After tearing through League IX opponents on a 10-game win streak to start the season, the Pierson baseball team was finally handed its first loss of the season on Friday, falling 4-2 at Smithtown Christian. The good news for the Whalers, however, was that they won the series overall, beating the Knights, 9-7, at home a day earlier and winning, 3-1, in the series opener on April 15 in Smithtown.
By taking two of three from the second-place Knights, the Whalers are firmly in control of their own destiny when it comes to winning the league title. Pierson is now 10-2, while Smithtown Christian fell to 8-3, and both teams had nine games left on the schedule as of Monday morning.
In the game two win, Pierson jumped out to a 9-1 lead and was able to withstand a late charge by Smithtown Christian. Whaler relief pitcher Nick Kruel and the Pierson defense got the team out of a jam in the final inning. Kruel pitched well in the final inning, and there was also a clutch defensive play by shortstop Forrest Loesch and second baseman Kyle Sturmann. Loesch fielded a ball in the hole and threw to Sturmann, who stretched to barely get the out.
Head coach Jon Tortorella said the fielder’s choice play was huge, and also added that Kruel came up big at the end of the game.
“Nick was awesome in a big spot,” he said. “We had a hard time throwing strikes in the last few innings, got behind in some counts and threw some pitches in bad locations. Nick came in and pounded the strike zone and kept the hitters off balance. He was huge for us today.”
Jake Bennett was the starter and earned the win, going five innings while striking out seven. Bennett also had two hits, including a double, and two RBIs. Colman Vila had two hits and an RBI, while Jack Fitzpatrick and Loesch each had two RBIs. Sturmann drew two walks and had a double. Pierson broke the game open with six runs in the second inning, and added three more in the fifth before Smithtown Christian scored six unanswered runs.
In the loss on Friday, Pierson’s offense was as stagnant as it’s been all year, accounting for just three hits against Smithtown Christian’s pitching staff. The Knights opened the scoring early, with two runs in the first and another in the second. Pierson cut it to 3-2 with a pair of runs in the top of the fourth, but the Knights added another run in the bottom of the frame to get a little more breathing room. Aaron Schiavoni and Loesch drove in Pierson’s only runs.
Loesch pitched four innings and took the loss.
Joe DiNozzi got the win for Smithtown Christian, striking out 10 batters.
Tortorella admitted that his team didn’t have its best outing in the loss, but said he never expected the series with Smithtown Christian to be easy.
“We had some chances, but didn’t take advantage,” he said. “It was definitely going to be a close game with this pitching match-up. We made some mistakes defensively and didn’t put the ball in play enough to win. Forrest pitched well for us, he gave us everything he had out there.Colman gave us some good innings in relief and kept us close.
“They’re a very good team,” Tortorella continued. “We can’t make mistakes and expect to win. We’re better than that and we’ll learn from this game.”
While the two teams have emerged as the top contenders for the league title, they won’t see each other in the postseason, as Pierson is a Class C school and Smithtown Christian is a Class D team.
Pierson was scheduled to begin a three-game series with Greenport on Monday and will take on Shelter Island after that.
ON THE SCHEDULE: Wednesday, 4/24, vs. Greenport, 4:30 p.m.; Thursday, 4/25, at Greenport, 4:30 p.m.; Monday, 4/29, vs. Shelter Island, 4:30 p.m.