If there’s value in a team facing its toughest tests early, Long Beach won the sweepstakes when this year’s baseball schedules came out.
Already forced to grapple with a pair of injured All-Conference returners, the Marines – whose nine wins last spring more than doubled the club’s 2021 total – travelled to Calhoun for two-of-three in May to face the reigning Long Island Class A champs in a Nassau Conference A1 season-opening series, followed by a three-game set against elite league foe MacArthur.
Though hard-pressed for headway against the powerhouse duo – at Herald press time both MacArthur and Calhoun remained undefeated – Long Beach, which managed to hand MacArthur its only blemish thus far in a 3-3 home tie April 3, flexed in its first game emerging from the gauntlet, scoring two runs late to make senior righthander Dylan Cantwell’s eight-strikeout, complete-game bid stand up in a 4-2 league win over visiting Hyde Park on Monday that boosted the Marines into the win column at 1-5-1.
With senior outfielder/lefthanded pitcher Jake Scafa debuting off the injured list in Monday’s victory – tacking on the Marines’ last run with an RBI hit against Hyde Park – and fellow All-Conference pick Daniel Defonte, a junior catcher, also expected back this week, Long Beach coach Jason Zizza said his club is poised to turn a big page.
“We had a couple challenging series to start the season, with two of our returning award winners still out with injuries,” Zizza said. “But we never make excuses. We used that challenge to gauge who we are as a team. We’re proud of how we fought and were able to manufacture runs, playing close against two exceptional teams.”