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Whalers Sunk by Royals in the End

Wed, 05/24/2023 - 18:44
Gavin Gilbride, Pierson’s senior catcher, slid in with the winning run in the first of a three-game county Class C championship baseball series with Port Jefferson. Though the Whalers ultimately lost Friday, Gilbride gave it his all. 
Craig Macnaughton

The top-seeded Pierson (Sag Harbor) High School baseball team, which went into the playoffs with a 17-3 overall record, and which had edged Port Jefferson, its county Class C championship rival, 6-5 in game one to the delight of a large hometown crowd on May 16, was shut out 3-0 at Port Jeff on May 18, and — the cruelest cut — was ousted 6-3 by the Royals in the finale the next day, contested before another large crowd at Sag Harbor’s Mashashimuet Park.

Kyle Erickson, Port Jefferson’s starter, while not overpowering, proved to be the steadiest pitcher on the mound that day. The Whalers outhit the Royals seven to four, but three Pierson pitchers walked eight batters among them that day, threw five wild pitches, and hit two batsmen, not a winning recipe.

The bracket’s second seeds jumped off to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Dom Mancino, Pierson’s starter, walked the first two batters to face him, a single loaded the bases, and a short-to-first groundout enabled the first run to score. Mancino wild-pitched the second one in before retiring the side on a flyout to center field and a pop to short.

Port Jeff added two more runs in its third. Mancino hit the first hitter to face him and walked the next on a 3-2 pitch. The runners moved up to third and second when Erickson grounded out to first base, and, with Evan Raymond, the fifth hitter, up, one came home, sliding in under a throw to the catcher, Gavin Gilbride. A subsequent sacrifice fly plated Port Jeff’s fourth run.

With Braeden Mott having relieved Mancino, the Royals tacked on a fifth run in their fourth — a walk, a sac bunt, a wild pitch, and a run-scoring single by the leadoff hitter, Nathaniel Mullen, accounting for it. Seemingly finding his groove, Mott struck out the next two to face him, Dan Owens and Ruairi Rago — game two’s winning pitcher — on tantalizing slow curves.

Finally, the Whalers, with the crowd coming alive at last, got on the board in the bottom half of the fourth. Christian Pantina, the number-two hitter, led it off with a single. Two wild pitches to Max Krotman enabled Pantina to advance to third, after which Krotman singled him home. Mancino then ripped a single over third, putting runners at second and first for Paul Roesel. Roesel fouled out off the first-base line, but Charles Schaefer came through with a hard-hit ball that bounced into left field off the third-base bag, sending Mancino home with the Whalers’ second run.

With runners at the corners, Erickson walked Mott on a 3-2 pitch, which loaded the bases with one out for Jayden Greene.

Greene’s subsequent comebacker to the mound was alertly fielded by Erickson, who threw to the plate for the force there, and the double-play relay to first arrived in time to take Pierson out of the inning.

An infield error resulted in Port Jeff’s sixth run scoring, with Nathan Dee having come in to pitch, in the top of the sixth.

Pierson looked as if it might finally make a game of it in the bottom half. Krotman singled to lead off. Mancino then lined into right-center, a well-hit ball that looked as if it might fall in, but the right fielder made a terrific, flat-out diving catch. A subsequent single by Roesel enabled Krotman to take third and Roesel to move up to second on the throw to third. The shortstop grabbed a soft liner by Schaefer for out number-two. A wild pitch to Mott resulted in Krotman crossing the plate with the Whalers’ third run, but with runners at second and third and Spencer Cavaniola, the number-eight hitter, up, a successful pick-off play at third brought the inning, despite the coach, Jonathan Schwartz’s, protestations, to a close.

After giving up a single and a walk, Dee got through the seventh by way of a comebacker to him and two strikeouts.

A popout to short by Cavaniola, a lineout by Andy Wayne to Port Jeff’s shortstop, and a dramatic strikeout by Gilbride on a 3-2 fastball that prompted him to squat in despair, head in his hands, as Port Jefferson’s players whooped and rallied around Erickson, ended it.

It was the second year in a row that the Royals had eaten the Whalers’ upstate dreams.


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