BRISTOL - With only five seniors on this yearâ€™s roster, the St. Paul did not have much varsity experience returning to the team after missing last season.Â
Starting a variety of underclassmen did not end up harming the Falcons, who finished the regular season with one loss to qualify as the top seed in the Class S state tournament and will face third-seeded Coginchaug on Friday for a state championship.Â Â
St. Paul is coming off of a 12-8 win over Immaculate, which featured their second comeback of the tournament, overcoming a 6-4 deficit in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Head coach Vic Rinaldi is impressed with what his team accomplished so far this season after not knowing what many of his younger players bring this year after losing so much time on the field.
â€śWe knew we had [Ryan] Daniels, we knew what we had in Daniels,â€ť Rinaldi said. â€śBut the rest of the junior class, Brendan Foley on the mound, [Casey] Cerruto behind the plate, [Mario] Izzo, you donâ€™t know how guys are going to develop, you donâ€™t know how their skillset is going to change in two years physically you donâ€™t know how to develop.â€ťÂ
Coginchaugâ€™s pitchers will be formidable adversaries for the Falcons bats as Rinaldi expects this to be a lower-scoring contest than many of the games his team played this year. They will face some combination of UConn-commit Kolby Pascarelli, who struck out nine and allowed one hit in five innings against Northwest Catholic in the semifinal Tuesday, and senior Alex Mach.Â
â€śWeâ€™ve seen Mach, heâ€™s comparable to [Matt] Lauria that we saw from Hale Ray,â€ť Rinaldi said. â€ś[Kolby] Pascarelli is a hard-throwing lefty with a good curveball. I donâ€™t if we saw anybody in the NVL, we saw a couple lefties, but I donâ€™t know if we saw any lefties that threw at the Velocity that Pascarelli has. Both arms are going to be tough, but our lineup is tough too.â€ť
The Falcons are yet to shy away from a big moment this season and not just confident, but comfortable playing together. Already proving they can score in the later innings to take the lead back, all nine batters will need to show their best plate discipline of the year.
â€śItâ€™s important not to give away at bats and I think for the majority of the season weâ€™ve done a good job of that,â€ť Rinaldi said. â€śOur guys, they feel that even if theyâ€™re down a run or three or four runs, theyâ€™re going to find a way to comeback and find a way to come out on top.â€ť
St. Paul won the Class S title in 2016, two years before anyone one this yearâ€™s team started high school, and a win Friday night would give the school its fourth championship in baseball. That would give the program four wins in six state championship appearances since 1971.
â€śWeâ€™re going to have to battle,â€ť Rinaldi said. â€śWith the arms Coginchaug has itâ€™s not going to be one of those games where we come out and score 15 runs. Itâ€™s going to be a battle, guys are going to have to pick their spots, theyâ€™re going to have to work for everything they get.â€ť
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or email@example.com.