BRISTOL - It was hardly the spring the St. Paul baseball team could have imagined.
Coming off a trip to the semifinals of the Class S state tournament, the Falcons believed they were poised for another big season. Unfortunately for St. Paul, like every team in the state, it never got the chance after the CIAC canceled spring championships on April 23 and then the season 12 days later due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It was devastating,” head coach Vic Rinaldi said of the season being canceled. “Knowing the talent we had coming back, especially our senior class, it was a championship or bust mentality. Knowing that it was the seniors’ last go-round it was tough. We understand the pandemic is bigger than a high school baseball team or a season, but at the season time, it’s still tough.”
But for two members of the team’s graduating class, there will be a chance to play some more baseball in the fall and the spring.
Josh Cofrancesco and Ryan Parent, varsity teammates since their sophomore seasons at St. Paul, committed to continue their academic and athletic careers playing at Division-III Eastern Connecticut State University. The Falcons now have five players from this year’s class who will play at the collegiate level with Cofrancesco and Parent joining Julian Thayer (Rhode Island), Ethan Rembish (Fairleigh Dickinson) and Walker Sharp (Salve Regina).
“It means a lot to be me,” Parent said of being able to play in college. “I just have to continue to put in the work academically and athletically so I don’t fall off of one path.”
“I’m gonna miss the relationships I made with my coaches and teammates,” Cofranceso said. “We had a great camaraderie as a team. It was a great group of guys. It was a little daunting when I first got here. I didn’t know if I was good enough to play at St. Paul and then I sit my stride sophomore year and it went from there. I have to give a big thank you to my teammates and coaches.”
The fit between Cofrancesco (3B/OF) and Parent (1B) and the Warriors looks like it will be beneficial for both the players and the program.
Eastern Connecticut State hasn’t had a losing season since 1968 when it was still an NAIA member and went 23-18 in its last full season in 2018 before losing in the Big Little East conference tournament. This season, the Warriors were 4-1 — their only loss coming to Trinity — before the remainder of their games was canceled due to the pandemic. In those five contests, the Warriors were averaging 7.6 runs per game with a .333/.417/.492 slash line and two home runs.
Cofrancesco and Parent both have the ability to hit throughout the order, particularly in the middle. Cofrancesco spent time last season at the top of the lineup, as well as in the No. 5 spot to provide the Falcons with some more run support. Parent, meanwhile, earned All-Iron in the NVL as a junior and slashed .429/.556/.529 with 20 RBI, 19 runs and a team-high 30 hits from the four hole.
“They’re going to get someone who is hard working and willing to put the time in for a spot,” Parent said. “I think my hitting is one of my strong suits and being able to go the opposite way if I need to. I would say my fielding is OK, but it’s definitely something that I can get better at.”
Yet, it wasn’t just the baseball program that attracted Cofrancesco and Parent to Eastern Connecticut State. The school and the academics were also a factor. Both liked the school size and the familiarity they had in knowing former classmates and teammates who were already there.
“My dad went there. My cousin went there,” Cofranncesco said. “I just like the small-school environment. It just always seemed liked the best fit for me. That’s why St. Paul worked out well for me. You had the small classrooms, to work with teachers and [Eastern] is like that. It was the best choice from the beginning.”
But for those who have been able to see Cofrancesco and Parent grow during their time at St. Paul, they know the best of the soon-to-be collegiate players is still yet to come.
“Both of them are going to work hard and get better every day,” Rinaldi said. “I know both have been working on their own this spring and going to try to play this summer. I still think they have some developing left that we were going to see this year and I think they’re going to continue to work on their craft. They’re not going to take anything for granted. They’re going to face the competition that’s there and try to play. But both of them are going to contribute at that level. There’s no question about that.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org