Baseball

After Long Layoff, Stamford Legion Ready To Pursue Elusive State Title

Kevin Stone is one of the leaders of Stamford Legion's exceptional pitching staff. (Photo: Mark Conrad)

Kevin Stone is one of the leaders of Stamford Legion’s exceptional pitching staff. (Photo: Mark Conrad)

After a dominant regular season in which it went 24-3 and won its zone by five games, the state tournament continues and Stamford Senior Legion, coming off a long bye, is prepared to take the field for Wednesday’s best-of-three matchup against Trumbull at Cubeta Stadium.

“The team is excited and ready to go,” coach Kevin Murray said. “As of now, we are the healthiest we have been, and with the help of winning the zone it gave us a five-day cool-down period.”

The third straight zone title came after sweeping Trumbull, which finished in third place in Zone 4. With that bitter ending at the hands of Stamford, it will make for an interesting matchup come Wednesday.

Stamford also has a little chip on its shoulder when it comes to state tournament play. Last year’s 7-5 Super Regional loss to Cheshire still rings a bell for the players as they head back to play. Although a year has passed, it’s adding fuel to the fire for this year’s state tournament run.

“Of course the returning players have the taste from last year, which drove them to work even harder this past fall, winter and spring season,” Murray said.

It shows when you take a look at what this team has already done this summer.

Pitching has clearly been a dominant force for this Stamford team. The top returning pitchers — Kevin Stone, Randy Polonia and Pete Horn — have a combined 13-2 record, and the standout newcomer Billy DeVito finished at 6-3. Murray and the players will attest time after time that they will ride their pitching down the stretch, and depth is not an issue when players like Shawn Urbano and Grant Stone can come in as well.

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“The thing that is different this year is that our pitching is deeper than last year, which gives us an advantage with eight quality arms,” Murray said.

Anthony Frangiose is back in the lineup and healthy after tweaking his shoulder toward the end of the season. He makes Stamford a huge threat when he’s up at the plate. Cris Ruiz is also ready to return, and he will provide his team with a solid defensive presence behind home plate.

The team has been working on doing all of the little things right in practice leading up to the tournament.

“We have been practicing to make sure that we get plenty of reps with hitting and fielding, and the pitchers doing bullpens to get us ready for the tournament,” Murray said. “We understand that situational hitting and execution on defense is critical at this point to advance going forward.”

In its last series with Trumbull, Stamford executed when it came to the fundamentals of the game. The team came through with timely hitting, and everybody did their part to make sure they would come out with the win. They hope to carry that same mentality over to the postseason.

While most of the players are returning from last season, Murray still notices that there is something different about this group, especially at this point in the season. The talent is striking, but it’s the experience and the focus that makes them a threat to the opponents that they will face.

“The thing that’s different is that most of these kids have experienced the state playoffs at the Sweet 16 level, which helps everyone understand that at this level, everyone is dangerous and you must go strong for nine innings,” Murray said. “These kids want to be the last team standing in Connecticut, so that’s what drives them every day.”