It was the Colman Vila show at Farmingdale State College in the Long Island Class C Championship on Tuesday night.
The senior lefty tossed a no-hitter to lead the Pierson baseball team to a 5-0 win over Friends Academy, setting up a rematch of last year’s regional final with Haldane (Section I). The Whalers were scheduled to take on Haldane, the team that knocked them out of the tournament last year, on Wednesday, June 5, at Dutchess County Stadium at 4 p.m., with a spot in the New York State final four on the line. Check 27east.com for coverage of that game, which will also be in next week’s sports section.
Vila had a perfect game until the bottom of the sixth inning when he walked Quaker Spencer Sklar with two outs. It was the only walk he issued in the game, and he struck out 10 batters.
Vila’s glove was just as impressive as his arm on Tuesday, and was equally responsible for preserving the no-hitter. He made several fine plays on defense, including a nifty one on a bunt laid perfectly down the third baseline by Patrick Moodhe with one out in the sixth. Vila slid on his knees, plucked the ball from the turf, turned and threw to Nick Kruel at first, who caught the ball to make the out just in time. Vila also snagged a rocket hit right back to him by Matt Feinstein. The ball was hit with such force that Vila fell over as he made the grab.
Vila’s fine play on the field was part of an overall strong defensive effort by the Whalers, who made only one error, an overthrow to first on a pick-off attempt in the sixth after Sklar had reached with a walk.
Friends Academy starter Moodhe helped the Whalers out early on by issuing a bevy of walks, which put Pierson on the board in the first inning. Moodhe walked both Forrest Loesch and James Sherry with the bases loaded, scoring Vila and Jack Fitzpatrick to put the Whalers up 2-0 after one inning. In the top of the fourth, Whaler Tim Markowski led off with a double to center field, and a groundout by Kruel advanced him to third. Markowski eventually scored on a passed ball to make it 3-0. Pierson had a chance to take an even bigger lead in that inning, when power hitter Aaron Schiavoni came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs, but he grounded out.
In the fifth, Loesch led off with an infield single before Sherry got on base with an error, and Markowski also got on base with an error. Jake Bennett followed with an RBI ground-out that scored Loesch to make it 4-0, and Sherry provided what would be the final run when he scored on a passed ball with two outs.
Facing Friends Academy’s 2-3-4 hitters in the bottom of the seventh, Vila got Greg Petrossian to groundout, with second baseman Kyle Sturmann adeptly fielding a hard hit grounder before throwing to Kruel for the out, then got Alex Kuckl to line out to third baseman Joe Faraguna, before wrapping up the no-hitter, fittingly, by fielding a grounder hit by Feinstein to make the final out of the game.
After the game, Vila was all smiles but was at a loss for words when asked what it felt like to pitch what was his second career no-hitter, this time in a Long Island Championship game.
“It feels great,” he said. “I’m really just speechless right now.
Vila, who will play at the University of Delaware next season, said he started to realize that a no-hitter and even perfection were a real possibility by the middle of the game.
“After the fourth inning, I realized that they probably weren’t going to hit me,” he said.
Wrapping it up was anything but easy, though, he added.
“I was really nervous in the last inning,” he said. “I was kind of freaking out.”
Pierson head coach Jon Tortorella said that Vila’s performance was an example of what his team’s success has been predicated on all season long.
“That’s been our strength all year, pitching and defense,” he said. “Aaron was great back there today too,” he added, referring to Schiavoni, Vila’s battery mate.
After Vila and his teammates soaked up the win—and Vila, in particular, truly soaked it up after having the Gatorade cooler dumped on him while he was being interviewed after the game—Tortorella spoke about how years of commitment by a core group of players on the team, including Vila, is what led to the moment they were currently enjoying. Vila’s father, Benito Vila, who is an assistant coach for the team, could often be found at Mashashimuet Park in the spring and fall, working on hitting, pitching and fielding with his son and other current players, years ago, when they were still elementary and middle school students.
“They were always there, always putting the time in,” Tortorella said.
Vila said his father started bringing him down to the park to hone his game when he was in fourth grade.
“He’s been a great coach and he taught me everything I know,” Vila said. “He’s always been there helping me out and he helps me every day.”
When asked if his father ever had to drag him to the park or if he went willingly, Vila answered right away.
“I’ll always go play baseball,” he said before nodding his head back out toward the field. “I could go play another game right now.”