BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- It is the longest trek for any baseball team to the state championships. The players of Pierson/Bridgehampton will certainly remember the five-hour bus ride covering 288 miles from the sandy beaches on the East End of Long Island to the mountains of the Southern Tier.
This was a Pierson team that was no-hit in the Southeast Regional and still found a way to pull out a 1-0 win and advance in the state tournament. A team that pounded its way through Friends Academy to capture the school's second Long Island championship. And now they'd traveled all this way and were two wins away from a state title.
"We lost in the state semifinal a year ago and we had that taste of state competition," catcher Aaron Schiavoni said. "And we really felt we were ready to take that next step."
Pierson/Bridgehampton took the first step Saturday with a 4-1 win over Bolivar-Richburg of Olean. The Whalers, buoyed by a brilliant pitching performance from righthander Nick Kruel moved into Saturday night's state final. Kruel allowed only four hits, struck out five and kept the Wolverines off balance in a complete game.
"We needed one more win," Schiavoni said. "And we jumped out on top and then lost the momentum."
They would get to the championship door and be denied. Pierson/Bridgehampton (16-4) scored runs in the first and third inning before Hoosick Valley (22-3) scored twice in the third and five times in the fourth to win the state Class C title with a 7-2 win at Conlon Field at MacArthur Park. Hoosick Valley starter JT Sawyer threw a four-hitter, struck out five and retired 13 of the final 14 for the win.
"We appreciate how hard it is to get here," said Pierson coach Jon Tortorella, in his fifth year. "We have a special group of players who have gained so many life experiences and built such great relationships along this ride. It's not just about the success but about the journey."
Tortorella's sentiments echoed with his players. Kruel, who will play at the University of Tampa next fall, agreed with Schiavoni that the last two years have given Pierson baseball an identity.
"People know about Pierson now," Schiavoni said. "It's a great community and we can play baseball. And I'll take that with me when I graduate."
Hoosick Valley had shut out three opponents in state tournament action and trailing for the first time, put together a third-inning rally to even the score.
In the fourth inning, Forrest Loesch ran into trouble as Hoosick Valley loaded the bases with two outs. Sawyer, who was 2-for-2, walked to the plate and Tortorella went to first-game starter Kruel.
"It was the right move," Tortorella said. "The hitter had good swings on Forrest and he was seeing something different with the knuckleball of Kruel."
But Sawyer hit a two-run single and made it 4-2. John Rooney followed with a long two-run double and Jared Morello added an RBI single to cap a five-run inning for a 7-2 lead.
"I've been thinking about that 0-2 pitch and I would throw it again," Kruel said. "No regrets. It was a good pitch but he reached out and poked it."
"That's baseball," Tortorella said. "It's a game. And the ball bounces . . . well. It was a great run."