Senior Tyler LaBorne has been on the Pierson varsity baseball team since his freshman year. And for the last three seasons he’s had to sit in the dugout and watch as the Settlers celebrated winning the Suffolk County Class C Championship.
But on Thursday at Mashashimuet Park it was the Whalers who made their return to the winner’s circle, emerging from the double-elimination tournament with the county title before a lively home crowd in Sag Harbor.
“I’ve watched every year Southold celebrate on our field,” said LaBorne, who pitched his second straight complete game in a 9-4 victory to seal the championship, “so to be on the other end of it feels pretty good.”
Pierson (21-2) will face East Rockaway, the Class C champion from Nassau County, on Thursday, May 31, at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue at 4:30 p.m. The winner will advance to a southeast regional final on June 2, with the ultimate destination the New York State Class C Final Four in Binghamton over the weekend of June 8 and 9.
“At the start of the season we were just a bunch of guys coming together,” said senior catcher Tom Brooks. “I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know much about our team or our coach. That’s all changed now.”
Pierson head coach Jonathan Schwartz has now claimed a Suffolk title in his rookie season at the helm of the program. His players doused him with ice water following the win on Thursday, which led to a chilly championship parade down Main Street.
“I knew we had a solid team from seeing what they did last year and in the offseason,” Schwartz said. “And just a good group of senior leaders.”
LaBorne allowed one run in the first inning, but Pierson quickly struck back with three runs in the first inning and three more in the second. Senior Sam Warne, as is often the case, led off by reaching on an infield error and came around to score Pierson’s first run of the game. He followed it up with an RBI single in the second.
LaBorne, who allowed six hits, ran into some trouble in the top of the fifth inning with Southold’s Billy Burns driving in two runs to cut the lead to 8-3. He pitched a quick a top of the sixth, aided by an incredible diving catch from Tucker Schiavoni at third base, and an inning later was covered in a celebratory dogpile near the pitcher’s mound after Warne squeezed the last out of the game in centerfield.
“I’d be happy if we beat anybody, but last year we lost in the county final to Southold, so this feels pretty good,” Brooks said. “I’m excited to see what’s next.”
“Going into the preseason workouts I saw the guys who were in there. We’ve all been best friends growing up,” LaBorne added. “Everyone on our team is just really good buddies. We all hang out outside of the field. We just have that chemistry, and chemistry can really bring a team very, very far.”