Spring sports return in Connecticut this weekend and the baseball teams in the Bristol and New Britain areas are entering the year with high expectations.
St. Paul and Berlin are fresh off of runs to the state championship games and Southington finished the regular season with the best record in Class LL. Five local teams won at least one state tournament game last year and eight teams qualified for the postseason.
With covid primarily in the rear-view, teams will be able to be much more focused on the field.
Here is a look at this year’s local baseball teams:
Head coach: Jon Plefka (1st season)
2021 season: 13-8, lost in first round of Class LL state tournament
Key losses: Chris Gibbs (P), Nate Kumm (P), Nigel Crundwell (C)
Key returnees: Elian Collado (senior SS/P), Emani Gonzalez (senior C), Will Estronza (junior Util/P), Jomar Rodriquez (junior 3B/P), Tyler Czeremcha (junior OF/P), Alex Heidel (sophomore 1B/P)
Outlook: Taking over for his first season, Plefka will look to continue the Hurricanes” history as a solid baseball program with a deep group of talented returners.
Head coach: Steve Gaudet (2nd season)
2021 season: 7-14, lost in first round of Class L state tournament
Key losses: Dylan Woodsome (P/OF), Andrew Lozier (P/INF), Brayden Moore (P), Ryan Fradette (OF), Trevor Nohilly (OF), Tyler Stickles (INF)
Key returners: Cameron Moore (senior C), Jaydon Churchill (senior P/INF)
Outlook: The Lancers were better than their record showed last year and will look to prove it in Gaudet’s second year in the dugout.
Head coach: Bunty Ray (15th season)
2021 season: 10-7, lost in second round of the Class L state tournament
Key losses: Michael Lorenzetti (P), Sean Wininger (P/OF), Matt Beaucar (P/OF), Roberto Cruz (P/DH)
Key returners: JT Clark (senior INF), Frank Spirito (junior P/INF), Ryan Ring (junior C)
Outlook: Covid did a number on the Rams late in the regular season last year, but that did not stop them from reaching the second round of the Class L State Tournament. They lost a lot of pitching from last year, but will look to a variety of players to build off of quality seasons from a year ago.
Head coach: Charlie Lembo (11th season)
2021 season: 21-4, lost in Class LL state final
Key losses: Devan Bade (INF/P), Drew Belcourt (OF), Jackson Cordozo (OF), Dante D'Amore (P/INF), Jake DellaVecchia (C), Mike Furgalack (P), Bob Lasbury (P/INF), Nick Marecki (INF), Jack McManus (OF), Devin Pelletier (INF), Josh Pyle (P)
Key returners: Brady Aylward (senior, C), Vin Borghese (senior, P), Justin Chiulli (senior, INF), Manny Izzo (senior, P/OF), Chris Magzag (senior, INF), Joe Meade (senior, OF), Jackson Rusiecki (senior, OF), Connor Whitehead (senior, P/INF)
Outlook: The 2021 season ended sooner than the Blue Knights expected, as they entered the Class LL State Tournament as the top overall seed before losing to Ridgefield in the second round. Always one of the top programs in the state, Southington should be able to reload nicely to battle in a competitive Central Connecticut Conference.
Head coach: Leo Veleas (35th season)
2021 season: 21-4, lost in Class L state final
Key losses: Justin Piskorski (INF), Nick Melville (OF/P), James Ellis (P), Connor Gileau (P/INF), Tyler Rice (P/INF), Matt Kozak (P), Patrick Lukens (C)
Key returnees: Kasey Ouellette (senior, INF), Sal Dastoli (senior, C), Harrison Lombardi (senior, OF), David Manafort (senior, P), Jamie Palmese (senior, OF)
Outlook: Back-to-back Class L runners up in 2019 and 2021, Berlin brings back plenty of talent from last year’s group and will once again be a force capable of a deep postseason run.
Head coach: Ben Alaimo (12th season)
2021 season: 16-6, lost in Class LL quarterfinals
Key losses: Zach Nakonechny (P/1B)
Key returners: Shaun Callahan (senior, P/OF), Connor Daly (senior, OF), Chase Prestia (senior, P/3B), Austyn Howe (senior, P/OF), Nick Dicioccio (senior, C), Alex Cappellucci (junior, SS), JT Gallinoto (junior, 2B), Gavin Gray (junior P), Josiah Ross (junior OF)
Newcomers to watch: Nick Kelley (junior P/1B), Keenan Hobart (junior OF), Anthony Suarez (junior INF), Chase Leonard (junior C), Sam Drozd (junior P)
Outlook: Eight starters return for a Nor’easters squad that reached the state quarterfinals last year before a barn-burning 12-10 loss to Brien McMahon.
“Our experience and leadership will help us this season,” Alaimo said. “How we handle expectations will be an important factor.”
ST. PAUL CATHOLIC
Head coach: Vic Rinaldi (7th season)
2019 season: 22-2, lost in the Class S championship game
Key losses: Owen Davis (P/C), Shaun Remillard (Util)
Key returners: Ryan Daniels (senior, SS), Mario Izzo (senior 3B), Brendan Foley (senior P/OF), Casey Cerruto (senior C), Jamie Leggett (junior P/OF), Devin Kulas (junior INF)
Outlook: With most of the team coming back after coming one win away from a state championship, the Falcons’ expectations are not any lower this year with a pair of all-state seniors on the roster.
Head coach: Louis Mandeville (10th season)
2019 season: 8-12, lost in the first round of the Class M state tournament
Key losses: Alec Couture (P/SS), A.J. Lestini (3B), Matt Lagassey (C), Tucker Rau (P/RF), Tanner Rau (2B), Jayden Cumbo (P/1B), Kaleb Malone (P/RF), Alex Rosado (1B), Tanner Callahan (LF),
Key returners: Brennan Staubley (senior P/Util), Owen Leander (senior 2B), Owen Davidson (senior C), Brody Davidson (senior 1B), Sean Egan (sophomore P), Jacob Lagassey (senior P)
Outlook: A breadth of returning players has the Blue Devils in position to bring its record back above .500.
“With a competitive schedule, depth will be a big part of [our] 2022 season. Solid work ethic and perseverance will be key to creating a memorable experience,” Mandeville said.
Head coach: Brian Rosano (5th season)
2019 season: 5-12
Key losses: Sean O’Donnell (P/OF), Adam Audibert (P/INF), Dylan Hogan (INF), Jacques Caron (Util)
Key returners: Jake Rinkavage (senior, P/OF), Vinny Okenfels (senior, INF,) Joe Garbus (senior, INF)
Outlook: The Kangaroos will look to take a step forward after a rebuilding year in 2021. A program that reached the Class S quarterfinals in 2019, they will fight to stay above .500 this season.
Head coach: Joe Granja (24th season)
2019 season: 6-12
Key losses: Matt Snow
Key returners: Mike Lukaszewski (senior, C), Dibrayan Cortez (senior CF), Nick Jusino (junior P/IF), Andrew Koscho (sophomore SS), Sean Kobialka (sophomore P/1B)
Outlook: Losing just one player from last year’s team gives the Gladiators a good shot to play meaningful games in the CTC.
Head coach: Ben Krier
2019 season: 7-6, lost in first round of Class S state tournament
Key losses: None.
Key returners: Yonathan Ramos (senior, C)
Outlook: The Ravens will look to build on a winning season from 2021 that had them qualifying for the Class S state tournament game, despite losing several games to covid.