Senior class carried Berlin baseball to Class L title game, will be tough to replace

Published on Sunday, 9 June 2019 21:51
Written by RYAN CHICHESTER

@ryanchichester1

MIDDLETOWN - Berlin baseball head coach Leo Veleas wasn’t shy when discussing the value of his graduating senior class.

“They carried us the whole year,” Veleas said after the Redcoats’ 1-0 loss to Waterford in Friday night’s Class L state championship. “They did a great job.”

It’s no secret the senior class will leave a gaping hole in Berlin’s roster once they toss their graduation caps next week. The evidence of what Veleas, who started who started eight seniors in the championship defeat, will be missing was littered all over the team’s state tournament run.

In Friday’s final, senior starter Adam Bilinsky tossed six brilliant shutout innings before a bloop single and a grounder up the middle led to the only run of the game in the top of the seventh. Three days prior, senior Holden Murphy laced a two-out, three-run double to blow open a tight game in the state semifinals. In the first round, home runs by seniors Ryan Hyde and Jeff Kuzoian helped erase an early 4-0 deficit to kick-start Berlin’s run to the title game. No matter the victory for the Redcoats this season, the seniors’ fingerprints were all over it.

The seniors are obviously leaving behind a lot of production, leading Veleas to be honest when asked how exactly they can be replaced next season.

“You can’t,” Veleas said. “You just hope the younger kids come in and fill some holes. That’s all you can hope for.”

Veleas has been Berlin’s head coach for more than three decades, and has seen plenty of quality senior groups come and go. Standing on Palmer Field after coaching his current senior core for the last time, Veleas acknowledged the randomness of replacing established veterans. Only play on the field next spring will give an honest evaluation after losing a core group of players.

“Every year is different,” Veleas said. “Everyone says ‘oh, you’re gonna have a good team,’ and I say ‘how do you know?’ You graduate seven, eight or nine starters. It’s tough to replace those guys. Somebody will have to pick up the slack. Hopefully someone does. Who knows?”

One area where the Redcoats should have some stability is the pitching staff. Nick Accarpio, Cam Murphy and Mark Addamo will all be back in a Berlin uniform next season, and all three saw extended time on the mound for Veleas this season, which should help ease the departure of his ace in Bilinsky.

“I like our pitchers right now,” Bilinsky said. “We have two junior pitchers who are really good. They pitched in our last two games [of the tournament] and did a great job. I think we’ll still be good.”

As for the seniors themselves, they leave behind a legacy of consistency, one that came just one game short of history. Still, a trip to the state championship for the first time in a decade is made their time playing at Berlin memorable.

“It’s everything,” Hyde said. “It’s memories that will last a lifetime. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Obviously, we all wish the outcome was a little different, but it was a special run with a special group of guys.”

The run is now over, and Veleas will have to tap into some younger talent if the Redcoats are to have a similar run of success next season. Given the quality of talent that is departing, it won’t be an easy task.

Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or rchichester@newbritainherald.com



Posted in New Britain Herald, Berlin on Sunday, 9 June 2019 21:51. Updated: Sunday, 9 June 2019 21:54.