NEFL to focus on college preparation, player development this summer
New England Frozen Lemonade/Shields Post 43 is now the only senior American Legion baseball show in town.
With Hendricken’s Senerchia Post 74 failing to produce a team due to many of its players opting for travel ball, NEFL will now be the only senior team representing Warwick this summer.
As a program that prides itself on preparing student-athletes for college, NEFL has secured a home schedule that will feature games at the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island for this season to give its players the opportunity to play on collegiate diamonds.
“We’re trying to underline the fact that we’re a collegiate preparatory program,” NEFL manager Jim Dawber said. “We’re going to be putting our players on college fields when we’re the home team.”
Taking the field will be a roster flooded with talent that starred for Pilgrim and Toll Gate this spring, with pitching certainly being a strength.
Pilgrim ace Zachary D’Andrea will take the hill for NEFL, as will CCRI standout Dave Simmons, who fanned 57 in 43 2/3 innings to go along with a 3-1 record and a 2.47 earned run average as a freshman for the Knights this spring.
Toll Gate’s Dave Defusco, Matt Martinez and Dan Pratt and Pilgrim’s Tyler Parks will also bolster the pitching staff after impressive spring seasons.
In the field, NEFL will feature Pilgrim junior Evan O’Connor in the outfield, while Toll Gate’s Marcus Alexander (catcher), Defusco (outfield), Martinez (infield), Pratt (outfield), Josh Coleman (outfield), Dylan Palmiotti (infield), Nick Kazandjian (infield), A.J. Ucci (infield) and Jacob Paul (catcher) will all contribute at the dish.
NEFL will round out its roster with three players from North Kingstown and two players from Classical.
“The good news is we’re a community all-star team. The bad news is everyone else is too,” Dawber said with a laugh. “It’s all-star teams playing all-star teams, so we’ll see how it pans out.”
The team will certainly be in good hands with a large coaching staff that obtains plenty of experience.
Dawber will be assisted in the dugout by Dan Atwood, Sean Rainey, Mike Mallozzi, Alex Lefebvre, Max Garcia and T.J. Boyajian.
NEFL will use off-the-field specialty coaches, as well. Joe Impagliazzo, a former Hendricken All-Stater and professional pitcher, will be working with the NEFL pitching staff, while former Pilgrim All-Stater Leo Bush will assist the middle infielders and Dave Stenhouse, Jr., will instruct the catchers.
“We don’t just want to empty the equipment and send the kids out there,” Dawber said of having the specialty coaches. “We want to actually get the kids some instruction.”
NEFL will play a schedule of roughly 30 games, with three tournaments included, to give players a sense of what a college schedule is like.
“The goal is to have the kids put their toe in the water to what collegiate baseball might be like and feel like,” Dawber said of having a heavy schedule over a two-month span. “By being on college fields, they’ll also get to see what (being a college player) looks like.”
NEFL will also have a team in the Junior Legion league, as well, this summer, and Dawber plans on constructing a U-17 fall team in a few months to solidify a year-round program.
The senior league team will be tested with six games in seven days starting today. NEFL will host Riverside Post 10 in its league opener this evening at URI at 5:30 p.m., prior to visiting McCarthy Field to take on West Warwick Post 2 on Friday at 6 p.m. NEFL will then travel to Nashua, New Hampshire, for a non-league game on Saturday. It will have Sunday off, before playing league games on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.