Lewiston grad signs contract with N.Y. team

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Dustin Longchamps is one of the few, the proud, the professional athletes born and raised in isolated, climate-challenged Maine.

The right-handed pitcher from Greene, a graduate of Lewiston High School and an alumnus of the two-year, fall baseball program at Central Maine Community College, has signed a one-year deal with the Utica Brewmasters of the unique, upstart New York State League.

Longchamps has appeared twice in a relief role, already earning his first professional victory on July 8. The 21-year-old is scheduled to make his initial start Wednesday night against Oneida.

“I’m really happy to be playing somewhere,” said Longchamps, who enjoyed two stellar seasons at Division I University of Maryland-Eastern Shore.

Utica signed Longchamps after the four-team league held an annual, open tryout June 27.

The New York League is an independent, one-year-only loop for players who have exhausted their college eligibility. It features a 50-game, summer schedule and is intended as a one-stop recruiting base for Class A independents and Major League affiliates.

Already in the young season, 10 players have signed with teams in the Northern, Frontier, Golden State and Gulf Coast leagues.

“It’s a chance to catch on with a (higher) rookie league,” said CMCC baseball coach Jorin Bunyea. “I know Dustin had a lot of scouts looking at him down at Eastern Shore.”

And rightfully so. In two seasons, Longchamps won 11 games for a Maryland-Eastern Shore program that went 27-79-1 during that span.

Longchamps earned a spot on the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference all-tournament team with the final start of his collegiate career, an upset victory over second-seeded Florida A&M. He allowed only two unearned runs over eight innings.

With 101 strikeouts in 112 innings as a senior, Longchamps’ ratio ranked among the top 50 in the nation.

“I was up around the high 80s,” Longchamps said of his fastball. “And I was always a starter, pitching a lot of innings. When I got here, I wasn’t used to coming into a game late and protecting a lead.”

Longchamps heard about the open tryout from friend and fellow CMCC product Nate Olson of Poland, who has returned to the Auburn campus as an assistant coach after his own Division I career at Albany.

A third CM baseball player, Matt Ouellette, has earned a D-I scholarship at Central Connecticut State.

“Are we CM or MCI?” joked CMCC athletic director Dave Gonyea, referring to the Pittsfield prep school that has produced numerous NBA basketball players. “I just think it’s something that a local kid who spent two years here is playing professional baseball.”

While playing for the junior college, Longchamps spun the first no-hitter in CMCC history.

“I always saw him as a Division I prospect,” said Bunyea. “He hit 89 (mph) on the radar gun while he was here. He was lights-out for those two years, and he racked up the strikeouts in Maryland. All of us were really happy to see him get that opportunity.”

Utica is the “home team” in the NYSL. Other charter teams are the Rome Coppers, Oneida Bucs and Herkimer Trailbusters. All league games are played as doubleheaders at Utica’s Murnane Stadium. Each club plays six games a week, with Mondays as an off day.

Longchamps is one of three players with Maine connections in the league. Nick Vardaro and Joe McGhee of the University of Southern Maine have signed with Herkimer.

Dave Cash, who played for the Montreal Expos, is the Utica manager.

“It’s incredible what you can learn from a guy like him,” Longchamps said.

Longchamps also is learning about life in the minors, minus the endless bus rides. He receives housing, $500 per month, and a small stipend for meals.

“I want to try to keep going as long as I can,” Longchamps said.

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