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American Legion baseball teams begin quest for postseason

GAZETTE FILE PHOTO
Jordan Page, of South Hadley Pettengill Insurance Post 260, pitches to Easthampton last year. The American Legion baseball season started last week.

GAZETTE FILE PHOTO Jordan Page, of South Hadley Pettengill Insurance Post 260, pitches to Easthampton last year. The American Legion baseball season started last week. Purchase photo reprints »

For most high school baseball players the summer started last week with the opening of the American Legion season.

It will be difficult for any team to repeat the success Pettengill Insurance Post 260 experienced last season. After starting the season 4-8, Pettengill of South Hadley rattled off nine straight wins, including a 5-0 record in its division, to secure second place in Zone 2 and a playoff spot. With nine players returning this summer, coach John O’Hara hopes his team can replicate the that kind of performance.

“We have a good core,” he said. “There’s great senior leadership on this team, and a lot of guys coming back have Legion experience. There’s a big difference from high school ball to Legion, so if some of the guys know what to expect, that’s a good thing.”

Connor Sheridan and Mike Croke return, as well as what O’Hara calls “one of the toughest pitching staffs in the league.” The staff includes Endy Sanchez, Matt Beauchemin, Jordan Page, and newcomer Joe Ciolek. Nate Flachs, Tom Spring, Sean O’Connor and Jack Leahy all return as well.

“We go into every year with the goal to make the playoffs,” O’Hara said. “We left a lot on the table last year, but I think with this year’s team we have the opportunity to do something that South Hadley hasn’t done since 1976 and that’s compete for a state championship.”

King & Cushman Northampton Post 28 also made the playoffs last season, posting a 12-8 record. Coach Carl Clapp faces a challenge this season, though. “We lost seven 19-year-olds,” he said. “All seven were starters, too. It’s the first big hit I’ve had as a coach in 10 years.”

Despite the loss, seven players return for Post 28. Bryan Borges-Vega takes over the No. 1 spot in the rotation. Also returning is Zach Goodwin-Boyd, who Clapp describes as “one of the top shortstops in the league.” Dan Musante, Mike Molloy, Steve Golonka, RJ Ramsden, and Mack Hale all return for King & Cushman.

Post 28 is shooting for its sixth straight playoff spot and Clapp will look toward promising newcomers David Longstreeth, Keith Natale and Cam Woodward to contribute.

“We have a lot of question marks this year,” Clapp said. “I tell my guys, though, that it doesn’t matter which playoff spot you get in Legion, as long as you have one.”

Easthampton Post 224 looks to improve over last year’s 12-9 record.

“Our goal is to make the playoffs,” coach Joe Dushane said. “We just missed it last year, but I think we have a good opportunity this year.”

Chris Starcun, Adam Krol, Alan Gormley, Austin Crow and Justin Edinger all return for Post 224.

Dushane will look to Starcun to lead the team.

“He had a phenomenal high school season,” Dushane said. “His main thing is his offense. He’s a great leader, though, and a great kid.”

Amherst Post 148 also went 12-9 and missed the playoffs last season.

“I think we’ll do well this year, but you just never know in this league,” coach David Knightly said. “In the past we’ve been fairly successful, but all of the teams are pretty good.”

Asher Young, Justin Carey, Jose Cabrera and Tim Knightly return to Post 148.

David Knightly expects the team’s rotation to help get it to the postseason. “We have a very strong pitching staff,” he said. “We have Asher and Timmy, but there are new guys coming in like Jack McGowan and Alec Synder-Fair that could pitch well for us.”

At 1-20, Belchertown Post 239 finished last in Zone 2 last season. Coach Ed Griffin likes his chances a lot more this season, however.

“We have a pretty solid team this year,” he said. “I think that we can get above a .500 winning percentage.”

Trevor Erb, Mike Griffin, John Mastalerz, Jim Kusnierz, Andrew Davidsohn, Evan Daigle and Brandon Cavanaugh all return for Post 239. The team also picked up Max Humphrey and Jacob Whitacre, who Griffien believes will have a strong impact for the team.

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