An old rivalry took on a new twist Monday at Mashashimuet Park as the defending League IX and Suffolk County Class C champion Southold Settlers travelled to Sag Harbor for the start of the 2018 high school baseball season.
Pierson and Southold both have new head coaches this season, and the Settlers lost a ton of talent to graduation, with just three returning starters from last year. The change in tide was felt on Monday in the form of a dominant 12-1 victory for the Whalers, who played small ball through frigid temperatures and rode the left arm of senior Tyler LaBorne through five steady innings, at which point the game was firmly in Pierson’s control.
For Pierson’s first-year head coach Jonathan Schwartz, it was nice to finally get to business on the playing field, especially after such a wintry early spring season.
“We discussed being aggressive and the kids were ready,” Schwartz said later. “From what I’ve heard about this rivalry over the years, it’s nice. I would have taken a 2-1 win, to be honest, but it’s nice to see some offense come alive in a very cold game. To come right out of the gates and get the first win against them is a relief.”
LaBorne generally pitches with a lot of emotion and it showed in the form of two first-inning strikeouts, but also three walks that led to an early 1-0 lead for Southold.
“I knew Tyler was going to be super amped up going into the game, so I was happy he got out of there with one run,” said Schwartz, who coached Pierson’s junior varsity team last season. “He calmed down and got in to a nice rhythm and his second and third inning were really short innings.”
When Pierson senior Sam Warne led off the bottom of the first inning with an infield single, two stolen bases and a run scored, it was clear that the Whalers’ speed at the top of the lineup would be a factor.
“I wanted a fast lineup today,” said Schwartz, who thought Southold would start senior ace Luke Hansen, the only returning pitcher from a dominant starting lineup that last season led the Settlers to a 20-0 regular-season and a win over Pierson in the Suffolk County Class C championship series.
Now Pierson is the team on top, if only for a day, and a big reason for Monday’s success was the team’s production from top-to-bottom. Sophomore Matt Hall, who started his first varsity game at second base, scored in the first inning as well off an RBI sacrifice bunt from senior catcher Tom Brooks. The Whalers rattled Southold starter Billy Burns again in the third inning with three runs scored by Brooks, Cooper Schiavoni and Henry Brooks, Tom’s younger brother and another sophomore making his varsity debut on Monday.
Hall closed out the game by pitching two scoreless innings, giving LaBorne some rest as the team prepared to face Greenport on Tuesday. Warne got the start in that game, and Schwartz said he was still trying to figure out his third starter before the team’s next home game against Mercy on Tuesday, April 2, at 4:30 p.m.
Despite Loss, Lady Whalers Look Sharp in Opener
The fun returned to the Pierson/Bridgehampton softball dugout on Monday with a program that suffered through an unsteady 5-12 season last year returning with a strong performance in an opening-day 8-7 loss at Elwood/John Glenn.
In many ways, the Lady Whalers outplayed their hosts on Monday aside from a number of defensive gems, including a pair of diving catches by Glenn’s Aaliyah Gonzalez in left field that saved three runs. Pierson senior Isabella DiRussa hit a shot to third base with two runners on in the bottom of the seventh inning, but another defensive gem brought the game to an end.
“It was a tough way to lose, but I’m encouraged,” Pierson head coach John “Woody” Kneeland said. “It was encouraging that we came to compete.”
Sophomore Kathryn Powell pitched well in the opener, and the Lady Whalers jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Powell, Shannon Sloane, Halle Kneeland, Eleanor Byrne and DiRussa all reached base multiple times in the game, again leaving their head coach encouraged as the team moves forward with the season.
“This is the start of the season and all and in all I think we’re ahead of where we were last year,” Kneeland said. “There’s things we can fix. I walk away feeling encouraged that our pitching is stronger than last year, our batting is better and there’s a great attitude across the board. It was fun to be there.”
Pierson was scheduled to play at Hampton Bays on Tuesday and hosted Southampton on Wednesday in its home opener. A game at Amityville on Tuesday, April 2, will be followed by another home game against Kings Park on Wednesday, April 3, at 4:30 p.m.