EAST LONGMEADOW, Mass. -- Steve Moyers admitted he wasn’t getting a feel for his fastball. It's a wonder if the ace pitcher of East Longmeadow Spartans felt any of his extremities at all yesterday on a cold and blustery afternoon.
What the crafty lefthander did have working for him was a hard-breaking curve and a baffling change up. Both proved more than effective as Moyers went the distance, handcuffing Minnechaug 1-0 in a battle between two of the top programs in the state.
“My fastball wasn’t really working today,” said Moyers, who will pitch for the University of Rhode Island next season. “I had to rely a lot on my other stuff. I was throwing a lot of first-pitch curves to keep their hitters guessing. It ended up working out as I hoped it would.”
Moyers (now 4-0 on the hill) silenced the Falcons, holding them to just a pair of singles while striking out 14 on 114 pitches. Not to shabby for a player who wasn’t totally on his game.
“Steve pitched superbly today,” said first-year Spartan coach Scott Whelihan, whose team improved to 11-0. “He kept (Minnechaug) off-balance and he does what Steve does. He was holding back a little because of the cold weather and trying to protect his arm. Normally he throws a lot harder than that but he was still hitting his spots today so it worked out.”
Besides doing it on the mound, Moyers also came up large at the plate when his team needed him to most. As anticipated, this contest was a tight-fisted duel between two of the state's elite pitchers. Thus far this season, the Spartans had yet to be involved in a close game. Needless to say, against Falcons pitcher Bryan Goossens, their mettle would be truly tested.
“Our closest game before today was a 4-1 win,” Whelihan said. “In a lot of our other games we've been putting up some crooked numbers. This was the kind of game I wanted today and I know it’s the kind of game Steve likes too. He enjoys competing against somebody. He enjoys games like this more than ones that are 10-0. That's the kind of competitive edge he has.”
While Moyers and Goossens were racking up zeros on the scoreboard early on, that would change in East Longmeadow's half of the fourth. Moyers led off the frame by working a 2-1 count. Goossens then delivered a high fast ball which Moyers slammed through the swirling winds high over the left field fence for the eventual game-winner.
“Bryan is really good and he was hitting all of his spots all game,” Moyers said. “In these conditions that was pretty awesome by him. On that home run, he threw it where I wanted it. I really wasn’t thinking home run to be honest. I was up there thinking base hit but it ended up working out for us.”
For Goossens (3-1), who will play for Siena College next year, that was the only mistake he would commit during his stellar complete-game effort. The righty scattered three hits and struck out seven.
“We know East Longmeadow is a class program and have talent all-around the field,” Minnechaug coach Erik Mandell said. “It was a mistake pitch Bryan left up and Moyers really turned on it. It’s not the first time (Moyers) has done that and it probably won’t be the last time either. Bryan was very good. When he pitches the way he pitched today you expect to win the game. It was a good pitcher’s duel and it was a playoff-like atmosphere today.
"Overall, I thought our bats were pretty good. We weren't chasing pitches out of the zone and the gameplan was for us to try and make Moyers throw a lot of pitches. We just weren't able to square up on any balls, and the balls we did put in play were taken care of by their defense. If you only give up one run to a team of that caliber it's a pretty-good performance but you still expect to win.”
Minnechaug, which reached the Division 1 state final last year before falling to Lincoln-Sudbury, drops to 9-2. Incidentally, yesterday’s contest was a rematch of last year’s Western Mass. final won by the Falcons, 9-2.
As far as East Longmeadow is concerned, this year has been regarded as a boom or bust campaign. Including this season, the Spartans have been the favorite to win Western Mass. and beyond the past three years. There is certainly enough talent here for them to do so.
In 2010, East Longmeadow Post 293 won the state American Legion crown. Many of those players from that squad play on this current Spartan team. Before losing to the Falcons in last year's final, East Longmeadow dropped a 1-0 decision to eventual state champion Amherst-Pelham Regional in 2010.
“So far we’ve been doing really good,” said Moyers. “We’re practicing hard and doing everything we can possibly do and continue to stay on track. (Winning a state title) is our main goal so hopefully we can get it this time. There’s a little bit of pressure on us but we know what we have to do. We just take it one game at a time and what happened in the past is in the past.”