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Pierson/Bridgehampton defeats Haldane to earn state trip

Pierson/Bridgehampton poses with the trophy after beating Haldane

Pierson/Bridgehampton poses with the trophy after beating Haldane in the Southeast Regional Class C final on Saturday, June 7, 2014. Credit: George A. Faella

The act of sage burning as a cleansing method can be traced to ancient cultures.

The old ritual is performed to purify a thing or person, increase spiritual awareness and simply calm the mind.

It was the perfect remedy for the Pierson/Bridgehampton baseball team Saturday.

The Whalers won the Class C Long Island championship Friday. But they didn't record a single hit. Something, players and coaches thought, had to be done.

So before the Whalers got on the team bus to travel to Dowling College for a regional final against Haldane, they tossed a few bats in a bag and burned them.

"We can hit. We know that. For us, it was mental, and just something to loosen the guys up and get out of their heads," Pierson/Bridgehampton coach Jonathan Tortorella said. "We lit a little sage, blessed the bats and moved on. It was a fun moment for the kids."

It worked. Minds were free and easy. They got hits. And earned another win.

The Whalers topped Haldane, 5-1, as shortstop Tim Markowski went 2-for-2 with two RBIs, a double and stolen base.

"Smoking out the bats definitely worked," Markowski said with a laugh. "It definitely did. We took a couple of bats that we don't use, put them in a bag and just smoked them out."

By game time Forrest Loesch was the one sizzling -- on the mound. The senior righthander picked up his first career playoff win, allowing four hits and one run in a complete game. He fanned four and issued one walk.

"I got ahead of batters and was able to throw my curve for a strike to finish some batters off," said Loesch who also recorded the team's first hit with a single in the first inning. "Right away, I felt pretty confident and dialed in and I was hitting my spots."

Loesch was also accurate and economical; he threw 49 of his 78 pitches for strikes.

"He was awesome," Tortorella said. "That was his best game on the mound this season. By far, that was his best outing. He kept a good team off-balance and trusted his defense. He competes and we trust him out there."

Said Markowski, "You could tell he was locked in from the start. He was just that good out there today for us."

Markowski drove in catcher Aaron Schiavoni, who went 1-for-3 and also threw a runner out attempting to steal second base, from third base with a sacrifice fly in the first inning to give the Whalers a 2-0 lead. Markowski's RBI double to leftfield scored Loesch to make it 4-1 in the third inning.

The Whalers (15-3) will play in a state semifinal at 10 a.m. Saturday in Binghamton. It is the team's second straight appearance in the state tournament, after losing in a semifinal last year.

Though the Whalers had five hits in the game, Tortorella and players jokingly said the ritual might become a new routine.

Said Tortorella, "I guess we're saging everything from now on."

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