By Gavin Menu
A perfect storm of misfortune ravaged the Pierson/Bridgehampton softball roster over the last week and ultimately led to the Lady Whalers playing two innings on the road at Mercy on Tuesday with only eight players in the field.
After his team’s 13-2 loss to the surging Lady Monarchs, which dropped Pierson’s record to 1-5, head coach Woody Kneeland said two starters had been suspended for “disciplinary reasons,” but refrained from naming the players or offering any specifics about what led to their suspensions. Kneeland said several other players missed the game because of sickness, injury or other obligations, and that he was missing four starters for the game on Tuesday.
Which all left the Lady Whalers with just nine healthy bodies against Mercy, a Class B school that has been gaining momentum of late in the competitive ranks of League X. When Pierson outfielder Shannon Sloane took a pitch to her right hand in the second inning, Kneeland and the Lady Whalers were left with just eight able-bodied players.
“The way it works at Pierson, because the squads are so small, you have to pray for perfect scenarios,” Kneeland said during a conversation after the game on Tuesday, which followed a 12-0 loss to Babylon one day earlier. “If anything goes wrong it’s a huge impact. I lose a starter and I’m in trouble. I can’t say next man up, because there is no next man up.”
Pierson led, 2-1, in the top of the third inning but had to sacrifice a pair of base runners due to a “hole in the lineup” with Sloane on the bench and no other player to step up in her absence. When the Lady Whalers took the field in the bottom of the inning, starting shortstop Isabel Peters was in left field, with third baseman Paige Schaefer covering the entire left side of the infield. Mercy scored five runs in the inning and never looked back.
Sloane returned to the field for the fifth inning, but was unable to throw the ball, but she laid down a successful one-handed bunt in the sixth, though the game was already firmly in the Lady Monarchs’ control by then.
Kneeland was expecting to be back at full strength by the end of the week, meaning the team had to fight its way through one more game at home against Mattituck on Wednesday after press time with depleted numbers. Because of rainy weather, the team’s schedule has been juggled so much that it will attempt to play 10 games over the next 20 days.
“All I want to do is coach these kids. I love them all,” Kneeland said. “They are all good kids making some bad choices. I’m not ready to abandon any of them. “
Pierson’s junior varsity team, which has a large contingent of eighth- and ninth-graders, easily beat Mercy’s JV at home on Tuesday. Kneeland could have brought players up from the JV, but said he would rather not rock the boat while he looks toward what he believes is a bright future for the program. At the center of that future is freshman Sam Cox, who has been pitching at the varsity level and providing some spark on offense as well.
“She’s a fighter, she’s our future,” Kneeland said about Cox. “At some point I have to push those kids ahead a little bit. They had each other’s back today, we just didn’t have the manpower.”