Long Beach has look of contender


Confidence is contagious on the Long Beach High School baseball team, and it starts with the experienced lineup leading the charge.

The Marines are off to a phenomenal 5-0-1 start, including two wins and a tie last week against conference rival Mepham.

“We feel like we’re a real contender this year, we feel like we can compete with any team in the county,” coach Jason Zizza said. “We have really strong leadership that we feel can take us pretty far into the playoffs.”

Senior center fielder Troy DeFrancesco is the mainstay at the top of the lineup, according to Zizza.

“We go as he goes,” he said. “He catches everything from foul line to foul line, he’s good for a couple hits a game, he’s dangerous on the basis, I can’t say enough about him; he’s a true leader on our team.”

There’s also Mike Rossi, another solid defender in the outfield on top of the fact that he’s a line-drive hitter, perfect for the middle of the lineup.

Alonzo Espinet stands out amongst the crowd as one of the outfield-pitching two-way players with a stellar start to the season, hitting nearly .600 at one point, plus the quality defense he displays in right.

Another two-way is Christian Parisa as the starting shortstop and pitcher.

“Same thing [as DeFrancesco], he’s a senior, he hits second in our order, he’s good for a couple hits a game and he’s a really, really, really top-level player in Nassau County,” Zizza explained.

Second baseman Hunter Stadtman bats ninth and turns the lineup over. “He’s like a second leadoff hitter for us, very fast, puts the ball in play a ton, he always makes things happen for us,” Zizza said.

There’s also senior catcher Dan Defonte who hits third in the lineup, and Zizza described Defonte as a power hitter, who goes gap-to-gap. Defensively is where he really shines, though. “He knows our pitchers really well, is able to call a really good game pitch-wise behind the plate, and really keeps the pitchers focused,” Zizzo explained.

On the topic of starting pitching, junior Matty Hayes is a dominant figure. Hayes most recently had a heavy hand in an 8-2 win over Mepham April 11, where he allowed two runs on one hit with six strikeouts over six innings.

Another talented pitcher is junior Jack Passman, but no matter who it is, Zizza said that they all have one thing in common: “They’re all pitchers that go right after hitters. They don’t mess around, they don’t dance around the plate.”

With all that senior leadership, it begs the question of how they influence the younger, newer players on the team. Holding a free clinic to teach Long Beach Little League how to play ball was the perfect way to teach his current team patience, leadership internally and how to constructively help each other.

“[The team] teaches baseball for that day and work on skills with them, and that really does translate for us,” Zizza said. “When the players see what it takes to teach somebody what to do and be patient with somebody, I’ve found that they’re much more willing to work with each other, support each other and that’s a big part of baseball. Baseball is a game of failure and if we don’t learn to deal with that failure and pick each other up in a sense, it’s usually a long year.”

What solidifies the chemistry is that they’ve been around each other for so long, that they know how to make each other shine.

“These guys have all played together since they were little kids, we brought them all up to the varsity level when they were sophomores, so this is their third year at the high school level playing together and they gel really well,” Zizza explained. “This is a dream group, a coach dreams to have a team like I have right now and I’m kind of taking in every moment of it.”