For the second time in three years, the Stamford Senior American Legion baseball team is heading to the Northeast Regionals after winning the state championship.
Stamford beat Southington in the best-of-three championship series last weekend, winning the first two games to claim the title.
Stamford also won the state championship in 2017, advancing to the Regionals.
This season, Stamford (27-4) is hoping to win the Northeast and advance to the Senior Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C.
“Some of our guys got a taste of what Regionals were like two years ago and the younger guys will get used to it with the help of those older players,” Stamford coach Kevin Murray said. “It is a great experience playing in a big stadium against top flight competition. We have a chance to go play in Shelby, which is our goal. We are going to have to take it one game at a time. The Rhode Island team we are opening against is a very good team, as all the teams at Regionals will be.”
The team departs Tuesday for Worcester, Mass. with its opening game scheduled against Cumberland, R.I., on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at Fitton Field.
The double-elimination tournament runs through Sunday.
Southington, the team Stamford beat in the state championship, also qualified for the tournament and opens Wed. at 11:30 a.m. against Brattleboro, VT.
Shortstop TJ Wainwright is the lone position player who started when Stamford played in the Regionals in 2017.
Grant Purpura started a game on the mound in the Regionals and Bobby Cribbin pitched in relief.
For the rest of the Stamford team, they will have to lean on those three team captains.
“No question we need to ride those three and they need to be telling the younger guys what to expect from the experience,” Murray said. “Look what TJ did in the second game of the state championship, getting the game winning hit. That was the biggest at bat anyone had on our team all season. We need to ride him in this tournament and follow his lead at the plate and in the field.”
Purpura has been dominant all summer, continuing in the state championship where he tossed a complete-game shutout in Game 2 of the finals.
He has been joined at the top of the rotation by Matt Tiplady, who won game one of the finals.
“Grant is very poised and driven. He has the mentality of throwing zeros and riding his defense,” Murray said. “(Matt) Tiplady has been pitching phenomenally. Our pitching coach (Rich Trimboli) has worked with him a lot on throwing his two-seamer away and having a different approach with hitters. Tip has also benefitted from watching Grant (Purpura) pitch this yean and picking up little things here and there.”
Stamford will need to rely on more than its top two pitchers with games scheduled every day.
Cribbin, Jay Lockwood, Chris Candito and Wainwright will all be called upon to provide valuable innings for Stamford if it hopes to make it to Shelby.
Catching the staff, and batting in the heart of the lineup is Joey Skarad, who was an offensive force the entire state tournament.
The biggest spark plug for the team was Jaden Dawkins batting at the bottom of the order.
Dawkins got on base any way he could and once aboard, created chaos for opponents with his speed.
Dawkins scored the biggest runs of the tournament for Stamford, coming in with the tying run in game one and the winning run in game two of the championship series.
The team will need him on base in Regionals.