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Cather Mike Streeto was a rock behind the plate for the East Haven Senior American Legion baseball team this summer. Streeto played nearly every inning for the 89ers during the 2019 campaign. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Gabe Longley played multiple positions on the field for the 89ers in their first season with Chuck Hinckley as the club’s head coach. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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The 2019 summer season didn’t go exactly as planned for the East Haven Senior American Legion baseball team. The 89ers finished the year with an overall record of 3-23 and came in fifth place in the Western Division of Zone 2.
First-year Head Coach Chuck Hinckley, who had previously been an assistant with the program, felt that East Haven’s season could have gone differently if the 89ers didn’t get out to such a slow start while facing a couple of Zone 2 stalwarts. East Haven took two defeats against Hamden and then dropped three games against Cheshire to begin the campaign.
“We started with a tough schedule if you look at how far Cheshire and Hamden went. They are two key teams in our zone,” said Hinckley. “I don’t know if that knocked the wind out of us, but even with them, we played a lot of close games. It took a while to get a couple of wins under our belt.”
After losing its first 14 games, East Haven picked up its first victories of the year when it swept a two-game set from New Haven on July 9 and 10. The 89ers posted a 5-3 home victory over New Haven and then notched a 2-1 win on the road the next day.
Following those victories, East Haven notched its t hird win of the year by blanking Orange 1-0 in road game later that week.
“That was definitely a good pick-me-up. It came at a good time,” Hinckley said. “If we had dropped those games, and they were tight, it would’ve knocked the wind out of the rest of our season. Those wins were a big spark. That’s for sure.”
Coach Hinckley needed to manage a roster that featured 13 people, including two athletes who were sidelined for most of the season. Sal Buffone missed a few games with leg injuries, while Tristan Punzo injured his wrist early on, leaving East Haven with just 11 active players for most of the year.
“Tristan getting hurt was a big loss for us. He’s a solid line-drive hitter and he would’ve been locked in at second base,” Hinckley said. “We had to move guys around because of that.”
East Haven’s infield featured Steve Mingione at first base, Giro Esposito at second base, Gianni Mumford at shortstop, and Matt Lisko at third. Hinckley said that Mumford was a dependable player for his club all season long.
“Gianni is a kid with all five tools for sure,” said Hinckley. “If you had a bunch of Gianni’s on your team, you’d be a pretty powerful team.”
Catcher Mike Streeto proved another solid contributor for the 89ers. Coach Hinckley said that Streeto was an ironman behind the dish.
“He was definitely a diehard back there for us. He caught almost every single game, even the doubleheaders,” Hinckley said. “Catcher is almost as important as pitcher. Mike kept stolen bases to a minimum for us. He was lights out.”
Anthony Buffone, Mark Smith, and Jake Marquardt patrolled the outfield for the 89ers this summer. Gabe Longley and Frank Camera got some innings out there, as well.
Crisci, Lisko, Longley, and Marquardt were East Haven’s primary starting pitchers. Mumford, Esposito, Mingione, and Anthony Buffone also saw their fair share of time on the mound.
“We had a good core of starters. Pitching kept us in most of our games,” Hinckley said. “Our guys pitched really well for us.”
While his first season as head coach presented some challenges, Coach Hinckley still felt that it was a positive experience. Hinckley enjoyed helping East Haven’s players progress as they get ready to take the next steps in their high school and collegiate careers.
“It was a lot tougher than you might think taking the lead role. Being a helping hand for years prior, it made a big difference,” Hinckley said. “I’ve probably said it 100 times, but I like being there for the competition. It’s nice to be coaching at this level.”
From the Sidelines
East Haven’s roster featured Anthony Buffone, Salvatore Buffone, Frank Camera, Jon Crisci, Giro Esposito, Matt Lisko, Gabe Longley, Jake Marquardt, Steve Mingione, Gianni Mumford, Tristan Punzo, Mark Smith, and Mike Streeto.
Chuck Hinckley completed his first season as the 89ers’ head coach. Hinckley was assisted by coaches Al Camera, Mike Smith, and Ralph Streeto.
East Haven earned two victories over New Haven (5-3 and 2-1) to go with a 1-0 win against Orange this year.
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