Final Four-Bound

A result of big wins in their backyard
Nick Kruel, the winning pitcher, disappeared under the pile after nailing the lid down in Friday’s 1-0 win over Friends Academy. Jack Graves

The Pierson (Sag Harbor) High School baseball and softball teams advanced to state Final Fours this past week as a result of big wins in their backyard.

To get to Binghamton, the baseball team, which played at the Dowling Sports Complex, had to win twice, and it did, besting Friends Academy 1-0 behind its knuckleballer, Nick Kruel, for the Long Island Class C title Friday, and coming back the next day, with Forrest Loesch on the mound, to defeat Haldane, a familiar postseason foe, 5-1 in the Southeast regional.

Pierson’s girls, who, because of a lack of competition, jumped right into Class C’s Southeast regional game, were no less impressive as they prevailed 9-7 over Chester at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue Saturday.

Consequently, the Whalers’ baseball team, which is the New York State Sportswriters Association’s top-ranked C school, is to play seventh-ranked Bolivar-Richburg in a semifinal at Binghamton’s Conlon Field Saturday at 10 a.m. The winner will face off against the Seton Catholic Central-Hoosic Valley winner in the state final at 4. As of last Thursday, Hoosic Valley was ranked second and Binghamton Seton Catholic 10th statewide.

The boys, who are coached by Jon Tortorella, lost in the state semifinals last year.

The girls, ranked ninth as of June 3 (Chester was ranked eighth), are to play sixth-ranked Greenwich at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at South Glens Falls’s Moreau Rec Park. The winner will meet the winner of the other semifinal, between Bolivar-Richburg and Edison, in the championship game at 3:30.

Sixth-ranked Greenwich’s record was 16-4 as of June 3. Fifth-ranked Bolivar-Richburg was 22-1.

A state win for the girls, who lost in last year’s semifinal round — and in a semifinal the year before — would be particularly impressive inasmuch as the field hockey team, on which several of the softballers played, won the school’s first championship in that sport in the fall.

In Saturday’s game at St. Joe’s, Pierson scored eight runs on nine hits in the third inning to take a 9-1 lead before Chester made it interesting.

An account in Newsday credited the pitcher, Sam Duchemin, the shortstop, Kasey Gilbride, and the catcher, Emma Romeo — all members of the state-championship field hockey team — with shutting the door in the seventh inning.

With runners at the corners and one out in Chester’s last at-bat, Gilbride threw home to Romeo after fielding a grounder hit her way. Romeo’s throw to the third baseman, Meg Schiavoni, arrived in time cut down the runner there as she tried to get back to the base. A subsequent single loaded the bases with two outs, but Duchemin punched Pierson’s Final Four ticket with a game-ending strikeout, her fifth of the day.

Back to baseball, Tortorella was reported by Newsday as having said that Loesch, his pitcher in the second game of the weekend, had been “awesome — it was his best outing of the season.”

 Tim Markowski, who moved from first base to shortstop — the position Loesch, who gave up just four hits and walked one, usually plays — was the hitting star as he went 2-for-2 with a double and two runs batted in.

Before decamping for Dowling’s sports complex Saturday, two excess bats to which some sage had been added were burned in a bag, the idea being to propitiate the baseball gods who would, in turn, favor the Whaler batters, who had been no-hit, by Matthew Feinstein, in the Long Island game the day before.

Friday’s game showed why the Whalers have been ranked number-one among the state’s C schools by the sportswriters association. “Find a Way” is the team’s motto, and despite Feinstein’s no-hitter, it did, in the bottom of the first inning after Kruel had retired Friends’ first three hitters on infield groundouts.

Feinstein, a right-hander who had apparently been cleared to play that day after having undergone surgery on his left hand not long ago, walked Pierson’s leadoff hitter, Johnny Chisholm, on a full count, after which Chisholm, with Jack Fitzpatrick up, stole second and subsequently moved to third when Fitzpatrick grounded out short-to-first. That brought up the heavy-hitting catcher, Aaron Schiavoni, who lofted a 1-2 pitch deep enough into the outfield to bring Chisholm home with what was to prove to be the game-winner. Feinstein fanned Loesch for the third out.

While Pierson’s bats were pretty silent for the rest of the afternoon — Loesch reached first base safely on an infield error in the fourth and stole second but was stranded there, and Theo Gray was also stranded at second after drawing a walk and stealing in the fifth — its defense was, aside from one miscue, solid.

As the fourth began, Chisholm misplayed a fly ball in right field that enabled Perry Gordon, Friends Academy’s number-two hitter, to get to second. Greg Petrossian, the designated hitter, bunted Gordon to third, and Gordon stayed there as the cleanup hitter, Grant Elgarten, grounded out pitcher-to-first. Kruel then walked Patrick Crowley to put runners at the corners for Patrick Campbell, whom Kruel retired on a flyout to center field.

Friends threatened again in its fifth. Norain Badhey led it off with a single to left, and advanced to second on a sac bunt by Ben Freund. Patrick Moodhe, batting ninth in the order, then singled into the hole between short and third, and, with Brian Chiang, the leadoff hitter, up, stole second, putting runners at second and third with one out. Chiang grounded to Loesch at short, and Loesch, after eyeing Badhey, fired to Markowski for the out at first as Badhey broke for home. Markowski’s throw to Schiavoni at the plate arrived well in time, and Badhey was dead on arrival.

Feinstein struck out Chisholm, Fitzpatrick, and Loesch — after walking Schiavoni on four straight pitches — in the sixth, but Kruel continued his strong effort in the top of the seventh, beginning with a one-handed catch that he made of Campbell’s foul pop off the first-base line, in front of Friends Academy’s dugout. Two outs later, Kruel disappeared in a gleeful pile-on at the mound.

“We were no-hit and yet we won — that’s baseball,” Tortorella said afterward. “Nick was amazing, and we played good D. Sometimes you do it with pitching, sometimes with hitting. It was defense today. It doesn’t matter. We did find a way.”