Western Mass. baseball: Monument Mountain earns No. 1 seed again
The Monument Mountain baseball team has earned the Western Massachusetts top seed for the fifth consecutive year.
However, the Spartans have yet to parlay that top seed into a Western Mass. title.
"We're all pretty aware of it, especially the seniors," said Monument co-captain Bobby Kinne. "We're a different team this year. We're really confident."
The Spartans lead the entire Berkshire County league into this year's tournament. All 10 of the league teams earned postseason berths.
Pittsfield and Taconic won berths in Division I, while Monument Mountain, Drury, Mount Greylock, Wahconah and Hoosac Valley are in the Division III field. The Division IV teams in the tournament are Lenox, Lee and St. Joseph, along with Tri-County team McCann Tech.
By Thursday night, one team will definitely be gone because seventh-seeded Pittsfield will host No. 10 Taconic in a Division I first-round game. The game is scheduled for 5 p.m. at Clapp Park, but Taconic coach Kevin Stannard said plans are in the works to move it to Wahconah Park at a time to be determined.
"We'd like to meet Pittsfield in the semifinals or finals," Stannard said, "not a first-round playoff game."
Athol athletic director Dave King is the Western Mass. baseball tournament director and said the strength of schedule put forward by the Generals and Braves hurt them.
"It's definitely a challenge for them," King said. "For the Division III teams, they need schedules as well and the Division I teams need schedules. In the same breath, those Division [IV] games for Pittsfield and Taconic definitely hurt them.
"It hurts them even more when those teams get into the tournament."
King was also asked about the ability to move a Pittsfield or Taconic up or down a spot in the seeds, and he said the MIAA no longer allows tournament directors that kind of latitude.
Having said that, the winner of Thursday's game will face second-seeded Westfield in the quarterfinals.
"I thought we'd be seeded a little higher than that," Pitts field coach Bob Moy nihan. "It is what it is. You do what you have to do."
The largest group from the league is in Division III, where five of the 13 teams in the tournament are from Berkshire County.
In addition to top-seeded Monument, Drury earned the No. 2 seed, Mount Greylock is seventh, Wahconah is eighth and Hoosac Valley is 11th. It's Drury's highest tournament seed since being a No. 2 seed in 2011.
The Spartans got to a pair of finals in their run to top seeds, losing to South Hadley in 2010 and 2012. Last year, Monument lost a quarterfinal game to then-ninth-seeded Southwick.
But after taking the North title, Kinne said he and his mates are ready for the challenge ahead.
"If they gave us the 13 or the 1, we're going to put a good product out there," the senior shortstop said. "It's just a number. It's not our team."
The Spartans won't play until the quarterfinals when they'll host the winner of Thursday's game between No. 8 Wahconah and No. 9 Frontier. It's the first trip to the tournament for the Warriors since 2011, when they lost to Palmer in the championship game.
The other home game Thursday involves the No. 7 Mounties, who will play 10th-seeded Mahar at 4 p.m. The winner will face the No. 2 Blue Devils in the quarterfinal.
Hoosac Valley, at 9-9, is the 11th seed in Division III and will play at No. 6 Greenfield on Thursday. The winner takes on third-seeded Southwick.
The new kids on the block are in Division IV, the old Division III. All 16 teams in the tourney field have to play first-round games. Lenox, the No. 9 seed, is at No. 8 Ware in the opener. No. 10 Lee is at No. 7 Westfield Voke, while No. 15 McCann is at second-seeded Gateway and the 16th-seeded Crusaders are at top-seed Smith Academy.
"I don't know if that's ever happened," Moynihan said of all 10 league teams qualifying for the tournament. "We've had years with nine of 10. I think it speaks to the balance of the league."
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