June 14, 2006

Whalers Can't Solve Millbrook Puzzle

The most successful baseball season in the history of Pierson High School concluded on June 6 when the Whalers ran into Millbrook and its right-handed curveball specialist Jeff Benchich.

Benchich held Pierson's bats hitless after Dan Reiser reached base on a single in the first inning, going six-plus innings before the Whalers were able to collect another hit.

By then, Millbrook (15-7 in Section IX) had established a lead that it would never relinquish, winning the Southeast Regional Class C championship 3-0 at Patchogue's St. Joseph's College.

Benchich finished the contest as strong as he started it, going the distance in a seven inning, complete game effort, allowing only two hits while striking out 11 Pierson batters along the way.

"He was challenging hitters and getting ahead," said Millbrook's head coach Al Hammell in an interview with the Poughkeepsie Journal. "He had his command and he hit his spots. He's been our number-one pitcher all year and he stepped up today."

The Whalers (14-15 overall), winners of the Long Island Class C championship only days earlier, had their finest and, in essence, their only scoring chance in the second inning as C.J. Shank reached first on an error and wisely took third base following a poorly executed pickoff attempt by the Blazers catcher, whose throw sailed past first base allowing Shank to move up.

Dan DePetris hit a ground ball to shortstop that gave Shank an opportunity to score from third, if not for the outstanding play of Schuyler Matteson, who made a diving, backhanded grab before throwing a strike to Evan Halvorsen, who applied the tag out at home plate.

Millbrook snapped a 0-0 tie in the sixth inning when it scored an unearned run off of Reiser, the Whalers starting pitcher. Kevin Lovell scored Matteson with the eventual game-winning run by delivering a sacrifice fly. Reiser deserved a better fate, issuing only one hit and two walks through the first five innings before the Blazers scored twice in the seventh on four hits.

Pierson won its first-ever Long Island Class C championship on June 4, defeating Nassau County Class C champion East Rockaway 5-2 at St. Joseph's College behind the superb pitching and hitting efforts of senior hurler Andrew Mayer.

Only weeks earlier, the Whalers were in jeopardy of missing the playoffs completely before mounting a strong attack over the last six games of the regular season, sweeping their three-game series against Shelter Island to qualify for the postseason.

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