The long and late-night bus ride was just the latest challenge for a team that proved its resiliency all season. The Pierson Whalers spent the last few months navigating a murderous row of Class B competition, a 21-day layover before playing — and winning — a state regional final the day after their high school prom and, finally, an athletic awards ceremony that delayed their departure to the New York State Class C semifinal outside Binghamton on Friday.
It was just another roadblock on the road to potential immortality.
In the end, however, the 2019 Pierson baseball team came up short of becoming the third team in school history to win a state championship. But like the 1978 boys basketball team and the 2013 field hockey club, as well as the 2013 and 2014 baseball teams that made it this far, this latest troupe of title-hungry Whalers went out with their heads held high.
“I couldn’t be more proud,” Pierson senior Cooper Schiavoni said after his team’s 5-2 loss to Cooperstown on Friday at Maine-Endwell High School, just outside of Binghamton. “Everyone stepped up, everyone played a big role on this team. I’ll remember this for the rest of my life.
“These guys are my best friends,” he added, “my brothers.”
Cooperstown, out of Section III in Central New York, went on to lose, 7-3, to Ticonderoga from Section VII (Southern Tier) in the state Class C final on Saturday. The Whalers, meanwhile, had their season come to an end with a 6-16 record as the careers of Schiavoni, Max Mensch, Hunter Hansen and Chase Eckey came to a close.
“It’s been great having them around,” Pierson head coach Jonathan Schwartz said about his seniors, and Schiavoni and Mensch, in particular, who contributed hits on Friday. “They’ve been a rock for us and we will certainly miss them next year.”
Schiavoni, the team’s captain and starting shortstop who will attend Elon University next year, roped a triple to the gap in left-centerfield to drive in Matt Hall in the first inning. He also scored on an RBI single by Pierce Summers to give Pierson an early 2-0 lead.
A throwing error, a walk and a string of hits by the Hawkeyes gave Cooperstown its first lead, 3-2, in the top of the second inning.
The game remained relatively quiet with both team’s playing solid defense and Hall, a junior who won the state regional final over Tuckahoe with a masterful pitching performance, getting the start again on Friday.
“He’s as predictable as the sun rising,” Schwartz said about Hall. “He hasn’t given up more than five runs all season, that includes Center Moriches and that includes this team.
“Our team knows before the game starts that if we get five, chances are we win,” he added. “That was the goal. We couldn’t get it today, but Matt was fantastic again.”
The Hawkeyes tacked on a run in the fifth inning and another in the top of the seventh. Tucker Schiavoni, also a junior, reached on a double in the bottom of the seventh and Hall earned a walk. That brought Cooper Schiavoni to the plate representing the tying run, but his groundout to third base ended a season that was both challenging and so full of promise at the same time.
“It’s important for the young kids that they had this experience,” said Schwartz. “I think they enjoyed it, they took it in and I’m sure they’re really excited about next year.”
A solid core of seniors including Hall, Summers, Tucker Schiavoni, Harry Cowen, Henry Brooks and Nick Egbert will return to lead Pierson next year. There is also talent in the lower grades including players like Dan Labrozzi and Christian Pantina, who contributed all season as starting infielders.
“The season was a struggle, this was the fun part,” Schwartz said. “Once we got here we knew we had a good chance against Tuckahoe. We were really positive and looking forward to today and we knew we had a shot.
“We have all but four coming back,” the second-year coach added before boarding the bus for a long ride back to Sag Harbor. “It’s going to be a nice big group of seniors and this certainly leaves us thirsty for next year.”