The Pierson/Bridgehampton/Shelter Island softball team may be further ahead in its rebuilding process than initially thought.
After losing their first three games of the season, the Lady Whalers (3-5 League VI) have won three of their last five games, and, maybe more importantly, are showing a huge improvement overall on the field from the first two weeks of the season. They lost their more recent game, as of Monday morning, 12-6, at Mattituck on Friday—a game they were leading, 6-4, in the fifth inning—but they defeated host Southampton, 5-3, the day before, and defeated Southold/Greenport, 13-1, at home on April 10.
“We’ve still got work to do, and we just played three in a row so they’re a little tired, but this team is definitely getting better,” Pierson head coach John “Woody” Kneeland said. “They have so much more to learn but we have some skill and learning so much every day. The coaching staff is doing a great job and the kids are buying in as much as possible.”
Pierson took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third at Mattituck only to see the Lady Tuckers respond with four runs in the bottom of the inning to take the lead. The Lady Whalers broke out for five runs in the fifth to take a 6-4 lead, only to see that lead evaporate again in the very next inning, with Mattituck exploding for five runs of its own—and it held the lead for good. Kneeland said that his pitcher, Shelter Island junior Lauren Gurney, simply ran out of gas.
“She really hasn’t been here so she’s not in mid-season form like the other girls are, but she’ll be with us the rest of the season and I just think she needs to build more stamina,” he explained.
In the game prior at Southampton, Gurney had pitched a complete game with nine strikeouts, limiting the Lady Mariners (1-6 League VI, 1-8 overall) to single runs in the first, second and sixth innings, but it was Pierson eighth-grader Meredith Spolarich who really broke out. She hit her first career varsity home run—a line drive, three-run shot over the center field fence in the second—then drove in a pair of runs on a base hit in the fifth, providing all of the offense the Lady Whalers needed with a career-high five RBIs.
“She’s an incredible athlete. For her to have that athletic ability in eighth grade is just crazy,” Kneeland said. “She’s one of the most coachable kids I’ve ever had and she’s just special. I can put her at any position, third base, second base, first base.”
Pierson was scheduled to play Center Moriches on Monday pending good weather, but following that game, it’s currently scheduled to have the next two full weeks off before resuming the season on April 29, when it hosts Port Jefferson at Mashashimuet Park in Sag Harbor at 5 p.m. Part of the reason why there is such a long break is because Kneeland had to reschedule some games knowing he was going to be missing some players during next week’s spring break. But he has practices planned for most days during the break for the players who are staying home, and he’s going to try to schedule some scrimmages and/or non-league games, so he’s not worried the long break will alter his team’s current string of strong play.
“We’re excited about where the team is heading,” Kneeland said. “For me, this team is a two-year project. I do think we can shake it up a little bit this year but we’ll be really tough next year if we don’t lose anybody … we have no seniors on the team and every other team will be losing some of their best players, so we’ll definitely have a chance to make some noise, not only in the league but we’ll be more prepared when we get to playoffs.”