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Buoyant Whalers Win Playoff Opener Against Port Jeff

Thu, 05/18/2023 - 14:08
Nathan Dee of the Pierson Whalers notched two crucial strikeouts in the seventh inning against Port Jefferson on Tuesday.
Craig Macnaughton

The wind at Sag Harbor's Mashashimuet Park kicked up periodic dust storms on its baseball diamond Tuesday, though, as undoubtedly the large hometown crowd in the bleachers and on the mound behind the backstop hoped, Pierson by no means breezed past its county Class C opponent, Port Jefferson, that day.

In the end, the best-of-three series opener went the Whalers' way, however, by a score of 6-5, thanks to a bottom-of-the-seventh bases-loaded grounder by the starting pitcher, Braeden Mott, that enabled Pierson's catcher, Gavin Gilbride, to dash in from third base with the game-winner that sent what seemed like half the village home happy.

It looked for a while as if Jonathan Schwartz's team's 17-game win streak would be snapped, but his charges came back after going down 4-2 in the top of the sixth. Pierson tied it up in the bottom half thanks to an error by the Royals' shortstop -- his second of the inning -- on a ball hit his way by Jeff Gregor that allowed two runs to score, and owing to a clutch two-out run-scoring single by the leadoff hitter, Max Krotman.

Nathan Dee, the Whalers' third pitcher of the afternoon, faced the meat of Port Jeff's order in the top of the seventh. The number-four man flied out to center field in leading it off, but Dee walked the next two before notching a strikeout with the count full. A subsequent single to right field loaded the bases. 

With the count 1-1 on the number-nine hitter, a wild pitch to the backstop was parlayed into a daring theft of home, the runner from third sliding in under the tag. Dee then retired the side on another full-count strikeout, but the Royals had tied it up at 5-5.

Christian Pantina, Pierson's number-two hitter, grounded out second-to-first to lead off the bottom of the seventh. But Gilbride beat out a hard-hit ground ball to short, and Dom Mancino, the cleanup hitter, who had lined a wicked shot past the third baseman in the fourth, was intentionally walked. Paul Roesel then grounded to the left side, but Gilbride beat the throw to third, which prompted a conference on the mound. 

Facing a drawn-in infield, Mott, with the count 0-1, connected, the ball hopping over the shortstop's head as Gilbride, to the delight of the Whalers' fans, crossed the plate with the winning run.

It was the fourth straight time that Pierson had beaten Port Jeff this spring. Game two of the county Class C championship series is to be played at Port Jefferson today. If a third game is needed, it will be played at Mashashimuet tomorrow.  


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