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Balanced Post 81 looks to make run at state berth

The best word to describe Greenfield Post 81 this season might be balanced.

The American Legion baseball team that calls Veterans Memorial Field its home all summer will kick off the season on road on Monday night when it heads to Parson’s Field in Belchertown at 5:45 to take on Belchertown.

Some familiar faces from season’s past are no longer with the team, making way for a crop of newcomers. The list of newbies includes head coach Tim Capuano, who takes over for former coach Ryan Tatreau after Tatreau served as coach for the past four years. Capuano is no stranger to the team, having served as an assistant coach in recent years.

Another change this season is in the playoff format, which in the past two years had seen the top two teams from the Pioneer Valley move on to begin the statewide playoff prior to the end of the regular season. Teams not in the statewide tournament would finish the regular season and then play a tournament to determine the WMass champion, even though that champion would not move on to do anything more. This season the state has gone back to a format similar to the one of three years ago. All 15 teams in Districts 2 and 3 (Pioneer Valley) will qualify for the postseason, but the top four spots will be heavily sought after because the first two rounds of the playoffs are single elimination and the top four teams will get a bye through the first two rounds. District 1 (Berkshires) will also join the playoffs in the second round, and after the first two single-elimination rounds, eight teams from western Mass. will be left to battle through a best-of-three tournament. The winner will move on to the state tournament.

The only thing remaining from the old playoff format is that the teams in the Pioneer Valley will remain in three zones, each containing five teams. Greenfield is joined in Zone 2 along with South Hadley, Northampton, Easthampton and Amherst. Post 81 will play every team in the Pioneer Valley once (for a total of 14 games) and then will play the four teams in Zone 2 a second time for an 18-game regular season.

The balance that is possessed by Capuano extends all over the field, but is most prevalent in the pitching staff, which features many of the top arms from Franklin County over the baseball season, the only major missing player being Greenfield High School’s Garrett Hudson, who is playing in the Tri-County League this season. Post 81 will feature Tyler Charboneau and Nick York, the top two pitchers from Turners Falls High School, as well as Parker Hickey from Greenfield. Frontier Regional School’s Ben Ruddock and Pioneer Valley Regional School’s Jake Hale are each the aces of their staffs, while Sam Downes just finished his freshman year at St. Lawrence University and is showing great promise. Deerfield High School’s Luke Bakker and former DA pitcher John Deskavich will also throw.

Mohawk Trail Regional High School’s Liam Datres de la Blotier and Northfield Mount Hermon School’s Tanner Jillson are both locks behind the plate, while Greenfield’s Jake Elwell is also in the mix, but is likely to see time in the outfield. Turners Falls’ Brody Markol will move from catcher to second base, because the Plymouth State-bound player is making the switch collegiately. First base will be either Bakker, Downes or Deskavich, while Markol, Hickey and Turners Falls’ Marcel Ortiz will each play second. Frontier’s Niko Ames returns to shortstop and will be joined their by York, while Hale, Bakker, Charboneau, Greenfield’s Kevin Luippold and Mohawk’s Andrew Doty can all play third.

Greenfield’s Jourdan York-Welcome, Mohawk’s Mark Buck, Elwell, Doty, Deskavich, Datres de la Blotier, Ortiz and Charboneau can each play in the outfield. It really could be a different-looking lineup every day with the versatility the team possesses.

• Post 81 will also have a Junior Legion team this season, and the squad opens up on Sunday with a doubleheader at Veterans Memorial Field in Greenfield beginning at 4:30 against Keene (N.H) in independent action. The Junior Legion squad is in a western Mass. division with five other teams. Post 81 will play each of the five three times for a 15-game schedule (plus the two independents against Keene).

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