In what was in all likelihood a preview of the Suffolk County Class C championship, the Pierson softball team got past rival Port Jefferson 10-6 at home on Friday, giving it confidence for what it hopes will be a successful defense of its county crown.
The Lady Whalers (6-4 League VIII, 6-6 overall) avenged a 6-5 loss to the Lady Royals from earlier in the season and also put themselves in a good position to garner the top seed in the Class C bracket, which will most likely include just the two teams, unless Mercy, another Class C school, can finish the season with an even record in league play, the requirement for making the playoffs.
Pierson and Port Jefferson split their two games this season, but the Lady Whalers have beaten two teams—Bayport/Blue Point and Mattituck—which the Lady Royals were unable to get past.
Because the county title is decided in a three-game series, home field advantage is crucial.
In order to wrap up that top seed, the Lady Whalers needed to take care of business in two games that took place earlier this week, as well as a pair of games that will close out the regular season. Pierson traveled to Center Moriches on Monday and hosted Mercy on Wednesday. They will host Southold/Greenport on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. and will visit first-place Hampton Bays on Wednesday at 4 p.m. to round out the regular season. In the first meetings between those teams, Pierson was 3-1, losing only to Hampton Bays in a 4-2 contest in Sag Harbor.
Although Pierson beat Center Moriches, Mercy and Southold/Greenport by an average of more than six runs, head coach Jill Stellato said that her team would still need to stay focused in order to shore up the top seed.
“We have two wins that Port Jefferson doesn’t have, so if we win the games we should win to finish the season, we’ll have homefield advantage,” she said on Sunday. “But Mercy has been having a solid season and anything can happen. The kids still need to play good ball to secure that spot and put themselves in a good position for the playoffs.”
The Lady Whalers put themselves in a good position to get their most recent win against the Lady Royals by scoring early and often on a cloudy and drizzly day. Pierson got four runs in the first inning, highlighted by Meghan Pintauro’s two-run double, and tacked on another run in the second inning and two more in the third inning to take a 7-0 advantage. Port Jeff got on the board with two in the top of the fourth, but Pierson responded with three more runs in the bottom of that inning to extend its lead. The Lady Royals scored three runs in the fifth inning and scored another run in the seventh, but Pierson ended the game with good defense and pitching, as junior catcher Sam Federico threw out a runner trying to steal second base, and senior pitcher Laura Stafford got the next two batters to strike out looking.
“I was very happy with the way we jumped out early,” Stellato said. “Their pitcher was struggling a bit and we jumped all over her. The bats really came alive and it was great to get a lot of runs in those first four innings.”
Designated hitter Sarah Mayer continued to be a force at the plate for Pierson, going 2 for 3 with a walk and three RBIs. Federico was also 2 for 3 with an RBI.
Stafford finished with seven strikeouts, getting six of the batters she struck out to go down on called strikes.
“She was just freezing them up on pitches,” Stellato said.
Stellato added that getting into an offensive groove early in the game was the biggest difference for her team from its last outing against the Lady Royals and added that her team’s ability to cut down on errors has been key in recent wins as well.
“Our fielding has been an up-and-down battle sometimes this year, but the number of errors is starting to come down,” she said. “Everyone is really backing each other up, so the errors we do have aren’t causing as much damage.”
A day before its win against Port Jeff, Pierson traveled to Southampton and picked up an 8-4 win. Stafford gave up just four hits and struck out 12 batters as her team took an 8-1 lead into the final inning and withstood three runs by Southampton in the final frame.
Mayer was 3 for 4 with an RBI, while Stafford had a pair of RBIs.
On April 30, Pierson suffered an 11-1 loss to Babylon at home and didn’t have the offensive power it found in its wins against Port Jeff and Southampton. The Lady Panthers, by contrast, had a successful day at the plate, while their pitcher Tiana Giuliano allowed only three hits with 10 strikeouts and no walks, getting the Pierson batters to bite on a nice changeup.
The Lady Mariners fell to 1-9 in League VII, 2-10 overall last week, suffering 8-4 losses to both Pierson and Mercy while also falling 12-0 at undefeated Mount Sinai on Friday. Southampton will host Bayport/Blue Point today at 4:30 p.m. and will visit Mattituck on Friday for a 4:30 p.m. game before hosting Babylon on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. and closing out the regular season at Elwood/John Glenn the following day at the same time.