Pierson High School’s baseball coach, Jon Tortorella, was hoping to get a playoff game in Saturday, but despite having covered the batting circle and the pitching mound with tarpaulins late Friday afternoon, the second game of the county Class C championship series was put off until Tuesday.
Tortorella, of course, was hoping that his 19-1 Whalers would win Tuesday, thus obviating the need for a third game and advancing them to the Long Island game, which is to be played Monday in Nassau County.
Pierson won that Long Island regional game last year, edging East Rockaway 1-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning on a passed ball with two outs that enabled Jack Fitzpatrick, a pinch runner, to score from third base. A few days later, in the state semifinal, Haldane ended the Whalers’ run. That game is to be played at the Dutchess County stadium Tuesday. The Class C state championship game is to be played in Binghamton on Saturday, June 8.
“Jake Bennett pitched against Haldane, and was awesome,” Tortorella recalled after the final spike in the tarp over the mound had been tapped down. “He didn’t give up any big hits. . . . It was a long bus ride home.”
This year, of course, Pierson, which is pretty much strong in every category, especially pitching, wants to go all the way. Friends Academy, which went 8-9 in the regular season, defeated East Rockaway two games to one to win Nassau’s C title this season. Tortorella added, concerning the Academy’s record, that “they’ve played against B teams all year — they’re a good team.”
Colman Vila, a savvy senior left-hander who’s going to the University of Delaware in the fall, was 8-0 in the regular season. Last year he went 10-0 in league play.
But rather than dwell on his son, Benito Vila, who, along with Henry Meyer, is one of Tortorella’s assistants, wanted to talk about a former Whaler, Kyle McGowin, who recently led Savannah State University to its first-ever Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship.
The 6-foot-3-inch junior, who as of earlier this week was one of only 22 collegians in the running for the national pitcher of the year award — a list that had been whittled down from 60 before the season began — won the MEAC championship for Savannah State with a 10-inning shutout of seven-time defending conference-champion Bethune-Cookman on three days’ rest.
“He showed what a champion is all about,” said the Tigers’ head coach, Carlton Hardy, in an interview following the 1-0 win, a game in which McGowin scattered seven hits and struck out 11. “Kyle pitched 19 innings in four days and gave up only one earned run. He’s pitched in 15 games for us, started 13, and had only one loss. I felt good going in, knowing we had Kyle. . . . The best man won.”
As a result, the Tigers are representing the MEAC in the National Collegiate Athletic Association regionals. Going into that tourney, McGowin’s record was 12-1, with a 1.45 earned run average and a school-record 111 strikeouts.
The elder Vila said of the former Whaler, whose parents are Shaun and Stacy McGowin, “There are at least a half-dozen Major League teams interested in him. When he pitched here his fastball was in the low 80s, though now he’s picked up speed. It’s in the 90s now, and he’s learned to use the mound. Sometimes, when he pitched for us, the ball went out of his hand flat and if a batter caught hold of it, it would go a long way. But now he’s pitching downhill, which makes the ball a lot harder to hit. He’s become a pitcher; he’s not just throwing. Plus, his work ethic is great. He’s played for the Whalers [an entry in the East End’s summer wood bat league] for the past two years, but I think he’s hoping to pitch A-ball this year.”
Back to the Whalers, Tortorella said in reply to a question, “We’re very deep in pitching, with Colman, Jake, Forrest Loesch, Nick Kruel, and Tim Markowski, but our hitting is solid too. We can drive in runs and run the bases.”