Jackson Sabbeth said electricity was running through his veins Friday.
The Pierson senior, who joined the baseball team this season as a transfer from Ross, went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs scored in a 5-4 win over Southold for the Whalers’ second straight Suffolk County title.
After recording crucial outs in each of the first three innings, the second of which was a running catch that stranded runners on second and third, it was time for Sabbeth to make an impact at the plate. After sophomore Gavin Gilbride drew a walk to start the inning, and stole second between two outs, the senior knocked a base hit into right field to bring home the first run.
“It was just an unmatchable feeling,” Sabbeth said, adding he wasn’t even aware a run had scored until standing up after the dive to first base. “Southold played amazing, but we just played better. It was a lot of fun.”
What also helped was senior catcher Tucker Schiavoni’s bases-clearing triple after freshman Dominick Mancino was hit by a pitch to make it a 3-0 game in the bottom of the third.
“We knew it was going to be a close one, so we had to get on them early,” said Schiavoni, who was tabbed the League VI MVP this season. “They had a good pitcher on the mound, but we just jumped on him, and it felt amazing driving in those runs. I couldn’t ask for anything more from my last home game.”
But a ball went over Sabbeth’s head after an error helped the leadoff runner of the fifth get to first base to bring in Southold’s first run. More errors plagued the Whalers (16-1) in that inning to help the Settlers close the gap, 3-2, but the senior was ready to make up for his miss. In the bottom of the fifth, which freshman Charles Schaefer opened with a base hit before stealing second between two outs, Sabbeth knocked another two-out hit to help reextend the lead. Schiavoni also recorded a hit, but not before Sabbeth scored on a passed ball at the plate for a 5-2 advantage.
“No error or anything was going to get us down,” Sabbeth said. “There was motivation behind everyone coming into this game, and we maintained the energy throughout the game. I think that is what helped us rise to the top.”
Not going down without a fight, Southold junior pitcher Brendan Duffy decided to help his own cause with a two-run double to once again make it a one-run game. But after two pitching changes, the Whalers were a little less worried with ace Dan Labrozzi relieving Christian Pantina in the middle of the sixth inning, even if the bases were loaded — twice. A tag of a Southold (10-7) runner trying to steal home and a force out at second ended the inning. And after a 1-2-3 bottom of the sixth and two Southold hits to open the seventh, Labrozzi put the ball in play twice between a strikeout to record the save.
Reed Kelsey started the game on the mound for Pierson and didn’t allow an earned run before being lifted after throwing 70 pitches through five innings.
“I just wanted to win. We felt like we had something to prove,” the junior righthander said. “And losing to Hampton Bays just made us want to win more.”
Pierson had recorded 14 straight wins before Hampton Bays spoiled the Whalers’ senior night while also handing the team its first loss of the season. What also motivated the Pierson players was silencing the doubters. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic several key players graduated from the team that made it to the state semifinals in 2019.
“The big thing is we never doubted ourselves, because heading into the season, we all knew the abilities we had,” said assistant coach Tyler LaBorne, who filled in for head coach Jonathan Schwartz as he welcomed the birth of his child. “These guys — all season — have been tremendous, and today was no exception. We were in the best position to win, and they came through at the right times.”
Besides Schiavoni’s offense and defense and Labrozzi shutting things down, the assistant coach was quick to credit Mancino, who was named All-League, and Schaefer for their huge contributions.
“For them to do what they did — making key plays — it shows how well-rounded of a team this really is,” LaBorne said. “There’s not much more I could’ve asked for.”
The victory at Mashashimuet Park sends Pierson to the Long Island Championship game at the Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale this Sunday. The Whalers will face Wheatley, with the first pitch scheduled to be tossed at 5 p.m. The catcher said he isn’t worried, knowing Labrozzi will be the starter.
“He has been lights out all year,” Schiavoni said, “and we’ve all been hot while hitting, so we’ll see what we can do.”
The junior pitcher said he’s ready to get the job done and return home to a celebratory parade.
“It’s going to be all hands on deck, just like today,” LaBorne said. “This was a team win. Everybody here is hungry, and excited. We all know that we’re not done.”