Boston High School: Billy Smith

Recap: No. 14 Westfield 4, No. 4 E. 'Meadow 1

May, 6, 2012
WESTFIELD, Mass. -- Historically speaking, geography makes the best rivalries. The proverbial border wars that come year in and year out are must-see matchups regardless of records.

A rivalry brought on by nearly unmatched success between two teams over a certain timespan, however, shouldn’t be discounted. And in the case of Westfield and East Longmeadow, two of the premier baseball programs in Western Massachusetts year in and year out, that rivalry has never been better.

Sunday’s latest installment was a testament to that.

Westfield, the No. 14 team in the latest ESPN Boston MIAA Baseball poll, used a three-run first-inning and an efficient and otherwise dominant complete-game effort from senior Lee Albertson to knock off No. 4 East Longmeadow. It was the first loss of the season for the Spartans (12-1) while the Bombers improved to 11-1.

With four-year starter and URI commit Steve Moyers on the mound, Westfield didn’t waste any time or allow him to settle in. A leadoff single from Conner Laraway followed by a sacrifice attempt turned two-base throwing error led to early scoring opportunities for the Bombers. Billy Smith, Adam Mayhew and Dan Jacques all drove in runs in succession, giving Westfield a 3-0, first-inning lead against the usually unflappable Moyers.

“[Moyers] is a great pitcher and we’ve seen him before,” said Mayhew, who finished 2-for-3 with a double and two RBI. “We wanted to get to him early and get deep in the count. This is definitely a statement win for us.”

The Spartans grabbed a run in their half of the second inning but that was as much offense as they’d see the rest of the night thanks to Albertson.

The senior righthander threw a complete-game and improved to 4-0 on the season. He allowed just two hits and struck out five, gaining momentum as his efficient outing progressed. He closed out his 79-pitch masterpiece with back-to-back 1-2-3 innings, including a punch out for the final out.

“Lee is throwing harder now than he was in the beginning of the season and that’s helped him,” said Westfield head coach Rich Discenza. “He throws the cutter and that’s what helped him today. He’s around the plate and is able to get out of tough spots and get back on track.”

This was the fifth time these two teams have met since the 2009 season. East Longmeadow came out on top last season, defeating Albertson, 4-2. In 2010, the Spartans beat Westfield twice, 3-2 in the regular season and again by the same score in the sectional semifinal. The Bombers avenged a regular season loss in 2009 by knocking off the Spartans in the Western Mass. championship game.

If recent history is any indication, these two teams haven’t seen the last of each other this season. With Westfield’s win over East Longmeadow, there are now only three one-loss teams in the region (Springfield Cathedral is the other). Westfield was the only team to knock off Cathedral and the two rivals play again May 18. East Longmeadow and Cathedral square off Wednesday.

“Now it’s back to work for us,” said East Longmeadow shortstop and UConn signee Matt O’Neil. “They beat us today, they were a better team. If anything this loss will help us out a bit. If we see them in playoff time, we’ll have this thought in the back of our minds.”

Moyers lost his first of the year, falling to 4-1. He scattered nine hits and struck out five.

Conner Laraway had two hits and scored twice and Tim Donahoe had a pair of hits, including a double, for Westfield. Moyers and Brian Casey had East Longmeadow’s two hits.

Noho 'D' bends, breaks No. 15 Westfield

January, 25, 2011

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. -- For the fans of the defensive minded -- fans of floor burns, chest bumps and a good old-fashioned elbowing -- Rey Harp is a gem.

At Northampton High, Harp's modus operandi is a distressing man-to-man defense that, on this particular night, was predicated on traps and double teams designed to slow down Westfield's dangerous backcourt, the biggest key to its surprising start so far. Blue Devils players say the battle is usually won at practice, where players run hard -- and often.

"We focus a lot on conditioning. Every free throw we miss, we're running," says senior Grant Cooper, Noho's 6-foot-4 bruiser in the paint. "Stuff like that. We focus on it, just so we can get up and down the court with a whole bunch of these teams."

The final score -- a 71-68 win, handing Westfield its first loss of the season, and improving the Devils to 11-1 -- suggests a different game on paper. The Devils admitted it wasn't their best defensive game, and the Bombers' senior backcourt of Alex Gartska and Jordan Santiago combined for 41 points. But when the No. 15 Bombers (11-1) tried to rally and put together runs, the Devil backcourt led by the likes of T.J. Devane (17 points) and Jarrod Neumann (13) forced a series of off-balance and contested shots in the final minutes.

And with 25 seconds remaining, the Devils turned in arguably their best defensive rotation at the most important time. Clinging to a 69-63 lead, Devane chased Gartska (21 points, 6 for 15 field goals) from the right sideline all the way around the three-point arc, until finally the hot-handed guard settled for an ugly three-point attempt at the top of the key. Gartska leaned into Devane to try and draw contact, only to watch his shot air-ball into the hands of teammate Billy Smith, who tried to keep the ball inbounds but threw it right to Cooper (14 points, 10 rebounds).

Cooper threw an outlet pass to Neumann, who was immediately fouled and sank both free throws for a 71-63 lead with 13.8 seconds left.

"We wanted to make him (Gartska) take tough shots," Cooper said. "He got a couple open looks, which we were pretty OK with that, as long as for the most part he's taking contested jump shots. We thought we did pretty good on that."

Harp, meanwhile, was cautionary when asked to assess his trap defense.

"We put alot of pressure on the perimeter, and thankfully in a game like this, the backcourt -- the smart players in the backcourt -- did a nice job of handling that," Harp said. "I thought the pressure we put on them, they countered well -- two players who can certainly take what we don't seal off for them.

"So there were times I was a little bit worried. I thought about packing it in, and playing a little bit off from there. We played it in the rhythm that we could find, we do put pressure on the perimeter, and it was more helpful than it was hurtful tonight. But there were times when I thought it hurt us."

Specifically, Harp might have been speaking to a period over the end of the third quarter and beginning of fourth, where the Bombers created a series of turnovers out of a half-court 2-2-1 press and cut the lead to as little as five. Meanwhile, the Devils cooled off from long range after starting the night 8 of 10 from three-pointers -- including some great open looks knocked down by Jared Murphy (14 points) -- a sharp mark that gave them a 39-31 lead headed into the break. They went just 1 for 8 over the final 16 minutes, and relied on penetration from Devane and Neumann to set up their points from the foul line.

Still, with a hot start like that, Harp will take it.

"Our goal is to make the shots when we take them," Harp said. "We knew we'd get some opportunities from the three-point line, but that's part of what opens up our strong slashers getting to the basket, is to extend them out to the three-point line. I knew we were shooting it well -- 8 of 10 is a good start -- it's nice, but maybe next time we'll go 9 of 10. "