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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
The spring of 2018 for forever be remembered in the town of Needham after the Cinderella Rockets won their way to the Division I state championship in baseball as a No. 8 seed.
In 2019, the obvious goal of defending their spot atop Division I looms large. Despite some new faces, Needham still returns a core of players who played major roles in last year’s title run, including a trio of senior co-captains: pitcher Tom Chmielewski, outfielder Kevin MacKenzie, and third baseman/pitcher Will Foley.
“We know we have a target on our backs,” said Chmielewski when asked about his team’s preparation for the upcoming season. “Teams are going to give us their best, but I don’t think it will affect us once the season gets going.”
When it comes to replacing the core of seniors that led Needham last season, such as Charlie Sumner, Charlie Roberts, and Alex Luscher, Needham will certainly have their work cut out for them. However, Chmielewski says he and his teammates are looking forward to watching new players step up and for stars to arise.
“We’ll definitely miss Luscher at shortstop,” said Chmielewski. “But, we have a good returning group of guys who can step up.”
As for expectations, Chmielewski emphasizes that he and his teammates need to take things one game at a time, all while doing everything in their power to position themselves well enough for another tournament run later this spring.
“We want to win the league and get a good seed in the tournament to set ourselves up to go on another run.”
Needham will begin their title defense on the road against rival Walpole, the reigning Bay State Conference champs and a favorite to contend for a bid to the Super Eight, on April 8. Circle your calendars.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0.