05/20/13 7:26pm
05/20/2013 7:26 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Southold's Anthony Fedele was tagged out by Pierson/Bridgehampton catcher Aaron Schiavoni while trying to score what would have been a tying run in the sixth inning.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Southold’s Anthony Fedele was tagged out by Pierson/Bridgehampton catcher Aaron Schiavoni while trying to score what would have been a tying run in the sixth inning.

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.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Southold's Noah Mina swinging at a pitch from Pierson/Bridgehampton's Colman Vila.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Southold’s Noah Mina swinging at a pitch from Pierson/Bridgehampton’s Colman Vila.

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.”

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04/25/13 8:15pm
04/25/2013 8:15 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Greenport third baseman Matt Drinkwater diving in vain for a ball that was hit into left field.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Greenport third baseman Matt Drinkwater diving in vain for a ball that was hit into left field.

WHALERS 12, PORTERS 1

Nobody has to tell the Greenport Porters that errors are part of the game. They know only too well.

With only two players, twins John and Matt Drinkwater, who devote themselves to baseball year round, the Porters are under no illusion. They know errors are bound to happen. Misplayed fly balls. Booted ground balls. Wild pickoff attempts. It all comes with the territory.

“Unfortunately, we don’t do a lot to help our cause sometimes,” said Greenport coach Chris Golden, who used the word “erratic” to describe his team’s defense this season. “On some days we make good plays. More often than not, the ball gets the best of us.”

Thursday was one of those days.

It was a day in which Greenport committed 11 errors that led to eight unearned runs in visiting Pierson/Bridgehampton’s 12-1 win. The Porters had two more errors than the Whalers had hits.

“It’s a lot to overcome,” said Golden.

Golden said it wasn’t the roughest fielding day his team has experienced this season. The Porters have been through this before.

“We have a lot of guys, they just don’t play baseball year round,” Golden said. “You’re asking guys to be proficient at something that really is a hobby” for them.

Asked about the fielding miscues, Matt Drinkwater said: “Baseball is a fickle sport. Sometimes it’s there, and sometimes it’s not there.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | John Drinkwater was victimized by seven of the eight unearned runs Greenport conceded to Pierson/Bridgehampton.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | John Drinkwater was victimized by seven of the eight unearned runs Greenport conceded to Pierson/Bridgehampton.

Not that first-place Pierson/Bridgehampton (13-1, 13-1), which is chasing a second straight League IX crown, really needed the Porters’ help.

The winning pitcher, Forrest Loesch, helped his own cause by driving in four runs as the Whalers completed a sweep of Greenport in the four-game series that saw the Porters outscored by 47-1.

In addition to rapping a two-run single and a two-run triple, Loesch allowed one run and three hits over four innings.

Aaron Schiavoni scored three runs and Tim Markowski knocked in two runs.

With the loss, Greenport (5-9, 5-9) needs to win five of its remaining six regular-season games (three each against The Stony Brook School and Southold) in order to claim a playoff spot. It may not be easy, but Matt Drinkwater said, “It’s definitely possible.” He added: “We’re going to try to take as many as we can from Stony Brook and take as many as we can from Southold, and hopefully we’ll be able to squeak our way into the playoffs. It’s still there. It’s still a possibility.”

It would also be quite an achievement. Golden said the last time Greenport reached the playoffs was probably during the 1980s.

In Pierson/Bridgehampton, the Porters saw a team they can aspire to be like. The Whalers are fundamentally sound defensively and don’t seem to have trouble retaining their sharpness, even in one-sided games.

“We talk about doing the little things all season, every day,” Pierson/Bridgehampton coach Jon Tortorella said. “It’s the little things, the stuff that almost seems like such a minor thing, but it adds up. It’s really the foundation of everything that you do.”

Greenport had some encouragement in the first inning when it brought in a run after successive singles by Austin Hooks, Matt Drinkwater and John Drinkwater. But it was all Pierson/Bridgehampton after that. Three-run rallies in each of the first two innings and a four-run burst in the fourth sent the Whalers well on the way to the victory.

Much of the damage suffered by the Porters was self-inflicted. Greenport’s starter, John Drinkwater, didn’t pitch badly, striking out eight over six innings. He gave up eight hits, four earned runs and three walks.

“If we cut down on the errors, we could compete with anybody,” said Greenport shortstop Timmy Stevens. “We just have to battle back from it sometimes.” Speaking of less experienced teammates, he said: “They’re young. They’re going to make a couple of mistakes here and there, but they’ll learn from them.”

