By Hayley Tafuro
WESTPORT—Westport has always been abundant with baseball talent. Staples High School boasts seven FCIAC titles, most recently from 2008, 2009 and 2011, and just last season it was the regular season FCIAC champion. However, the Westport Legion team has not been as lucky for the summer seasons, at least since its last state tournament run in 2005.
That has all changed this season.
Sunday was Westport’s first shot in this year’s sectional tournament in a matchup against East Haven. Westport won, 10-0, forcing the nine-inning game to end in eight per the mercy rule. That’s not a bad way to start things off.
According to Coach Jeff Love, it has all been a combination of the crop of talent he has on the team this year, along with the players’ desire to work hard and win that has made this season so successful.
“We’ve got a really nice ball club,” said Love. “These kids really want to play the game. They’re friends, and they’ve been playing together since they were six or seven years old. We like to have a good time and have some fun, but at the same time they want to get down to business and win some baseball games. They’ve taken care of that.”
Westport, which finished third in zone play with a 19-8 record, was scheduled to play Middletown on Monday for a berth in the state tournament.
The players who have cycled through Westport baseball in years past have been exceptional, but according to Love many of them either “left home” or just didn’t come around to the Legion team. What makes this year’s Legion team stand out from the rest is that all of these great Westport baseball players have finally decided to join forces on the same team.
“The simple fact is, if you don’t have the horses in the stable, you’re not going to get the win. This year, we have the horses in the stable,” Love said.
A couple of those key contributors to getting the wins have been All-State and All-FCIAC Staples players Adam Dulsky and Sam Ellinwood.
“They’ve both done a great job for us,” Love said. “Adam is our rock back there at catcher. He’s a good leader and works his tail off in season and in the offseason. He’s great with the pitchers and he’s got a heck of an arm.”
Ellinwood, one of the best shortstops in the state, made a huge adjustment for the Legion team this season when he was moved to third base.
“We put him there and he’s been nothing less than outstanding,” Love said. “He’s made every play out there, he’s been our leadoff hitter, he’s a good leader and just a great kid.”
After playing key roles in Staples’ winning ways during the spring, both came to the Legion team with their goals set high.
“We just wanted to do something special, especially after how the high school season ended,” Dulsky said. “We just wanted to get back at it and try to win a state championship.”
In addition to the play from Dulsky and Ellinwood, every team member’s contributions have been essential to the strides that Westport has made, according to Love. From pitcher Ryder Chasin, who pitched seven innings and led the team to victory in Sunday’s shutout, to shortstop Marco Latella for his outstanding defense, everyone has taken part in building something unique on this Westport Legion team.
“All of these kids are just really impressive,” Love said, and the way they’ve been playing shows hopeful signs to qualify for and have a deep run in the state tournament.
“We’ve been playing really well fundamentally, especially compared to teams past,” Dulsky said.
“No matter where you are and what team you have, in a tournament it comes down to pitching, defense and timely hitting. Defensively, we are really strong, and hopefully our hitters can just get some timely hits,” Love said.
“Our defense has been lockdown,” Dulsky added. “Marco has been very good and myself behind the plate has also been key. Our outfield play has also been key. We’re not letting a lot of balls go past us. It’s not sloppy out there.”
Hopefully on its way to the next round of the tournament, Westport is looking to add to its baseball history once again with a special group of guys who want that one special moment: A championship win.
“It’s just baseball,” Dulsky said. “Whether it’s a regular season game or a state tournament game, we’re looking to get that W.”