first_imgBY GEORGE ALBANO Staff Writer BY GEORGE ALBANOStaff Writer The Bayshore Colts Senior American Legion team couldn’t have picked a worse time to have its first two-game losing streak of the season. In fact, the team representing Post 515 in Middletown didn’t lose a single game in the 2005 regular season, compiling a perfect 16-0 record while winning the Monmouth County American Legion championship. But at the district playoffs this past weekend in Ewing, Bayshore lost its opening-round game to West New York of Hudson County 8-2 on Saturday. Then, on Sunday, the Colts dropped a 16-12 slugfest to South Brunswick to exit the double-elimination tournament. Bayshore was one of 40 teams playing at five different sites over the weekend with the top two teams at each site advancing to the state tournament. While Post 515 certainly wasn’t a lock for one of those 10 spots, veteran manager Marty Kenney and his players didn’t think they’d be two and done either. “We expected to win a game or two. At least we were hoping to,” Kenney said after Sunday’s second loss. “We knew we had a tough draw. They pick the teams out of a hat and when I saw we were playing West New York in the first round I knew it would be tough to beat them. But I was hoping we’d take one today and then see what happens tomorrow.” As it turned out, there was no tomorrow. In Saturday’s opener, WNY pitcher Eric Polanko limited the Colts to just six hits and a pair of runs while striking out 12 Bayshore batters. “Their pitcher pretty much shut us down,” Kenney said. “He was a lefty and he did a nice job. We only had a couple of opportunities in a couple of innings. Offensively, he just shut us down. “He was a college freshman, and that’s part of the problem,” Kenney added. “We go with all sophomores and juniors in high school while their team had players a year and almost two years older. They had five college freshmen and another six graduating seniors. So half their team was at least one or two years older than us. “But we kind of expect that. Most of the teams we play are older than us. We have a different philosophy.” Kenney, who has managed the Bayshore Colts Legion team for 15 years, has also been the head coach of the Christian Brothers Academy baseball team for the past 31 seasons. In that dual role, he uses the Legion team in the summer to help develop his high school team the following spring. “We look to mold our high school team for the following year, whereas most teams in the district are looking to win,” Kenney pointed out. “We’re competing with juniors while teams we’re playing have graduated seniors and some college freshmen. “Their goal is obviously to win the state playoffs and advance to the regionals and even the nationals, whereas our philosophy is a little bit different. This team I had, for the most part, will be next year’s high school varsity team. The American Legion season gives us an opportunity to blend returning varsity players with freshmen and sophomores who played on the J level. It’s a great opportunity to put them all together and let them play together.” Kenney’s approach to Legion baseball has certainly proved to be beneficial. After all, at CBA he has developed one of the most successful high school programs in the state with 10 Shore Conference division championships (in the 20-year history of the league), four conference tournament and four county crowns, five state sectional titles, and a state championship in 1977. Even this past season, Kenney led CBA to a 27-4 record, including a 14-0 mark in the Shore A Division, the South Jersey sectional championship, and a berth in the Parochial A state final. Yet despite all that post-season success on the high school level, Kenney’s Bayshore Legion team has never advanced past the districts. With good reason. It all goes back to his philosophy and to using all high school underclassmen against teams with seniors and college freshmen. “We’ve been in the districts seven or eight of the last 10 or 11 years,” he noted. “So we’re kind of used to it. If we win a game or two, we’re happy with that. There are four or five teams in our district whose goals are little different than us and are a year or two older. “We’re just looking to compete and do as well as we possibly can. We look at it as it’s more experience for the players coming back and it helps us build our [high school] team for next year.” In Saturday’s game, West New York scored three runs in the first and three more in the fifth to take a 6-0 lead. Bayshore finally got on the board with a pair of runs in the seventh to make it 6-2, and the Colts were threatening for more. “That was a big inning,” Kenney said. “We scored two runs and had the bases loaded with no outs, but we didn’t come up with any big hits after that. A couple of more hits and it could have been 6-5 and we’re right back in the game. We had some of our better hitters up, too, so it was a little disappointing.” Instead, WNY tacked on two more runs in the last of the seventh (they play nine innings in districts and states) to win going away. Jimmy Laufer went 2-for-2 with an RBI single for Bayshore, while his brother, Dave Laufer, also had an RBI single to account for the Colts’ other run. But the Post 515 team rediscovered its hitting form in Sunday’s losers’ bracket game, banging out a total of 19 hits and jumping out to a 9-1 lead. South Brunswick cut it to 9-4 after six innings, but Bayshore struck for three more runs in the seventh to up the lead to 12-4 after seven. “But then, the last two innings, everything fell apart,” Kenney said. “They ended up scoring 12 runs in the last two innings.” A seven-run eighth inning by South Brunswick cut Bayshore’s lead to 12-11, and set the stage for a five-run top of the ninth, which sent the Colts on their way to elimination. “Offensively, I thought we did a pretty good job. We hit the ball well, and I was really pleased,” Kenney said. “And defensively we played pretty well, too, until the last two innings. We made two critical errors, one of which led to the five runs in the last inning. Four of those runs were unearned.” Vin Avella, Marc Sansevere and Dave Laufer all had three hits for the Colts. Avella, who doubled and homered, drove in three runs, while Sansevere knocked in a run and scored two more, and Laufer doubled and also had an RBI. “We had 19 hits, so we hit the ball real well,” Kenney said. “We just fell apart in those last two innings.” Of course, the true measure of how successful this year’s Bayshore Colts Senior American Legion team was won’t really be known until next spring when the high school season rolls around. If you go by history, though, this past summer will probably be looked back upon as another successful season. Most summers usually are. “In the last 15 years we averaged 23 wins,” Kenney said of his Legion team. “So, it’s definitely doing what I hoped it would do and that is build our high school team early. “All in all, we had a good run this summer, and I told the players that,” he concluded. “We accomplished some of the things we hoped to accomplish.”last_img

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