Woody Kneeland is trying to keep things in perspective. With no seniors on the Pierson/Bridgehampton/Shelter Island softball team this season, the head coach can be excused for thinking, at times, about the future.
“Even before today, I was excited about the future,” Kneeland said following a hard-fought 8-2 loss to Center Moriches at Mashashimuet Park in Sag Harbor on Tuesday. “Now I’m even more excited.”
One of the most spectacular youth movements in recent memory is blossoming at Pierson High School, with talent stacked from seventh grade on up to the junior class. The challenge, of course, is learning the game of softball during a season filled with games against some of the best Class B competition in Suffolk County.
“It’s exciting and it’s frustrating. It’s hard to be patient because I’m competitive,” said Kneeland, who is building the program from middle school, to junior varsity to varsity. “There’s no chemistry issues on this team at all, but coaching this team is step by step. They’re learning at practice a lot, but things are coming up on the fly as well.”
Shelter Island junior Lauren Gurney, the team’s starting pitcher, has been a welcome addition to the team, but she left Tuesday’s game against Center Moriches after the third inning with a groin injury. The team was already playing without a full lineup since many varsity players are on either a school trip or vacation during the spring break.
Some of the younger players in the program, including freshmen Mickey Wilson and Ashley Weatherwax made great plays in the outfield on Tuesday as Kneeland put together a shorthanded lineup. Junior Sam Cox replaced Gurney on the mound, and the game was competitive throughout.
“We didn’t show up at the beginning of this game. That was the biggest problem. We were down 3-0 before it even started,” Kneeland said. “You can’t do that to anybody, much less Center Moriches or Babylon. Aside from that, we’ve proven we can play with people in every game.”
The Lady Whalers, who dropped to 3-6 in league play following Tuesday’s loss, will play a pair of home games next week against Port Jefferson on Monday, April 29, at 5 p.m. and against Southampton on May 1 at 4:30 p.m.