Long Beach Poly won last year’s Moore League championship, their first title since 2012 and second since 1985. The Jackrabbits know that means they’re going to be looked at a little differently this year.
“We’ve got a big target on our backs, we know that,” said returning All-Moore League pitcher Tim Fife. “Everybody’s going to want to beat us, and I don’t blame them. We had a good year and we’re just trying to build on that.”
Poly coach Brent Lavoie said the team has been focused on a shift in expectations. Last year was about a talented senior class convincing a program that it belonged in the running for the league title; with Moore League Player of the Year Chris Murphy and Pitcher of the Year Jesse Simon both graduated, this year is about taking the next step.
“We’re not going to surprise anybody, but now the guys have a belief that they belong there and they want to compete for another title,” said Lavoie. “The hardest part was instilling that and laying that foundation in there. You get a little success with it and it’s like, ‘Wow, go for it.’ The guys like the fact that we’re a team to beat now.”
Fife will be on the bump as the team’s top pitcher, coming off a great Fall and Winter. He’ll be backed up by Isaac Richardson and sophomore Ryan Skjonsby.
The team’s other leader is Troy Criss, a returning All-Moore League player who will start at shortstop after two years at second base. Criss had six hits in the Jackrabbits’ first pair of games this year, and provides a big lift offensively and defensively.
Poly’s infield will consist of Criss, Skjonsby, Edgar Rosales, Richardson, and catcher Erik Gonzalez.
Poly has raw athletic talent in the outfield including star soccer player Kenny Barnabee, Justin Strickland, and Andrew Clavel.