Golden said it is not his job to berate his players when they make mistakes, but to offer encouragement.

“They feel bad,” he said. “You know, you make an error, you feel bad. There’s no sense compounding how they feel by making them feel worse.”

Matt Drinkwater said: “When we play good baseball, we play good baseball. It’s just when things start to go bad, the inexperience leads to more errors. When the game of baseball is played right, it’s like an art. It’s just a beautiful thing to watch.”

Other times, though, it’s not pretty.

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04/22/13 7:57pm
04/22/2013 7:57 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Greenport third baseman Matt Drinkwater fielding a throw from catcher Christian Angelson in a failed attempt to throw a runner out.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Greenport third baseman Matt Drinkwater fielding a throw from catcher Christian Angelson in a failed attempt to throw a runner out.

WHALERS 16, PORTERS 0

Not many high school baseball pitchers would dare set as a goal going through an entire regular season without allowing an earned run. It’s so difficult as to make it almost unthinkable — unless you are Colman Vila.

Then again, Vila is hardly your average pitcher.

Vila is regarded by some as the best pitcher in League IX, and his performance on Monday was just another example why. Pierson/Bridgehampton’s pitching standout turned in another typical outing — for him — and when it was over, his 0.00 earned run average remained intact.

Vila recorded 13 strikeouts over five innings and shared the shutout with Nick Kruel as the Whalers handed Greenport a 16-0 pounding. Vila (5-0) walked none and allowed only two hits, both singles off the bat of Matt Drinkwater, who had a 3-for-3 day at windy Mashashimuet Park in Sag Harbor. With the result, the Whalers (11-1, 11-1) clinched a third straight playoff berth under coach Jon Tortorella.

Vila has been automatic for Pierson/Bridgehampton when he takes the mound.

“He’s been attacking hitters, and not many guys have been putting balls in play,” Tortorella said. “It’s a confidence knowing that. We know he’s going to go out there and throw a good game.”

The Porters (5-7, 5-7) were under no illusion. They knew what they were up against.

“We knew it was going to be tough,” Drinkwater said. “We knew it was going to be a rough one. He’s a great pitcher.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Christian Angelson of Greenport making contact.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Christian Angelson of Greenport making contact.

A true ace, Vila spotted his pitches well, kept batters guessing as he mowed one down after another, and was so dominant that at times the senior left-hander even seemed to be toying with them.

Vila caught five batters looking at called third strikes. He struck out the side in the second and fifth innings, and fanned the final five batters he faced.

“I felt good,” he said. “I was really trying to work on hitting my spots with my fastball and keep them off-balance with a curveball.”

Tortorella said he has seen a progression in Vila over the past three years. “He’s gotten drastically better year to year,” said the coach.

Vila, who after the game said he is leaning toward making Delaware his college choice, said it doesn’t hurt that he’s a lefty. “A lot of kids don’t see lefties out here,” he said.

After Vila was relieved before the start of the sixth, Greenport picked up hits from Bryant Rivas, Drinkwater, Timmy Stevens and Eddie Rogers, but was still unable to score.

With Vila on the mound, the Whalers were armed, dangerous and determined, coming off their only loss so far, a 4-2 defeat to Smithtown Christian on Friday.

“We needed to bounce back,” Vila said. “We did what we needed to do.”

That includes hitting. Tim Markowski, who drove in three runs, enjoyed a three-hit game as did Jack Fitzpatrick. Aaron Schiavoni and Kyle Sturmann added two runs batted in each.

The first inning was the only one in which the Whalers batted that they did not score. After that, their half of the linescore read: 3-3-2-2-6.

“Colman was great again, our bats were good,” Tortorella said. “There were a lot of good things today.”

Nine Whalers managed at least one hit as their team collected 13 of them and played errorless defense.

The same could hardly be said for Greenport, which played sloppily in the field, with four errors that translated into five unearned runs.

“We have our good days and our bad days,” Greenport coach Chris Golden said. “It wasn’t one of our better days.”

He added: “When you play a team like this, you have to play as close to a perfect game as you can, especially when you’re facing that kid [Vila]. There’s a reason why they’re [11] and 1, or whatever it is in league. They’re a good baseball team all around. You just got to try to minimize the mistakes and hope for the best.”

