Whalers Fall Short Of State Title Game

Desirée Keegan
Cooper Schiavoni smacks his RBI-triple to put Pierson on the board first.

Pierson baseball’s returners are going home thirsty.

After a 5-2 loss to Cooperstown in the Class C state semifinal at Maine-Endwell High School June 14, the Whalers are just waiting for their chance at redemption.

“It’s a pretty tough way to have things end, but we showed that we belonged here,” head coach Jonathan Schwartz said. “We weren’t perfect on defense — we need to be — but we were right in it against a talented Cooperstown team. Our guys can go home with their heads high.”

Senior shortstop Cooper Schiavoni tripled to bring home Matt Hall for Pierson’s first run in the bottom of the opening inning, and scored on a Pierce Summers single, but the Section III champions recorded three runs in the top of the second to take the lead for good. After the Hawkeyes (21-4) got their first run on a throwing error, Kendall Haney’s two-run single made the score 3-2.

“That was a great way to start the game,” junior right-handed pitcher Matt Hall said of the early lead. “It brought a lot of energy into the dugout.”

“We came out hot. We were swinging the bats, they just made all the plays,” Schiavoni said. “I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. Everyone stepped up. Everyone played a big role on this team.”

Pierson had nine hits — Schiavoni and Summers each had two, the Elon University-bound shortstop’s younger brother Tucker recorded a double, and Max Mensch and Dan Labrozzi singled — but struggled to string together enough of them to push more runs across the plate.

“We were confident as a team coming into the game. This helped keep us loose,” said Hall, an All-League player named team MVP who went a complete game. “We were able to get on base but we just couldn’t get the big hit to drive them in.”

Pierson (8-14), the only Class C team on Long Island, was coming off a 5-2 Southeast Regional final win over Tuckahoe. The Whalers struggled against eventual state champion Center Moriches and other Class B teams during the regular season before a three-week break prior to postseason play.

“This season was a struggle,” Schwartz said. “This was the fun part. Playing the bigger schools was difficult and made it hard to stay unified and positive.”

Hall saw things differently.

“The tougher competition during the regular season definitely prepared us better for playoffs,” he said. “We saw some great pitchers this season, so it wasn’t anything new in the playoffs.”

The right-hander said he had to rely on Cooperstown statistics to game plan because there wasn’t any film, and focused on attacking the bottom of the lineup. The Hawkeyes went on to lose, 7-3, to Ticonderoga from Section VII in the state final Saturday.

“I knew going into the game that their No. 2 and 3 hitters were their best,” Hall added. “I was trying to work around them and not let them do too much damage.”

He said the early lead took some pressure off, but the feeling didn’t last long, even with Schiavoni behind him making a ton of routine plays to keep the game close.

“It’s been great having them around. They’ve been a rock here for us, and we’ll certainly miss them next year,” Schwartz said of Schiavoni and Mensch. “It was great for them to come through today and lead the way. It gave us a nice deal of hope from the beginning, some positivity. We just needed a little bit more.”

He’s thrilled to have Hall, Summers, and Tucker Schiavoni back next year among a solid core of seniors.

“This was important for the younger kids,” Schwartz said. “They had this experience, they really enjoyed it, took it in, and I think it got them more excited for next year.”

Having his ace back especially thrills him.

“He’s as predictable as the sun rising,” Schwartz said of Hall. “He hasn’t given up more than five runs the entire season, including in games against Center Moriches and this team. Matt was fantastic again.”

Hall is looking forward to it too, although noting the big shoes there will be to fill with four seniors leaving.

“It’s tough losing all of our seniors for both their play on the field and their leadership, but overall our team is very young, so I think we will be solid next year,” Hall said. “Of course, we would have loved to go all the way and win the state championship, but making it to the semifinals is nothing to complain about. It’s been fun playing with these guys and I’m proud of the way we came together and fought until the last out. Going through this long season definitely brought us closer on and off the field.”

Cooper Schiavoni said he’ll be watching.

“These guys are my best friends, my brothers, and I’m excited for them. They should be back up again next year,” Schiavoni said. “This is my fourth year on the team and this is the farthest we’ve made it. It’s been a blast. I’ll remember this for the rest of my life.”

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