This week is one of those very rare occasions when two freshmen get the nod as the Athlete of the Week picks for area scholastic sports. They are Ava Hampton of the St. Paul softball team and Gavin Greger of the Bristol Central baseball team.
Hampton, the daughter of Chuck and Maryanne Hampton of New Hartford, plays second base for St. Paul coach Gary Hovhannessian. In the Falcons’ three Class S state tournament games, she had a home run and double, then went 1-for-3 and finally hit a triple with two runs scored.
“We’re glad to have her on our side, not the other side,” Hovhannessian said. “It’s her passion. She loves the game.”
The Falcons reached the quarterfinals of Class S tournament play and finished 19-6 overall with a regular season mark of 16-4.
“I think we were expecting to go all of the way,” Hampton said. “The last game against (host) Holy Cross (a 13-8 loss on Saturday) we started thinking about the championship game instead of the game we had to play. We put up a fight, but in the end they wanted it more than we did.”
And now the Falcons are planning for next year.
“We losing probably two of our biggest players and two captains,” Hampton said, “one being a pitcher and one our shortstop, which means that we’ll just have to work harder for next year.”
Those two standouts are pitcher Abby Poirot and shortstop Jessica Persechino, both four-year players for the Falcons and previous “AOW” selections this spring. However, Jessica Gonzalez, another “AOW” from the team this year, will be among those returning with Hampton.
In getting to where she is today, Hampton, who hit 12 home runs during the regular season this spring, started softball in parks and recreation ball. She then went to the CT Eliminators at age 8 before going onto the Rhode Island Thunder Gold National team. She added that it’s the sport she loves most.
“My favorite hands down,” Hampton said. “I like the energy and when I play it’s kind of a stress reliever. For me, softball’s my life, every week and every day.”
She also played volleyball this past fall for St. Paul, splitting time with both the junior and varsity teams, mostly on the bench for the latter.
Greger, the son of Dory and Sandi Greger, pitches and plays center field for the Rams.
Recently named all-conference, the freshman contributed in the tournament with both his bat and pitching arm.
He had a career-type game against Platt Tech in a 16-0 win last Wednesday, going 3-for-3, including a home run, three runs scored and five RBI. Prior to that, he had two hits and two RBI in the Maloney win and closed the game out on the mound. He also hit the run tying double in the tournament-ending loss to East Lyme on Thursday.
“Gavin is a tremendous talent and can be a great player, his ceiling is very high,” Rams coach Bunty Ray said. “He has really stepped up into a big role for a younger player. He enjoys the game and plays with a lot of enthusiasm. As he matures, continues to learn and work hard, he has the ability to be exceptional. My biggest compliment to him is he is a great teammate who genuinely cares about his peers, which is very important.”
Greger commented on the Rams’ 10-13 season.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed we didn’t get that far in the tournament,” Greger said. “We were a good team and should have gone a little bit further. We have a good bond and we gave everything we had, but came up a little bit short.”
But, like Hampton, there’s three more seasons to shoot for the stars.
Greger first picked up a baseball at age 2. He started at Edgewood Little League when eligible, and later with the Clemente League in Wolcott. He didn’t play when he was at Chippens Hill Middle School, but did for the Overlook Black Sox out of Waterbury. Besides Bristol Central, he also plays for the CT Rivals out of Cromwell.
“My long term goal is to go to a Division I college and, hopefully, play major league baseball,” Greger said. “Whether I’m a pitcher or not, I don’t really know that yet.”
Greger’s family genes should help with his endeavors. His grandfathers, Bill Greger and Rick Fitzsimons, are known in area baseball and softball circles.
Bill Greger is a former Bristol Eastern and Bristol American Legion star and Fitzsimons has been a sought-after girls and women’s softball pitching instructor. Gavin Greger’s mother played softball for Bristol Central, while his father is remembered as the circuit’s best when he played for the Red Sox in Edgewood Little League play.
His sister, Bristol Central junior Peyton Greger, has been an “AOW” in both volleyball and soccer for their school.