Post 81 season opens tonight

  • Owen Phelps will be one of the top pitchers for Greenfield Post 81 this season. RECORDER FILE PHOTO

  • Greenfield Post 81's Jacob Bryant is back this season. RECORDER FILE PHOTO

  • Tionne Brown returns for Post 81 this season as one of the captains and will be an elite defensive player at second base. RECORDER FILE PHOTO

  • Joel Peabody will be one of the top pitchers for Greenfield Post 81 this season. RECORDER FILE PHOTO

  • Joel Peabody and Greenfield Post 81 will hope to score more runs this summer as the American Legion Senior Division season gets underway tonight at Veterans Memorial Field in Greenfield at 7 against Ludlow. RECORDER FILE PHOTO

Recorder Staff
Thursday, June 14, 2018

A mix of young and old players highlight the Greenfield Post 81 roster this season.

Led by three returning college players, the American Legion Senior Division baseball team kicks off its season tonight at Veterans Memorial Field in Greenfield at 7 against Ludlow.

Greenfield returns after finishing 10-8 during the regular season last summer. In the double-elimination tournament, Greenfield won its opener but dropped two straight and was eliminated.

Post 81 coach Kyle Phelps runs a team out onto the field that he believes could be his best yet, as the squad looks to get back to the state tournament for the first time since 2014.

“I’m really excited about the season,” Phelps began. “One through 18, this team is the best we’ve had in a long time. We have some younger kids to go along with some veterans.”

Phelps will look for his pitching staff to remain as tough as it was last season when it sported one of the top earned run averages in western Mass. Post-grad players Eliot Mousseau and Adam Hallenbeck will lead the way. Mousseau did not pitch a lot last summer but has been throwing for Colby Sawyer College this spring, while Hallenbeck was one of the top pitchers on last year’s team. Frontier Regional School pitcher Ben Arnold joined Hallenbeck at the top of the rotation and returns after another top campaign. Arnold is one of six players on the Post 81 roster to come from the South Deerfield school that is playing in Saturday’s western Mass. Division III championship game.

Greenfield High School pitchers Owen Phelps and Joel Peabody will also be in the regular pitching rotation for Post 81. Frontier’s Kalen Evans and Connor Waitkus join Franklin County Technical School’s Sam Bobala as other primary arms. Deerfield Academy’s Owen MacPhee is a lefty in the bullpen, while Greenfield’s Jake Suhl and Franklin Tech’s Max Charest can also pitch. 

“Our pitching staff was our strength last year,” Phelps said.

Greenfield’s Colin Cloutier, Frontier’s Garrett DeForest and Franklin Tech’s Bobala are all catchers on the team, while Cloutier, Frontier’s Kiernan Freeman and Hallenbeck can all play first base. Former Turners Falls High School athlete Tionne Brown is a second baseman and team captain. Brown spent the year playing football at Franklin Pierce University and is in top shape entering the season. Mousseau joins Brown as the other captain and will likely start at short when not pitching.

“This is the first year that I’ve coached that I’ve named captains,” Phelps said of Brown and Mousseau. “It takes a lot of dedication to come back after being gone in college for a year. Eliot and Tionne have been captains their whole lives, and the other guys look up to them.”

Suhl is also an option at shortstop or another infield position this season. Phelps, Peabody, Arnold, Evans and Frontier’s Jacob Bryant are all options at third base.

Mohawk Trail Regional High School’s Luke Viens joins MacPhee and Waitkus as center fielders on the team. Charest, Freeman, Bryant and DeForest are also outfielders. Mohawk’s Brian Allen is a utility player who will see time at a variety of positions.

There are some changes to the league this season, the biggest being that American Legion has gone to a pitch count across the nation. Pitchers now have a 105-pitch limit in an outing, while other rules are in place about how many days off between appearances pitchers must have depending on the number of pitches thrown. Pitchers who throw more than 81 pitches must have four days between appearances, while fewer pitches thrown results in fewer days of rest needed.

Western Mass. has also decreased to 13 American Legion teams this season and those teams have been split into Zone A and Zone B. Greenfield is part of a seven-team Zone B along with Northampton, Agawam, Westfield, Ludlow, Longmeadow and Monson. Zone A has six teams — Pittsfield, Aldenville, East Springfield, Easthampton, Wilbraham Blue and Wilbraham Red. The top two teams in each zone get a bye into the eight-team, double-elimination tournament. Teams three through six in each zone cross over to play a single-elimination game. The seventh-place team in Zone B does not make the postseason.