The Pierson baseball team is going to have to play its best baseball of the season in order to make a fourth-straight trip to the Suffolk County Class C playoffs.
The Whalers (8-7 League VIII, 9-7 overall) swept winless Shelter Island/Ross last week and to finish with the even league record that is the requirement for making the playoffs, Pierson must win three of its final six games.
Doing that won’t be easy, as Pierson faces two of the better teams in the league in a pair of three-game series to close out the regular season. The Whalers began an away-home-away series with first-place Port Jefferson (12-2) on Tuesday and returned home to take on the Royals on Wednesday. They will close out the series on the road on Friday before beginning a three-game set with Southold/Greenport (10-4, 10-5).
The Whalers aren’t unaccustomed to being in this position. Last year, they needed to win their final game of the season to make the playoffs and did, before eventually falling to Mercy in the county title series.
Pierson head coach Sean Crowley conducted a practice session on Sunday night—the first Sunday practice of the year for his players—in order to prepare his team for the tough final stretch.
The Royals have two of the top pitchers in the league in Jared Mancini and Brendan Duffy. Crowley said he hoped to take at least one game from Port Jefferson in order to avoid a must-sweep scenario in the series against Southold/Greenport.
“Last year it came down to the last game and we’d like to try to avoid that,” Crowley said.
Another scenario Crowley said he and his team would like to avoid is having to suffer from a case of “what if?” Three of Pierson’s league losses came in extra innings this season and if the team falls one game short of a postseason berth, the pain of those losses will be brought back again.
“I tell the kids that losses in April do count as much as losses in mid-May,” Crowley said. “But that’s in our past now and we still have control for now.”
The Whalers opened their series against Shelter Island/Ross on Shelter Island on April 30 with an 11-2 win. Joe Mascali pitched a complete game, allowing only two hits with 10 strikeouts and one walk on a total of 82 pitches. He had a no-hitter heading into the fifth inning that was broken up by an infield hit. Mascali was also 2 for 3 at the plate, while teammates Mike DePetris and Ryan Miller were also 2 for 3.
On Thursday at Shelter Island, Crowley’s son, Casey Crowley, filled in as the starter for Brandon Kruel, who was sick, and did a fine job, allowing just three hits in a 10-0 win. Crowley finished with six strikeouts and one walk on a total of 93 pitches.
Andrew Mitchell was the standout on offense, going 3 for 6 with four RBIs, while sophomore Dane Riva, who was brought up from the junior varsity, was 3 for 5.
Kruel was on the mound for Pierson in a 16-8 win in Sag Harbor on Friday, going three innings to pick up the win before giving way to Kyle McGowin, who pitched for two innings and Miller, who threw the final inning. McGowin had four hits on the day, including a pair of triples, while DePetris was 3 for 3 with three RBIs and three runs and Miller was 3 for 5 with four RBIs.
Pierson will kick off its series against Southold/Greenport on Tuesday, May 13, at 4:30 p.m. in Sag Harbor and will travel to the North Fork for a game the following day at the same time. The final game of the regular season will take place in Sag Harbor on May 16 at 4:30 p.m.