BRISTOL - Area baseball teams are highlighted by St. Paul, which had a strong season last year and returns some key players.
Bristol Central, Bristol Eastern and Terryville will all be tested this season.
The Rams lost key players from last season and their top returning player is now out for a month.
For the Lancers, it’ll be an issue of replacing key players from last season, with three big holes to fill.
The Kangaroos need to replace numerous seniors from last year.
Below is a closer look at this upcoming season for area baseball teams.
Head coach: Vic Rinaldi (third season)
Last year: 19-6
Key losses: Wes Lahey, Andrew Owsianko
Key returnees: Ryan Greene (senior), Julian Thayer (senior), Nick Morrell (senior), Ethan Rembish (sophomore), Chris Mills (junior), Sean Creen (junior), Dylan Gagnon (junior), Walker Sharp (sophomore)
Outlook: The Falcons will bring a mix of experienced varsity players and inexperienced young talent to the field this season.
Greene and Thayer lead the way for St. Paul’s returning players and will bring quality offense to the lineup.
Greene was named to the All-NVL Copper team last year in his first full varsity season. His .377 batting average was fourth on the team and he chipping in 27 RBI, good for third on the team. Greene also added three home runs.
Thayer led the team with a .506 batting average and ripped a team-high 15 doubles. He joined Greene on the All-NVL Copper honors.
While the offense should be there for St. Paul, it will need to sure up the other facets of the game in order to have sustained success this season.
“As always pitching and defense will be the key to our team’s success,” Rinaldi said. “We only have two seniors in our line up and we will be looking for contributions from our younger guys.”
Head coach: Mike Giovinazzo (44th season)
Last year: 11-9
Key losses: Zach Marquis, Gary Gagnier, Jake Violette
Key returnees: Cory Fradette (senior), Mac Goulet (senior), Josh Nohilly (senior)
Outlook: With just three returning full-time varsity starters from last year’s team that made the postseason, the expectations for this year’s Bristol Eastern team should be hampered.
Marquis, Gagnier and Violette all had strong seasons last year and were a big part in the success.
The Lancers will look to replace Marquis’ 1.49 ERA and 45 strikeouts, Gagnier’s .338 batting average and .427 OBP as well as Violette’s versatility and ability to shine both offensively and defensively.
For the Lancers, though, some young talent may emerge on the varsity diamond from the junior varsity team that finished its 2017 campaign 13-3.
“There are many talent players up from junior varsity but with little or no varsity experience,” Giovinazzo said. “Especially on our pitching staff. It is a tough divisional schedule and the brutal non-divisional schedule will present a big challenge for this year’s Lancers team.
Head coach: Bunty Ray (12th season)
Last year: 11-11
Key losses: Ken Knox, Jeremy Ganavage, Mike Lemke, Kevin White, Eric Gaudreau, Dathan Hickey
Key returnees: Noah Planatumro, Alec Diloretto, Alex Balfour, Jake Santiago, Steve Warkoski, Jaylen Dias
Outlook: For the Rams, their season outlook took a hit when it was learned that two-time All-Conference shortstop Plantamuro will miss half of the season with mono.
Now, Bristol Central will rely more on Jake Santiago. He will be behind the plate this season at catcher.
“The Rams will start five to six sophomores including Jake Santiago who will take over behind the plate,” Ray said. “Santiago was a DH as a freshman and has tremendous potential.”
Balfour will be the only returning pitcher that logged significant innings last season and he will look to build off of his emergence as a starter.
Ray is also counting on Warkoski, Dias, Alec Diloretto in the middle of the order. All three are returning starters.
“We will be a work in progress trying to find out who can make the jump to varsity baseball,” Ray said. “With past success the schedule will be tough and this young group will be tested every day. Bristol Eastern and Plainville will compete for the division title with the Rams hoping to earn a tournament berth. Losing Noah is a tough way to start the season, we will see how the players respond and take the challenge.”
Head coach: Brian Rosano (second season)
Last year: 10-12
Key losses: Shawn Fulton, Derek Thibodeau, John Grimes and Zack Harnish
Key returnees: Dominic Zappone (senior), Riley Zappone (senior), Mike Tiscia (senior), Colin Bamrick (junior), Justin Carasone (junior), Albert Molina (sophomore)
Outlook: The Kangaroos will need to find ways to replace the nine seniors that graduated last season.
“Replacing their production and leadership are our challenges,” Rosano said. “We do return four starters, yet still have several positions that will be filled by players in their first year of varsity baseball, so the speed with which they can adjust to this level will determine our success. I expect that we will continue to improve throughout the year, and look at qualifying for the state tournament as a realistic goal.”
Look for the Zappone and Tiscia to be the main reason if Terryville makes another state tournament appearance.