SUFFOLK COUNTY CLASS C TOURNAMENT | WHALERS 2, FIRST SETTLERS 1
As far as losses go, this one felt pretty good.
At least that’s how it sounded, listening to the Southold First Settlers following their playoff defeat on Monday. Of course, one must keep in mind a few things. First of all, Southold didn’t lose to just any baseball team; it lost to top-seeded Pierson/Bridgehampton, the defending Suffolk County Class C champion and winner of all but one of the 20 games it played this year. And Southold didn’t lose to just any pitcher. Colman Vila is one of the top pitchers in the county, with an 8-0 record and a sparkling clean 0.00 earned run average from 64 innings of work. Finally, the margin of victory was a single, solitary run.
Added to all of that is some exceptional defense played by No. 2 seed Southold, which gave itself a chance to win, only to come excruciatingly short, 2-1, at Mashashimuet Park in Sag Harbor.
Southold coach Mike Carver saw too many good things from his young team to be brought down by the fact that the First Settlers (14-8) dropped to the loser’s bracket of the double-elimination tournament for a game at home on Thursday against No. 3 Port Jefferson (6-13).
“That was the best game we played all year,” he said. “We showed something today. I’ve never been more proud of a baseball team I ever coached.”
Vila fired 16 strikeouts (two shy of his season high) as part of his three-hitter. Pierson/Bridgehampton’s 10th straight win brings the Whalers to within one win of another county title. That could come as soon as Saturday, when Pierson/Bridgehampton will host the winner of the Port Jefferson-Southold game. Southold defeated Port Jefferson, 15-7, in its first playoff game.
Pierson/Bridgehampton took a 2-0 lead in the fifth inning when Jack Fitzpatrick, who led off with a walk, scored on Southold’s only error of the day.
Southold pulled to within 2-1 in the sixth. With runners on first and second, Alex Poliwoda clocked a double to center field that scored Shayne Johnson. Anthony Fedele tried to follow him home on the same play but was thrown out. The Pierson/Bridgehampton center fielder, Fitzpatrick, fired a relay throw to third baseman Forrest Loesch, who in turn gunned the ball to catcher Aaron Schiavoni in a bang-bang play that may have saved the day for the Whalers.
“It was perfect,” said Pierson/Bridgehampton coach Jon Tortorella.
Pierson/Bridgehampton scored its first run in the second. Tim Markowski led off by drawing a walk. He later stole second base before racing home when Nick Kruel squeezed a single through the right side of the infield.
Vila was his usual dominant self. The senior left-hander had six strikeouts through the first nine batters he faced and a no-hitter going before the right-handed hitting Johnson went with a pitch and looped a double that landed inside the left-field line to start off the fourth.
“I just chopped at it,” Johnson said. “You just got to go with the ball sometimes.”
In addition to one unearned run, Vila gave up one walk. Vila has allowed only two runs this season, both unearned.
Rob Mahony went the distance, pitching for Southold. He gave up seven hits.
Mahony remained in the game after enduring a hard collision with Pierson/Bridgehampton’s designated hitter, Johnny Chisholm, in the sixth. While Mahony was tracking a popup by Chisholm near the first base line, Chisholm crashed into him, knocking the Southold pitcher hard to the ground. Chisholm was immediately called out and ejected from the game. Mahony took some practice pitches and remained on the mound. “He’s a tough kid,” said Carver.
After the game, Tortorella had a prolonged talk with his players in the outfield.
“I just wasn’t happy with how we operated there, to be honest with you, and it’s got nothing to do with baseball,” he told reporters afterward. “I feel like we let our emotions get the best of us a little bit. We didn’t act like we should be acting, like Pierson baseball players should be acting. They know that.”
Tortorella declined to make players available for interviews.
What kept Southold in the game was its defense. The fleet-footed Johnson made a fantastic lunging catch to deny Vila of a hit in the second. Another fine play was third baseman Poliwoda’s nice catch of a foul ball hit by Schiavoni in the fifth.
“Southold played really well,” Tortorella said. “They played like winners. They went out there, they competed and they made plays.”
Carver agreed. “If we play the way we played today, we can beat anybody,” he said. “They played well enough to win.”
Southold has lost all five games it has played against Pierson/Bridgehampton this year, but this was the closest of them all.
“We didn’t really beat them yet this year, but that was our chance,” Johnson said. “I felt like we were in it the whole game and we’ll definitely be back Saturday.”