The Lady Whalers did something to the Hampton Bays softball team on Friday that no other team has done this season.
They made them play a full seven innings.
Although Pierson could not hand the Lady Baymen, their first League VIII loss of the year, falling 4-2 at home, they did make the Hampton Bays team fight much harder than it had to in three previous wins that were cut short by the 12-run mercy rule. Before facing the Lady Whalers, Hampton Bays had blown past Southold/Greenport 12-0, beat Center Moriches 14-2 and cruised past Mercy 13-0.
On Friday, the Lady Baymen got their first taste of real competition in League VIII, thanks to a strong pitching effort by Pierson’s Laura Stafford and good hitting by a pair of underclassmen. Hampton Bays got three runs in the first inning, but was held to just one run throughout the rest of the game. Stafford got herself out of a jam in the fifth inning with the bases loaded and no outs by striking out three straight batters.
“Laura had a great game,” Pierson head coach Jill Stellato said. “There were a few times when it could have gotten out of hand.”
Pierson fell to 3-2 in League VIII, 3-3 overall, while Hampton Bays improved to 4-0 in league play. Stellato said she was very happy with the game despite the loss.
“It was a great game,” she said. “We had a few too many errors early in the game, but other than that, we played great.”
Stellato said she was pleased in particular with the play of sophomores Natalie Abbene and Kara Gengarelly, two first-year varsity players who both had breakout games against Hampton Bays. Abbene and Gengarelly showed their ability to slap hit, a skill that Stellato has been teaching them this season. Abbene was 2 for 2 with a walk and she scored Pierson’s first run in the bottom of the third inning when Hampton Bays outfielder Stephanie Martinez made an error on a hit by Stafford.
“The two of them really got it and that was the most exciting thing in the game for me,” Stellato said, referring to the efforts of her young players. “They really looked confident up there.”
Pierson added its second run in the sixth inning when Abbene, who reached base on another slap hit, came home after the Lady Baymen made an error on a slap hit by Gengarelly. The Lady Whalers had runners on second and third with one out after that, but Stafford struck out and Sam Federico grounded out to end the threat.
Neither team had an earned run in the game.
Pierson looked good in a 9-0 win at Southold/Greenport on April 9 on the strength of lights-out pitching by Stafford, who allowed just one hit and struck out 18 batters. Federico and Sturmann each recorded a home run, while Federico was 2 for 3 on the day and had a triple. Stafford was 2 for 4 with a run while Sarah Mayer also recorded a triple. Pierson did most of its scoring in the latter stages of the game, getting one run in the third, three in the fourth, one run in the fifth and sixth innings and three runs in the seventh.
Overall, Stellato and the Lady Whalers are happy with where they stand in League VIII thus far. Their losses have come against two of the top teams in the league, Hampton Bays and Port Jefferson, and both were close, low-scoring affairs.
“To get through our first round of League VIII games with all of them being good games is nice to see,” Stellato said, adding that against both Hampton Bays and Port Jefferson, her team made a run in the seventh inning.
“Later in the season, I hope we can close the deal in games like that, but for now it’s nice to see us being competitive this early.”
Pierson began crossover games with League VII opponents on Wednesday, April 16, at home against Mount Sinai, one of the better League VII teams. The Lady Whalers will face League VI powerhouse East Hampton and ace pitcher Jessie Stavola in a non-league game at home on Saturday at 11 a.m. Pierson was competitive with East Hampton—which advanced to the Class A state final last season—in a 6-1 loss last year.
The Lady Whalers will visit Mattituck (League VII) on Monday for a 10 a.m. game.