To say the Stamford Senior American Legion team had a stunning end to the 2018 season would be an understatement.
After winning the state championship in 2017 and going 21-1 in the regular season in 2018, the team had hopes of not only winning the state, but also the Northeast Regional and making a trip to the Legion World Series in Shelby. NC.
It was not to be.
Back-to-back losses on the opening weekend of the tournament left Post 3 shocked.
There was nothing left to do but lick their wounds and come back for another run this summer.
While the team may not be as strong on paper as the squad the last two seasons, this group of Stamford Legion players has their eyes firmly set on a return to the state championship.
With a mix of some of the city’s best players from King, Westhill, Stamford and returning players from college, Stamford Legion has established itself as a top contender in the state year-after year.
This year’s team features some fresh faces and few holdovers from the championship team but that has not slowed them down early on.
The team is out to an 8-2 start after taking two-of-three over the weekend from Trumbull (5-3).
It all starts with another deep pitching staff.
“That’s big. We have 10 or 11 kids who can throw and we are obviously going to ride our pitching, again,” Stamford coach Kevin Murray said. “In a wood-bat league, having that many kids who can throw is big for us in terms of making a run in the state tournament.”
Even the deepest pitching staffs can be stretched thin in the grind of the Legion tournament, but Stamford has had a knack for compiling quality arms in recent years.
At the top of the rotation is Montana Semmel (Westhill), a 36th round draft pick of the Yankees.
He is joined on the staff by Grant Purpura (Drew University), Bobby Cribbin (Indiana University), Matt Wirz (University of Bridgeport) and Matt Tiplady (Stamford) along with a bevy of extra arms waiting in the wings.
Handling that staff is primary catcher Joey Skarad (King), who will be playing at Sacred Heart next year.
Skarad has proven himself to be a high-quality catcher as well as a leader on the team, according to Murray.
Anchoring the infield and the offense is third-year Senior Legion starter, shortstop TJ Wainwright (Westhill).
Shane Hackett (Westhill) will man third with several players rotating at second and first base.
Wainwright is the lone starting fielder remaining from the 2017 championship team.
Jaden Dawkins (Stamford) is patrolling center field and batting leadoff, utilizing his elite speed in both pursuits.
“We have great mix of kids,” Murray said. “We are going to find way, like we found today. Games against Trumbull are a great test and get us battle-ready for the end of the year. We know how difficult the Legion state tournament is and we think coming out of a tough zone like Zone 4 will have us ready.”
Stamford is currently in first place in the Northwest Division of Zone 4, Trumbull is in first in the Southeast Division.
The two division winners qualify for the state tournament along with the next three teams in the zone with the best records.
Stamford is scheduled to open a three-game series against Westport Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at Cubeta Stadium.
This Saturday, Stamford is hosting teams from Oakes, Michigan and Essex, Vermont for a doubleheader at Cubeta.
Post 3 has not lost a series this year, winning two-of-three from Greenwich opening the season and sweeping a weekend series against Fairfield.