Legion baseball: Belchertown Post 239 off and running

  • Belchertown Post 239 pitcher Nolan Sullivan throws against Greenfield Post 81 during a game last summer in Greenfield. Sullivan and Post 239 were off to an undefeated start in their 2022 campaign. FILE PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

Staff writer 
Published: 6/15/2022 7:34:47 PM
Modified: 6/15/2022 7:32:30 PM

There’s still plenty of games to be played in the American Legion season, but Belchertown Post 239 head coach Jon Endelos has been quite pleased at how his team has started the season. 

Belchertown picked up three wins, two of them shutout victories, to open its summer campaign entering Wednesday’s game at East Springfield. That included a decisive 14-0 win over Longmeadow on Monday.

“I don't think we've started 3-0 in Belchertown in many, many moons,” Endelos said. “It's nice to soak it in right now.” 

It’s a pleasant turn of events for Post 239, which didn’t have a team as recently as 2018. Legion baseball programs can ebb and flow in terms of numbers, but Belchertown’s success has been in the works for many years as coaches have worked to put together strong junior pipelines to create a successful senior team. This year’s squad seems to be reaping those rewards thus far. 

“We’ve got four or five of the Belchertown kids that I've coached since they were nine years old,” Endelos said. “It's a combination, and it's nice to get those pieces around them [from other schools] to really make it that culminating season. This is where you want to go out – you want to go out in style like this.” 

While there are a core group of current and former Belchertown players on the team – Eli Sayball-Wimmer, Tyler Laramee, Aiden Torna and Andrew Fijal, to name a few – this group has also incorporated players from other schools into the mix. Granby’s Collin Kennedy and Nolan Sullivan, Hopkins Academy’s Andrew Ciaglo, Amherst’s Ryan Schneider and Nate Mills and others have had to come together to build chemistry quickly. 

“We have some great role models in the dugout, great leaders. They kind of bring us all together, they're incredible,” Sayball-Wimmer said. 

“We’re having fun, too, not taking ourselves too seriously,” Schneider added.

It’s a stacked group that could see Belchertown go far in the senior playoffs. In last year’s double-elimination tournament, Post 238 bested Northampton in the opening round but was ultimately eliminated by Greenfield. This year, the squad is hoping for a different outcome. 

“It’s hard to say any one kid impresses more than the others right now. They know their roles, and when they're in the game, they fulfill the roles,” Endelos said.

DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD

One of Post 238’s biggest strengths also presents one of its greatest challenges – the team’s depth, especially on the pitching mound. Pitchers like Ciaglo, Jack Feltovic, Torna and Schneider are used to being their team’s go-to pitcher. Now that they’re on a team with an abundance of aces, team management will be crucial. 

“Every guy is used to playing every inning of every game. That's the challenge. That's going to be our biggest battle – when we have all 15 guys in a game, how do I get these guys innings? Ciaglo’s not used to sitting, (Feltovic’s) not used to sitting. Some of these guys don't sit,” Endelos said. “To be unselfish and to give a couple innings here, three innings here to get someone else in – that's the challenge of the summer. Because depth, pitching and defense, we’re solid, rock solid.” 

NORTHAMPTON, EASTHAMPTON SIT OUT 

One of the biggest stories around Legion baseball this year isn’t who's on the field, but who’s off of it. 

For the first time in several years, Northampton won’t field a team. Last year’s Post 28 team, which made a run in last year’s District 3 tournament before falling to Westfield, saw some players age out, leaving this year’s squad a bit short on numbers. Easthampton also won’t field a team in 2022.

“[Northampton] was struggling for numbers. I think pitching was the big factor. He had 12-13 guys, but at the end of the day, they were short on pitching and then he had some vacation issues with a few of the kids that they were going to struggle to get seven or eight kids in a game, and I think that was the the overriding factor,” Endelos said. “I mean, not having Northampton in Legion – that's a big difference.” 

For Northampton, it should just be a temporary stoppage. Though the roster is too small to formally compete this year, there’s still a group of players that will be practicing together all summer. Post 28 is one of the longer-standing teams that has been consistently able to put a Legion team together each year, and that’s something that will hopefully return in the very near future. 


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