WESTFIELD, Mass. -- Historically speaking, geography makes the best rivalries. The proverbial border wars that come year in and year out are must-see matchups regardless of records.
A rivalry brought on by nearly unmatched success between two teams over a certain timespan, however, shouldn’t be discounted. And in the case of Westfield and East Longmeadow, two of the premier baseball programs in Western Massachusetts year in and year out, that rivalry has never been better.
Sunday’s latest installment was a testament to that.
Westfield, the No. 14 team in the latest ESPN Boston MIAA Baseball poll, used a three-run first-inning and an efficient and otherwise dominant complete-game effort from senior Lee Albertson to knock off No. 4 East Longmeadow. It was the first loss of the season for the Spartans (12-1) while the Bombers improved to 11-1.
With four-year starter and URI commit Steve Moyers on the mound, Westfield didn’t waste any time or allow him to settle in. A leadoff single from Conner Laraway followed by a sacrifice attempt turned two-base throwing error led to early scoring opportunities for the Bombers. Billy Smith, Adam Mayhew and Dan Jacques all drove in runs in succession, giving Westfield a 3-0, first-inning lead against the usually unflappable Moyers.
“[Moyers] is a great pitcher and we’ve seen him before,” said Mayhew, who finished 2-for-3 with a double and two RBI. “We wanted to get to him early and get deep in the count. This is definitely a statement win for us.”
The Spartans grabbed a run in their half of the second inning but that was as much offense as they’d see the rest of the night thanks to Albertson.
The senior righthander threw a complete-game and improved to 4-0 on the season. He allowed just two hits and struck out five, gaining momentum as his efficient outing progressed. He closed out his 79-pitch masterpiece with back-to-back 1-2-3 innings, including a punch out for the final out.
“Lee is throwing harder now than he was in the beginning of the season and that’s helped him,” said Westfield head coach Rich Discenza. “He throws the cutter and that’s what helped him today. He’s around the plate and is able to get out of tough spots and get back on track.”
This was the fifth time these two teams have met since the 2009 season. East Longmeadow came out on top last season, defeating Albertson, 4-2. In 2010, the Spartans beat Westfield twice, 3-2 in the regular season and again by the same score in the sectional semifinal. The Bombers avenged a regular season loss in 2009 by knocking off the Spartans in the Western Mass. championship game.
If recent history is any indication, these two teams haven’t seen the last of each other this season. With Westfield’s win over East Longmeadow, there are now only three one-loss teams in the region (Springfield Cathedral is the other). Westfield was the only team to knock off Cathedral and the two rivals play again May 18. East Longmeadow and Cathedral square off Wednesday.
“Now it’s back to work for us,” said East Longmeadow shortstop and UConn signee Matt O’Neil. “They beat us today, they were a better team. If anything this loss will help us out a bit. If we see them in playoff time, we’ll have this thought in the back of our minds.”
Moyers lost his first of the year, falling to 4-1. He scattered nine hits and struck out five.
Conner Laraway had two hits and scored twice and Tim Donahoe had a pair of hits, including a double, for Westfield. Moyers and Brian Casey had East Longmeadow’s two hits.