Pitching was the main ingredient in Pierson’s run to the state final, but on Saturday night the sensational duo of Forrest Loesch and Nick Kruel couldn’t find a recipe for one last win.
Hoosic Valley used a five-run fourth inning to bust open the New York State Class C Baseball Final, going on to defeat the Whalers, 7-2, in Binghamton.
Loesh started the game but was pulled with the bases loaded in the fourth in favor of semifinals star Kruel. However, the senior couldn’t register an out, allowing four straight hits and five runs before being replaced by senior Tim Markowski, who got the final outs. Markowski then finished the game, throwing two-plus innings of hitless ball, but the Whalers couldn’t muster a comeback.
With the game tied at 2-2 in the bottom of the fourth, the pressure started to mount on Loesch, as an error was followed by a single, moving the runners to first and third. After striking out Matt Espey, Loesch walked Mac Anderson to load the bases—and that’s when manager Jon Tortorella went to Kruel.
J.T. Sawyer, the first batter Kruel faced, knocked a two-run bloop single over the outstreched arm of second baseman Kyle Sturmann in right field. After that, the wheels fell off for the Whalers.
“I knew right there that Forrest had given everything he had,” Tortorella said of his decision to pull the ace starter. “We needed to throw off the balance. I knew [Kruel] could come in, throw strikes, throw his knuckleball, and he had him 0-2, but the kid just threw his bat out there and made a play. It just didn’t go our way.”
Loesch’s final stat line was six hits, five runs allowed, two walks and one strikeout over 3 2/3 innings. Kruel was charged with four hits and two runs in his relief appearance.
“[Loesch] battled all day long,” said senior catcher Aaron Schiavoni. “He probably wasn’t feeling 100 percent, but that kid battles. He’s a fighter in every sport, and he gave us four great innings and gave us a chance to win. He just didn’t have it today.”
Pierson opened the scoring in the first inning for the fourth straight playoff game. Loesch helped himself out with a sacrifice fly after Jack Fitzpatrick singled, stole second and was moved over via an error. In the third, the Whalers added to their lead when Sturmann reached on an error, was moved over by Johnny Chisholm’s sacrifice bunt, and was subsequently driven in by Fitzpatrick’s double to give Pierson a 2-0 lead. That lead wouldn’t last very long as Hoosic answered in the bottom half of the third, knotting the game at 2-2.
Sawyer, Hoosic’s starting pitcher, went the distance, allowing two runs on five hits, with five strikeouts and one walk.
“What a tremendous team this is—and that’s really important. Right now, it stings, yet when the dust settles, we’ll look back and appreciate what we did, and understand how important the things that we learned this year are,” said Tortorella.
This was the Whalers’ second straight trip to the state final four. They lost last year to Seton Catholic Central, 1-0, in the semifinals.
“When I started four years ago, no one knew where Pierson or Sag Harbor was,” said Schiavoni. “Now, being able to come upstate twice, to accomplish all the championships, Long Island titles and Southeast Regional championships—we definitely made a name for ourselves as seniors.”
On the heels of last Friday’s shutout in the Long Island Championship, Kruel once again delivered in a huge spot for Pierson on Saturday, this time in the state semifinal.
The Pierson senior went the distance, allowing four hits and one run with four strikeouts and no walks, as the Whalers defeated Bolivar/Richburg, 4-1, to advance to the New York State Class C Baseball Final in Binghamton.
Markowski opened the scoring with an RBI fielder’s choice in the first inning. Then, in the sixth, junior Theo Gray, freshman James Sherry and Sturmann all added insurance runs to increase the lead to 4-1.
Kruel cruised through the first three innings before allowing a double to senior Reston Pettit in the fourth, who was then driven in by a Gary Burdick RBI single for the Wolverines’ only run of the game.
He then had to pitch a gutsy sixth inning, allowing a leadoff single, followed by a bunt that he mishandled. The third batter flied out on a deep fly ball to center, which was inches away from a home run. With runners on second and third, he got Burdick, a senior, to ground to second, where Sturmann made a pivotal play, nailing the Wolverine runner at home. Kruel then finished off the inning by getting another deep flyout to center.
The Whalers got all they needed in the bottom half of that sixth inning, plating three runs.
“I honestly love the noise, I love playing in front of crowds,” said Kruel of the large number of Bolivar/Richburg faithful in attendance. “It helps me get more zoned in, so I know what I have to do to get our team the win, so our fans can get some cheering in. The defense behind me just kept making plays. If I throw strikes, they’ll get it.”