Baseball season is upon us and the local teams are coming off of yet another season in which each qualified and competed in its respective postseason tournament.
Each team has lost some key players from a season ago, such is the nature of high school sports, but there is plenty of talent returning and there is no reason to think this season will break the string of all six teams qualifying for the playoffs.
While all of the teams made the postseason in 2016 only one was able to make it as far as the quarterfinals and that was Southington. A few teams (Berlin, New Britain and Newington) suffered early-round upsets at their home fields in the playoffs after excellent regular seasons. Plainville, Newington and Goodwin Tech were each able to win a game in the tournament a year ago but couldn’t push any further.
This season figures to be another year of big-time success for the local teams, it will all be a matter of how each performs when the one-and-done tournament begins. The talent is certainly there for several teams to make deep runs, but for now, the focus is on getting the season off to a quick start.
Here is a closer look at each of the local teams:
Head coach (year): Roberto Mercado (7th season)
Last year: 16-4
Key losses: Tyler Gibbs, Lewis Robinson, Jakari Pelligrini, Justin Lawson
Expected key returnees: William Homar (Junior/Pitcher), Alex Silva (Senior/Outfielder), Daniel Rivera (Sophomore), Tahj McCall (Senior/Outfielder).
Outlook: The New Britain boys baseball team is coming off of a stellar season in which it lost just four regular season games. Things didn’t go so well for the Hurricanes in the Class LL tournament though, as they lost in the first round to NFA despite being seeded fifth. New Britain lost a few key players from that 16-4 team last year but should still be in for another good season. The Hurricanes will be led by junior ace William Homar and senior Alex Silva, who plays both outfield and pitches. It should be another solid season for New Britain and a postseason run doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility.
Head coach (year): Leo Veleas (31st season)
Last year: 16-4
Key losses: Jared Zima, Andrew Charbonneau, Nick Naples, Jake Louselle, Ryan Cop, Cote Libby, Brendan Ebert, Alan Guild, Alex Dastoli, Jon Beckman.
Expected key returnees: Cody Lacasse (Senior/Infielder), Matt Vernacatola (Junior/Pitcher)
Outlook: The Berlin boys baseball team is coming off a season in which it earned the No. 2 seed in the Class L tournament after a 16-4 regular season. The Redcoats were upset by North Haven in extra innings in the first round last year and lose several key players from that successful team. Matt Vernacatola and Cody Lacasse are two of the key players that return from last year’s squad and will look to lead the team while other players try to emerge.
Head coach (year): Benjamin Aliamo (5th season)
Last year: 13-9
Key losses: Ben Maycock (Outfielder), Brett Frank (First Basemen), Lenny Ogando (Shortstop), Nick Guadarrama (Infielder)
Key returnees: Nick Gallicchio (Senior/Outfielder), Ryan Cappellucci (Senior/ Second Baseman), Nate Torres (Senior/Catcher), Jordan Blanchette (Senior/Pitcher), Joey Zawisza (Junior/Pitcher), Cooper Johnson (Junior/Outfielder).
Key newcomers: Ethan Ererra (Sophomore/Infielder), Josh LeClair (Junior/Pitcher), Jay Vereneau (Junior/First Baseman)
Outlook: The Newington boys baseball team finished with a solid 13-9 record a season ago. The team lost some size and strength from last year’s team but does return a solid core. There is a lot of competition among the players on the team with several players competing for starting spots. The Indians figure to be led by their pitching staff and ace Joey Zawisza. The junior is coming off of an all-conference season in which he went 7-1 with a 1.98 ERA and also contributed with the bat, hitting .340.
Head coach (year): Charles Lembo (7th season)
Last year: 14-6
Key losses: Chris Borkowski, Justin Makles, James Wadman, Jake Bentz, Kyle Bunko, Drew Farkas, Keegan Leahy, Luke Krochko, Garrett Gugliotti, Jacob Walasewicz.
Expected key returnees: Jon Mikose (Senior/Shortstop), Jon Gray (Senior/Second Baseman), Tyler Cyr (Junior/Outfielder), Ryan Sheehan (Senior/Pitcher), Jake Babon (Senior/Pitcher)
Outlook: The Southington boys baseball team is the one that made it the furthest in the postseason in the area. The Blue Knights made it to the quarterfinals before losing to eventual state champion Amity. Southington has lost a couple of key pitchers from last season’s team but is still in good shape to make some noise this season as the middle infield combination of Jon Mikose and Jon Gray return and figure to lead the offense and defense. Ryan Sheehan and Jake Babon are a couple of pitchers to look out for this season when watching the Blue Knights.
Head coach (year): Louis Mandeville (6th season)
Last year: 15-7
Key losses: Cam Bielawski, Ryan Gorham, Tim Sullivan, Buzz Adams, Jared Sgroi, Jared Karal, Jon Lindgren
Key returnees: Robert Munson (Senior/Infielder), Jon Olson (Senior/Pitcher), Dwight Burns (Senior/Pitcher), Grant Sarra (Senior/Outfielder), Shaun Simoneau (Senior/Catcher), Claudius McNish (Senior/Infielder), Mike Wiszniak (Senior/Pitcher), Dylan Morrell (Junior/Infielder), Jordan Bishop (Junior/Infielder).
Outlook: The Plainville boys baseball team had a very good 2016 season. The hope is that 2017 can be just as good, if not better. The Blue Devils did lose several key players from last year’s squad, including Jon Lindgren, but there is plenty of returning talent. Jon Olson, Dwight Burns and Mike Wiszniak figure to anchor the pitching staff while Robert Munson, Grant Sarra and others will look to provide the team with some scoring punch.
“If we throw strikes, swing at strikes and make the routine plays 2017 will be exciting,” head coach Louis Mandeville said.
Head coach (year): Joe Granja (20th season)
Last year: 15-10
Key losses: Kevin Hughes, Manuel Sanchez, Casey Rival
Key returnees: David Plourde (Senior/Pitcher), Tommy Hughes (Junior/Pitcher), Matt Dziarkowski (Senior/Catcher), Paul Prior (Junior/Shortstop), Josh Masterson (Senior/Third Baseman), Keith Selander (Senior/Center Fielder).
Outlook: The Goodwin Tech boys baseball team is coming off of a successful season in which it reached the CSC conference finals and the second round of the Class M tournament. The Gladiators will have to replace two key players in Manuel Sanchez and Casey Rival but they do have a veteran pitching staff which includes David Plourde, Tommy Hughes, Matt Dziarkowski and Keith Selander. Overall, Goodwin Tech returns six starters from last season’s team. Plourde and Hughes are also key pieces to the lineup as they both hit well over .300 a season ago.
Michael Woolfson can be reached at 860-801-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @bigwoolf5