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Post 59 Prepares for a Tough Zone

As the 2014 American Legion baseball season gets underway, first-year Milford manager Steve DiVitto is still assessing his own team and sizing up what figures to be another competitive season in District 4. "I think there is a lot of potential in this team, a lot of guys who are new to Milford Legion baseball and legion baseball in general," he said. "We have a good core of guys who are returning."
Dan Avery, Cam Cossette, and David Sampson will all be mainstays in the Milford rotation. The trio, from Milford, Milford, and Bellingham, respectively, all pitched significant innings last summer for the blue and gold. Bellingham's Kevin Martinis will also factor into the rotation after he recovers from a strained shoulder. DiVitto said the senior is "week to week" with the injury.
In the absence of Martinis, Hopedale junior Kevin Lynch, Milford freshman Blake Hill, and Hopedale native Dan Mantoni will compete for innings early in the season. Mantoni, who graduated Hopedale High last spring, was named captain of the 2014 squad. He joins Tony Chinappi and Robert Pagnini as the only five year players in the program's storied history.
"We have a lot of new faces and, as with any season, it will take some time to get acclimated," DiVitto said. "But having some veterans, especially a guy with the experience of Mantoni, will only help."
Milford dropped its season opener Sunday night at Leominster by a 4-3 final and followed that up with a 6-0 shutout loss to Wachusett in the home opener on Monday. The early struggles did not surprise DiVitto, who acknowledges it will take a little time to begin to fire on all cylinders. "We left 15 guys on base against Leominster and we had some situations that did not go our way," he said. "Some of these guys have not seen live pitching in a few weeks. Timely hitting, and hitting in general will come as the season moves on."
DiVitto listed Leominster and Wachusett as being among the teams to beat in what is frequently one of the stronger zones in Massachusetts. "You look top to bottom and you can't really find a team that you can check off as a win," he said. "Leominster, Shrewsbury, Grafton Hill (Worcester), East Side (Worcester), Northbridge, there is a lot of talent and if you are not ready to play every day, you're going to be in trouble."
The good news is the early losses are not as punitive as they might have been last year. Under the convoluted dual state tournament system, the first 13 games in last year's schedule decided whether a team would have a chance to play for a spot in the National-bound state tournament. Post 59 came up short in that field, but managed to get on a roll later in the summer and captured the intra-state championship for 2013. This year, there is one regular season, one state tournament, and infinitely less confusion. There is also time to try different lineups and find the right mix for a winning team.
"We need to be prepared, and we are going to do our best and see who wins jobs as the season gets underway," DiVitto said. "The goal is to work hard and get better everyday."




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