Norwood Bats in Action This Summer
Aug 27, 2020 12:54PM
By By Christopher Tremblay
When the American Legion, on a national level, decided to cancel the 2020 season due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it looked as though baseball players, who had already lost the high school season to the wide spread disease, were going to lose yet another season of the sport they so enjoyed playing. Luckily, the Massachusetts Independent Baseball League (MIBL) was formed to give those athletes who lost the spring season a chance to play baseball this summer.
One of the 16 teams taking part in the MIBL was Norwood, who would play under the guidance of Coach Paul Samagedlis, the American Legion skipper. The Norwood Coach also enlisted the help of the Mustangs High School Coach Kevin Igoe to prepare the team for the upcoming 15 game season, followed by a double elimination tournament.
While it was not your typical season by any means, the focus on the field was to get baseball into Norwood at the senior level and field all 18 players with the hopes of peaking for the playoffs.
“Having coached American legion baseball for the past 16 years for a program with a rich tradition, this was not a traditional year for baseball,” Samargedlis said. “A lot of these kids didn’t get to play their senior high school season. With the absence of Legion ball, they were able to take to the field because of MIBL, which was put together in a short period of time while doing everything right; it was amazing.”
Throughout the season with over 6700 people involved, the MIBL had only one case of Covid and that came from a Quincy player who had been part of an out-of-state hockey tournament.
Having all 16 make the playoffs, it was definitely a season in which they have never encountered before. According to the Norwood skipper, it was tough at times for the players to get up for games, but Norwood (5-10) looked as though they were peaking at the right time.
“Against Ashland, who was 12-1 at the time, Samargedlis fielded his top players and almost beat the league’s first place team, eventually falling 4-3. The very next game, Norwood knocked off the second place Medfield team, 5-2, as the team prepared for the tournament.
Norwood may have only secured five wins on the season, but the coach believes the team could have easily won nine games had they not been shuffling the lineups to allow the seniors a chance to play baseball one final time.
“We felt that we were playing our best ball of the season and were ready for the playoffs, unfortunately our streak did not carry into the playoffs,” the Coach said. “Against Quincy, a team that we had beaten during the regular season, our bats went silent and theirs were hot and our season concluded as we got knocked out in our next game, a hard fought 6-3 loss to Needham.”
Although it was not the season that Norwood was hoping for, there were significant bright spots on the season, the first being the squad was one of the youngest teams in the league along with Walpole. Norwood had only four players on this year’s roster that will not be returning next summer, so needless to say, the future looks bright for Norwood Legion baseball.
Starting catcher Matt Molen had an incredible season throwing out a high percentage of runners that attempted to steal on him and very rarely allowed a passed ball. Molen, in addition to Rob Wladkosky, Jack Cropper, Sam Tomasello and Jaden Ryan, led the Norwood offense at the plate. Joe Diblasi and Jack Tolman also contributed key hits for the team throughout the year as well.
On the mound, Sean French and Tomasello were a one-two punch that could beat anyone. Ryan, Cropper, Joe Demarais and Danny Diblasi all also pitched well for the squad. Steve Grenham was the team’s best reliever and logged some especially important innings to secure wins.
“We had excellent pitching this season with an earned run average of 3.80, which is great in an aluminum bat league,” the Coach said. “Our pitching was top notch, but unfortunately our defense was not that good and we continuously gave our opponents extra outs and unearned runs.”
Samargedlis and the Norwood team are looking forward to American Legion baseball when it returns next summer, and if the MIAA shuts down the fall high school sports, we may get to see the athletes back on the field once again for MIBL 2, where the same 16 teams will battle it out once again in the same format from September to the first week of October.