Matt Hall has all the tools to triumph.
The junior right-hander tossed an 83-pitch complete game, allowing six hits, striking out one, and walking none, and smacked an RBI-single to lead Pierson’s baseball team to a 5-2 regional final win over Tuckahoe at Pace University June 8. The Whalers will face Cooperstown in the state semifinals at 5 PM Friday, June 14 at Maine-Endwell High School.
“Matt Hall pitched a great game — he pitched for contact, and we held them when we have to, let the fielders do their job,” head coach Jonathan Schwartz said. “After the first inning, he settled down quickly and got ahead of batters.”
Schwartz was able to locate a plethora of Tuckahoe (21-5) film that helped him and his coaches get the boys prepared. Hall said it helped him immensely.
“The film gave me an opportunity to see their lineup and come up with a game plan,” the pitcher said. “My strategy going into the game was to mix up the speed of the pitches and keep the batters off-balance and guessing. I had a good feel for my curveball today, which helped to get a lot of weak contact.”
He said keeping a 3-1 heartbreaking loss to East Rockaway in the Long Island Class C championship game last season in the back of his mind also motivated him.
Hall hit a two-out RBI-single that scored Harry Cowen and put Pierson (5-12) ahead for good, 2-1, in the top of the third inning. It capped off a small ball cycle that started with freshman Dan Labrozzi drawing a walk before Cowen’s single. Christian Pantina, the ninth batter in the lineup, dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third, and Nick Egbert grounded out to short with the infield back, to drive in Labrozzi and tie things up.
The Whalers tacked on a run in the fourth before Tuckahoe closed the gap to 3-2 in the bottom of the inning. Pantina and Egbert each scored in the fifth to put the game out of reach.
“We took some chances, had a couple of timely hits, they made a couple of errors we took some extra bases on, and here we are,” Schwartz said. “The small ball is all we needed today. We don’t have a power-hitting lineup this year. We rely on scattered singles all over the field, our speed, execution, and aggressive baserunning. We’re happy to have an opportunity to play again. It’s all a little surreal right now. The kids are excited.”
They were especially excited to play again after a three-week break. The Whalers had their final regular season game May 17 against Babylon and hadn’t played since, inter-team scrimmaging almost every day to try to remain as competitive as possible.
Hall said he knew what his fielders could do, so despite the time off, he was confident in his team’s abilities.
“The defense was amazing today. It kept us in the game,” Hall said. “It made me much more confident on the mound. I knew if a ground ball was hit up the middle that the play would be made. Christian and Cooper [Schiavoni] have been solid all year and they continued to play great defense today.”
He also credited his battery mate, Cooper’s younger brother Tucker, who threw out a runner attempting to steal second to get him out of a jam.
“He did a great job of keeping everything in front of him,” Hall said. “We have a good connection. And he always knows what I want to throw.”
Having a week break could bode well for the Whalers, especially with their confidence being “sky high,” according to Schwartz. The coach said while the team thought it was even a privilege to play in a regional final, his boys are even more enthusiastic to be part of the state semifinal game.
“We’re going to make the best of it and leave everything out there on the field,” Schwartz said. “We’re ready to go.”