Golden said the advice he gives his batters going up against Vila is to look for the first good pitch they can swing at and go for it.

What was Drinkwater’s secret hitting against Vila, who throws four-seam and two-seam fastballs, curveballs and changeups?

“It’s trying to get inside of his head,” Drinkwater said. “It’s important to try to figure out what he’s going to come to you with.”

Obviously, that’s easier said than done.

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04/11/13 8:10pm
04/11/2013 8:10 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Aaron Schiavoni dove head first to score Pierson/Bridgehampton's second run in the first inning while the ball eluded Southold catcher Matt Stepnoski.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Aaron Schiavoni dove head first to score Pierson/Bridgehampton’s second run in the first inning while the ball eluded Southold catcher Matt Stepnoski.

WHALERS 12, FIRST SETTLERS 0

One could make a case that there wasn’t a lot of separation between the Pierson/Bridgehampton and Southold baseball teams when they played each other in last year’s Suffolk County Class C finals.

That can’t be said now.

The gap between the teams has widened considerably. After Pierson/Bridgehampton won the 2012 county finals in three games, the Whalers went on to claim a Long Island championship and reach the state semifinals. They have been moving further away from Southold ever since.

That was evident by the four-game League IX series that Pierson/Bridgehampton swept with a 12-0 result at Southold High School on Thursday. The Whalers outscored Southold, 51-12, during the series. They looked sharp in every facet of the game. Some are convinced that the Whalers have gotten even better since last year.

“They definitely have,” said Southold sophomore Sean Moran, who played second base instead of catcher on Thursday in order to give his right throwing arm some rest. “I think their chemistry is better this year … and they’re more solid on defense, and they’re hitting up and down the lineup. It’s a tough team to beat.”

That explains Pierson/Bridgehampton’s record: eight wins from eight games.

The record doesn’t lie.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Southold's Anthony Esposito catching a fly ball in deep left field, with Shayne Johnson nearby.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Southold’s Anthony Esposito catching a fly ball in deep left field, with Shayne Johnson nearby.

“They’re a good team,” Southold coach Mike Carver said. “They got offense. They got defense. They don’t make mistakes. They got pitching. It would not be unrealistic to see them have an undefeated season.”

Pierson/Bridgehampton lost eight players — about half of them starters — from last year’s team, but as coach Jon Tortorella pointed out, “We also brought a lot back.”

Southold (3-5, 3-5), notorious for its slow starts to seasons, has begun to tighten up its defense. It wasn’t sloppy fielding that cost the First Settlers on Thursday, but tough pitching.

Forrest Loesch brought his record to 2-0, pitching five shutout innings and holding Southold to three hits. He struck out six and walked one.

Pierson/Bridgehampton scored in every inning but one as Colman Vila produced three hits, including a pair of doubles. Tim Markowski, Aaron Schiavoni and Loesch knocked in two runs each.

“All one through nine of them can hit,” Southold center fielder Shayne Johnson said. “Not one of them is really a bad hitter, and they all field well.”

Both of Pierson/Bridgehampton’s runs in the first inning came on the same play. Loesch (2 for 3) smacked a single, scoring Jack Fitzpatrick. Schiavoni followed him home when the ball slipped past an outfielder.

But the major damage came in the second. The Whalers struck for five runs from run-scoring singles by Kyle Sturmann and Loesch, a bases-loaded walk by Markowski, and a fielding error that allowed two runs to cross home plate.

Thanks to Vila’s run-scoring double in the third, Pierson/Bridgehampton held an 8-0 lead by the time Southold got its first hit, a two-out infield single by Johnson in the third inning.

The game was as good as over.

“We could have definitely hit the ball better than we did in this series,” Moran said. “It was rough.”

Southold may have felt as if it let the third game of the series, a 14-9 loss on Wednesday, slip through its fingers. The problem was errors. How many of them?

“Too many to count,” said Carver.

Speaking of that game, Johnson said, “We probably should have had that one.” He added: “Simple mistakes are being made here and there. We just need to work on fielding a little more and hitting the ball throughout the whole order.”

Southold made two errors on Thursday; Pierson/Bridgehampton had none.

The young First Settlers are making progress, though, said Carver. “We’re making less and less mistakes every day,” he said.

Looking at the bright side of things, the First Settlers can take note that they will not see the Whalers again this year — unless they meet in the playoffs.

“That’s the good news,” Carver said. “It was a tough week.”

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