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Center Moriches baseball’s hope of a three-peat put on hold

Center Moriches baseball was crowned Class B state champions for back-to-back seasons in 2019. (Courtesy: @RDEVILATHLETICS/Twitter)

CENTER MORICHES, N.Y. (BVM) — Center Moriches baseball has been to the top of the hill in the NYSPHSAA Class B state tournament for the last two seasons. With recent record-setting accomplishments, their chance at a three-peat will be put on hold.

The Red Devils won back-to-back state championships in 2018 and 2019. As if winning the title in Class B wasn’t enough, Center Moriches was able to cap off their 2019 season with a perfect 26-0 record.

In the state final, they went up against Schuylerville at Binghamton University. The Red Devils were led by strong performances from starting pitcher Matt Alifano and fellow senior catcher Alec Maag who helped guide them to victory over the Horses, 11-1. Every starter for Center Moriches was able to reach base and coach Dennis Donovan was able to get everyone on his bench into the title game.

After Donovan stepped down in the offseason for personal reasons, first-year assistant coach Paul Gibson was promoted to head coach. The 2019 season turned out to be a special one for Gibson.

“It was one of those seasons that we had planned for some time,” Gibson said. “The group of kids that came through, the group of seniors last year, there was a group of six or seven of them that had been involved with varsity since they were in ninth or tenth grade. We actually had probably six or seven college commits on the field last year. For us, in a smaller district, just a great combination of guys.

“We had the leadership because guys had been around for three to four years. We had a very deep pitching staff and then just all over the field we had guys going on to play college baseball, which was really a tremendous experience.”

The success from the two title years can be attributed to the senior group that led the Red Devils to their championship seasons.

“They were just a very close-knit group of guys that put a lot of work into baseball and that was definitely a huge factor into the run we made,” Gibson said.

With a chance at repeating as state champions three years in a row, the Red Devils will have to embrace the target on their back when the next baseball season resumes. They could become the first team in Class B to ever accomplish that feat. Center Moriches has an active winning streak of 41 games that will pick up when they can get back on the diamond.

The team lost important seniors to graduation after their state title run and will need their next group to pick up where they left off. Before the 2020 season was canceled, due to COVID-19, Gibson spoke about some of the players he believed would play important roles in the future.

“Junior Jordan Falco and sophomore Leyton Pulsipher are probably going to be Division I-level baseball players,” Gibson said, “so we’ll look to them to kind of take the leadership reins.

We have three or four guys coming up from our JV program who we’re really excited about and had great seasons at that level that we think will translate at the next level and kind of help push our team to make another run.”

The group is focused on the task at hand and Gibson doesn’t plan to change much up.

“Dennis (Donovan) and I grew up together,” Gibson said. “We played baseball together from 9 years old to when we went off to college, so we were coached by the same coaches growing up, so a lot of what we’re going to do and a lot of our game plan and approach will be very similar to what we had done in the past.

Obviously, we have a lot of younger guys so we need to kind of adjust our practices a little bit to get them up to speed and get them on the same page and understanding the expectations and the way our program operates. But largely, a lot of what we do will be very similar to what we had done in past years.”

The Red Devils will look to add their name to another record in the history book as three-peat state champions in Class B when they get the chance to return to the field next year.

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