By Hayley Tafuro
STAMFORD—If there’s one thing that everyone can agree on about this summer’s Stamford Senior Legion team, it is that it was made up of one pretty special group of players. Despite the season-ending loss earlier last week in the state tournament, they had much to be proud of, including an impressive state tournament run, a winning non-zone record and, of course, a second-straight Zone 4 regular-season title.
“Just with the roster and the kids in general, I had a group of kids that wanted to be there and be out there every day giving 110 percent,” Coach Kevin Murray said.
Murray certainly had a lot of talent to choose from throughout the course of the season. Even when injuries plagued some of his top players, notably early on with reigning FCIAC Player of the Year Randy Polonia, there was always someone to step up and fill in without a hitch.
“I had full confidence in the roster,” Murray said. “Even if we didn’t play our best game, we would find a way to win it seemed like.”
Catcher RJ Moavero agreed while reflecting on some of the tougher games on the schedule, including a 13-inning battle with Norwalk and another extra-inning game with Trumbull.
“It just shows how everyone, even the younger guys, could handle pressure very well and help the team win,” Moavero said.
This was evident by Stamford’s final 24-3 zone record. Many of those victories came in the form of shutouts, a testament to the team’s pitching staff and defense, areas Murray saw many improvements.
“Obviously Kevin and Randy are two big names, and they’ve improved so much from last year as leaders,” Murray said, also referring to ace Kevin Stone.
Murray also noted the achievements of pitchers Shawn Urbano, Jalen Brown and Grant Stone, who went for a combined 15-2 heading into the state tournament. Adding Kevin Stone, who was unbeaten, and Polonia into that mix, along with Pete Horn, the sky was the limit for Stamford, which had the luxury of flexibility in terms of shuffling through unmatched defensive lineups. Much to Murray’s excitement, the whole pitching staff will be returning for next summer.
The road to success was not always easy for the Stamford team, which went through its fair share of challenges, including multiple doubleheaders in the hot summer sun and some emotional losses.
Moavero discussed how the team would always find a way to support each other when the wear and tear of the season really got to its roughest points.
“Everyone on the team helped out,” he said. “It was totally a team effort, even in the states. A couple of guys were hurt and the guys on the bench really stepped up.”
As for Murray, these were the times where the team really learned how to dig deep and overcome, even in times of defeat.
“The first game against Cheshire really rings a bell here, because it opened up our eyes a little bit more,” Murray said of a state tournament loss. “We really had to finish a game, but I believe that game propelled us to win our next two games, against Berlin and Branford. Even in our last game against Cheshire, we were still in the game and had our opportunities, but it was a long day and the kids did their best to come out and try to win that game.”
Although the season had its highs and lows, Stamford could always count on the fact that it was getting better and having fun while doing so.
“It’s a family-oriented program,” Murray said. “We’re all very close from the 19-year-old level to the 13-year-old level. Everybody pulls together during key games. It’s something very special to be a part of.”
Moavero especially took advantage of the time to keep up the fun atmosphere and motivate his teammates when he could.
“That’s always kind of been my role,” he said. “I’m just an excited and emotional player, and I really love the game. I love getting the guys pumped up and ready to play, and then when the team needed an emotional lift I liked to provide that. I try to spread that out to the other players and hope that they kind of follow along.”
Meanwhile, most of the players are preparing for their future with baseball, whether it’s improving for high school season or acting on opportunities at the next level.
“Putting together a roster and record like we did this year is very important because we’re giving kids opportunities to get looks,” Murray said. “Anybody on any given day can have a good game and get noticed, so that’s the key about what we’re doing.”
Stamford’s strong, competitive non-zone schedule, along with its deep run into the state tournament, provided just the right environment to showcase the talent present on the roster, which, according to Murray, “produced and overachieved” in his mind this year.
The team is only losing a handful of players next year, and one of those is Moavero, who came back from St. Bonaventure University after taking a break from baseball to play this season.
“Overall, it was a lot of fun,” he said. “I had fun playing with the younger guys. We had a very successful season and it was great playing and mentoring some of the younger guys.”
Despite the inevitable difference in roster, Murray has nothing but confidence in the future of Stamford Legion baseball.
“They set the table for future Stamford Legion programs to try to match or be better,” he said. “It’s pretty tough to do that because this was such a special group, but I have a feeling that we’ll be right back where we left off.”