Leo Butler (first base) and senior Jackson Sabbeth (pitcher, second base, outfield) will all have key roles on the team as well.
The Whalers begin the season with back-to-back games against Greenport and Hampton Bays this Saturday evening.
Due to low numbers, Pierson Athletic Director Eric Bramoff decided to not field a varsity softball team this spring, just a junior varsity team, which will continue to be coached by Sharon Truland and Kevin O’Halloran.
A full article on the softball team can be found on sagharborexpress.com.
The South Fork boys lacrosse team, comprising student-athletes from Bridgehampton, East Hampton, Pierson, the Ross School and Southampton, was expecting to take a big leap forward in 2019, but an off-the-field injury led starting goalie Hudson Brindle to miss most of the season, which ultimately led the Islanders to going 3-13 in Division I. The Islanders were eager to quickly turn that around in 2020 but the season was canceled due to COVID.
With the team back and healthy, the South Fork team, which was ranked 17th out of 21 Division I schools this preseason, is finally ready to prove it can play with the top teams in Suffolk County. Luke Marro, a two-time All-Division and All-County player who has led the team in goals every year since he was in eighth grade, returns for his final season. Hudson Brindle, a Pierson senior, Southampton senior attack Zac Mobius and East Hampton senior defender and four-year starter Aiden Cooper all make up the team’s captains along with Marro.
Southampton seniors Cooper Brindle, Andre Aponte and Jai Agoglia all return as well. New to the team this season are Southampton seniors Owen Koszalka, Jarrett Helgerson, Riley Fisher, Reece Nugent, Sebastian Frowein and Griffin Wei, junior Justin Marro and sophomore Chance Brindle, and East Hampton seniors Bryan Pannasch, Lucas Nordlinger, Ethan Stein, Kai Esposito and Nick Lombardo, junior Colin Schaefer and freshmen Jack Cooper and Charlie Corwin.
The boys started the season on Tuesday against William Floyd and also play Copiague and Riverhead on Thursday and Saturday of this week, respectively.
The East Hampton-Pierson-Bridgehampton-Ross girls lacrosse team has struggled with numbers and a lack of experience in the past, but head coach Jessica Sanna is hoping this season the team starts to make some positive changes.
Pierson senior Grace Perello headlines the team after leading it in scoring in 2019. She’s key on draw controls and stands out on both attack and defense. East Hampton senior Asha Hokanson is another key returning player who Sanna said specializes in ground balls and causing turnovers. East Hampton junior Laura Calderon will lead the defense in goal, along with defenders Emma Stein, an East Hampton junior, and Emily Flores, an East Hampton sophomore.
The rest of the team is new to varsity, but Sanna is expecting East Hampton freshmen Lola Garneau and Melina Sarlo to contribute to the team’s success right away.
The Bonackers will be playing in the large school Division I for the first time ever this season and will play against the likes of Brentwood, Sachem East and Patchogue-Medford. They started the season on Wednesday at Commack and will also play this Friday at North Babylon.
The East Hampton-Pierson-Bridgehampton boys track team will be a mix of strong senior athletes and young up-and-coming athletes.
Leading the way will be East Hampton senior Luc Campbell and Pierson senior Ben McErlean, both of whom were named captains by East Hampton head coach Ben Turnbull. Campbell can compete in just about any event, which is why he’ll compete in the pentathlon at invitationals and postseason meets, and he also runs the 110-meter high hurdles exclusively. McErlean, coming off a cross country season in which he won the Suffolk County Class D title, leads what is a strong middle and long distance running group. He’ll run almost exclusively in the 1,600-meter race, in which Turnbull said he’ll be looking to run under 4:20.
Pierson junior P.J. Ramundo, who was also key runner on Pierson’s county championship cross country team, will be running in the 3,200-meter race along with East Hampton freshman Brayan Rivera, who will be running in both the 3,200 and 1,600. East Hampton junior Amari Gordon (800, 1,600), Pierson junior Jackson Bakes (100- and 200-meter dashes), Pierson sophomore Marcus Krotman (400-, 800-meter runs) and East Hampton freshman Liam Fowkes (800, 1,600) all create what is to be a competitive running group for the Bonackers.
The boys don’t have their first meet until May 13 when the team hosts Islip.
The East Hampton-Pierson-Bridgehampton girls track team will be led by its strong group of distance runners this season, head coach Yani Cuesta said. Pierson senior Penelope Greene, who won the Suffolk Class D title, and East Hampton freshman Dylan Cashin, who placed third in the county Class B race, form a tough one-two tandem in long distance races for Bonac, along with East Hampton seniors Ava Engstrom and Bella Tarbet and junior Emma Hren.
East Hampton senior Isabella Espinoza specializes in the pole vault and will make an impact in both league dual meets and later on in the postseason, Cuesta said. Pierson sophomore Meredith Spolarich is joining the track team for the first time and Cuesta said she’s done well early on in the discus and middle to long distance running events. East Hampton senior Tiffany Georgopolous is the team’s most experienced triple jumper and leads what is a young group in the jumps.
The girls began the season on Wednesday against Mount Sinai.
The East Hampton-Pierson boys tennis team only returns three players in East Hampton senior Matthew McGovern, East Hampton sophomore Max Astilean and Pierson junior Jackson LaRose from its 2019 squad. East Hampton head coach Kevin McConville said the team was hit hard not only by graduation, but players who transferred to different schools or who just simply opted not to play tennis this season.
East Hampton freshman Nick Cooper is new to the team and could push Astilean for the No. 1 singles spot throughout the season. McGovern will continue to play doubles at the top pairing with East Hampton senior Brian Chen. East Hampton sophomore Jesse Cohen and East Hampton senior Max Houser will compete in the doubles lineup as well.
East Hampton began its season this week with a pair of non-league matches against Miller Place on Wednesday and Ward Melville on Friday.
The Southampton-Pierson girls golf team will be looking to extend its impressive 24-0 start in league play since joining the varsity ranks in 2017 this season, but it will have to do so for the first time without Caraline Oakley, who has since graduated, and with a new head coach, as Dan White replaces Kim Hannigan.
The Mariners had a strong team behind Oakley, evident in their back-to-back finishes as the runner-up at the Suffolk County Championships. A number of players return from those teams, including Ella Coady, now a sophomore, who was All-County back in 2019. Southampton senior Kiera Gil and junior Caroline Wilutis also played on that 2019 team and also return.
Southampton junior Haley Marcincuk and Pierson junior Francesca Vitale are both new to the team along with a large group of eighth-graders in Vivienne Archer, Kathryn Blackmore, Emma Vail, Zaida Triffit and Jillian Swiatocha. Isabel Doyle, Eleana Merola and Sophia Beech make up the rest of the roster.
White said that there will be at least nine players competing throughout the season to be in the team’s top six. Southampton’s first match is April 10 against Longwood at Spring Lake Golf Club in Middle Island.