The decision came down to two games played during the cold days of March. The Pierson baseball team easily handled rival Southold in two non-league meetings before heading into a revamped — and challenging — League VIII schedule crowded with talented teams from Class B.
Pierson and Southold are, in fact, the only Class C schools on Long Island but only one will advance to compete in the postseason. Pierson finished the regular season with a record of 5-12, but so did Southold. So it came down to those two games back in March.
After the regular season wrapped last week, Southold petitioned Section XI, Suffolk County’s governing body of athletics, for a playoff berth because a .500 record in league play is normally required for an automatic berth. Because the Settlers finished so far below that mark, and because they lost to Pierson early in the season, the petition to compete in the postseason was denied.
Pierson was granted an exemption and will play a New York State Class C Southeast Regional Final on June 8 against a team from either Section I or Section IX.
“It’s disappointing to us, too, because we wanted to play,” Pierson coach Jonathan Schwartz said after the decision was handed down. “We’ve been playing well the last few games of the season and we were really looking forward to using the momentum to have a nice run against Southold. We knew we were going to have a break, but now it’s a big break.”
The Whalers closed out the regular season with three straight losses to Babylon, but the games were close. Babylon took the opener, 2-1, and the second game at Pierson on May 15, 4-1. The Whalers actually led late in the season finale on May 17 but one bad inning led to a 9-5 loss.
“We pitched really well and we had a ton of hits in the last game,” Schwartz said. “We were competitive.”
By the time the Whalers reach the regional final, it will have been 21 days since their last game. Schwartz brought up a number of players from the junior varsity team so he has 18 for practice. “We can scrimmage until we get close to the game,” he said. “We need to see live pitching; we need to throw live and get into situations. We can get prepared that way.”
Schwartz will likely tap sophomore Matt Hall to start the regional final on the mound. Hall threw a team-high 35.1 innings this season and posted an impressive ERA of 1.783.
“In this league, you can’t ask for anything more,” Schwartz said about Hall’s performance this season. “So that’s probably going to be the way we go to start and then it’s an all-hands-on-deck kind of situation.”