East Longmeadow poised, confident for postseason

EAST LONGMEADOW, Mass. -- With the myriad of success the East Longmeadow baseball team has attained over the last several seasons, it will never be good enough until the Spartans are able to hoist a championship.

Highly regarded as one of the best programs in the state, the Spartans have posted an 89-12 mark since 2007, but they don't take much homage over such an accomplishment. That's because the ultimate goal of winning a state crown has eluded them. The Spartans got close in 2007, but lost to Algonquin Regional in the Division 1 state semifinals.

Needless to say, this team expects more of itself and expects nothing less than a championship.

East Longmeadow, which presently sits at 17-3, has the necessary talent again this season to win a state title. But the folks in this Springfield suburb town have heard that story before. The last two years, in fact, when the Spartans have reached the district championship game only to fall short despite being considered the unanimous favorites both times.

Two years ago, they let a big lead slip away in the final inning against Westfield and lost by a run. Last year, they were blanked by reigning state champ Amherst, 1-0.

Even though East Longmeadow has been dominated on the diamond in the regular season, it's the postseason that matters most and this team won't be satisfied until it gets the proverbial monkey off its back.

“It’s been really tough coming up short like we have,” said senior tri-captain and outfielder Ken Morrisino, the bitterness still lingering in his voice. “We know we can win but we just need to stay loose and not think too much about it.”

Morrisino -- who will prep at the Canterbury School next year in New Milford, Conn. -- along with fellow captains Steve Moyers and Matt O’Neil, were all part of the disappointment of having to bear witness of watching someone else celebrate a title they felt should have been theirs the past two years. As expected, those painful memories of the past two postseasons have not subsided and all three captains are using it as motivation to win it all this year.

“That’s been our goal every year,” said Moyers, the junior ace of the pitching staff who, in three seasons, has a career record of 22-1, with a 0.40 ERA and is 6-0 this season with a 0.16 ERA. “We want to get a Western Mass. championship and after that try and go on and win states.”

Even though there are many new faces on this year’s squad, the objective has not changed. The rest of the team, according to eight-year coach Kevin Magee, looks up to the three captains because of what they have accomplished at East Longmeadow as high school and Legion players.

Morrisino, Moyers and O’Neil certainly bolstered their reputations this past summer as they were all key contributors on the East Longmeadow Post 293 Legion state champion team -- a club that needed to come out of the loser’s bracket and would go on to sweep Milton Post 35 in a doubleheader with both O’Neil and Moyers earning back-to-back victories, respectively on the mound.

The question by all three captains coming off that Legion title is, why can’t the same be done at the high school level?

“To not win here the last two years and then we can win it all in Legion is a bit strange,” said O’Neil, a junior shortstop/pitcher who is batting .469 and is 4-1 on the hill and has already made a verbal commitment to play at UConn in two years. “We need to win Western Mass. and go from there. We want it really bad.”

Moyers, who is still undecided over his future college plans, added “We just need to buckle down come postseason time. We know we've been considered the team to beat the last couple of years. What we need to do in the postseason is get a lead early and as a pitcher go out, throw strikes and try to put the other team away early. If we can do that we'll be effective.”

Behind this array of winning consistancy is Magee -- a player's coach who constantly instills proper fundamentals and a positive attitude to his team. As much as he too would like to celebrate a championship Magee’s primary objective all along has been team unity.

“My number one goal has been to get them to work on sportsmanship and their work ethic by putting the team first,” he said. “That’s been the theme ever since I got here. We talk about championships two-percent of the time but 98 percent of the time we talk about sportsmanship, work ethic and putting the team first.

"Every person on our roster at some point this season has said they’ll do whatever is best for the team and what is in the best interest for the team. I'm fortunate to have a team like this. I can tell you that they’re aren’t many teams that have a full roster of players who would put the team first. We do here.”