By Gavin Menu
In the rush to replace Sam Duchemin, an all-county pitcher who graduated last spring after pitching for the Pierson softball team for five seasons, the Lady Whalers have tapped sophomore Isabella DiRussa as the team’s new ace.
To say that DiRussa has big shoes to fill is an understatement. Duchemin was consistently one of the best small schools pitchers on Long Island, if not the state, and led the Lady Whalers to three consecutive Class C state semifinals. Also lost to graduation last year were Sabrina Baum, Zoe Diskin, and Meg Schiavoni, who made up three-fourths of the Lady Whalers infield.
DiRussa will not be the only fresh-faced newcomer this season, with Shakoya Davis, a 2006 graduate of Southampton High School who coached the Lady Mariners’ middle school team for the last six years, taking over as head coach. An all-too familiar face at Pierson returns to assist Davis as Robyn Mott, whose retired jersey hangs inside the gymnasium under her maiden name of Bramoff, comes back to assist and coach the junior varsity team.
“Our priorities are to rebuild,” Davis said before practice this week. “The girls and I have the same understanding. We’re all here to do work. The theme is to be the best team in Class C by improving our game week after week. I’ve got a solid team of athletes who are willing to make that happen.”
Junior Isabel Peters, a strong threat from the plate, will slide from second base to shortstop this season, while Taylor Cox, the team’s lone senior, will play second base. Sophomore Cassie Arbia, at first, and Leigh Hatfield, at third, will hold down the corners, while Alyssa Kneeland returns behind the plate.
The outfield is particularly strong, with Cali Cafiero returning in left field and Lottie Evans, an all-league player last year, returning in center. According to Davis, Eleanor Byrne is likely to start in right field, while sophomores Shannon Sloane and Sinead Murray could also see time in the lineup.
The Lady Whalers will compete in League VII this season against all of Suffolk County’s Class B, C and D schools. Port Jefferson is the only other Class C school, and therefore the only team Pierson would have to get past for the Suffolk County championships.
The team will start its season at home against Center Moriches on March 21 at 4:30 p.m.