For the first time in a long time, every baseball team enters the 2021 spring season with a blank slate. With the 2020 season being called off because of the covid-19 pandemic, area programs are set to retake the field this spring, two years after its last game action.
With the long layoff between seasons, there are a lot of unknowns heading into this year as the makeup of most teams looks much different than it did in 2019. Inexperience will be a factor for nearly every team and it may take a game or two for players to readjust to live baseball. However, the excitement level has perhaps never been as high as it is now as local players are just days away from stepping onto the diamond once again.
Here is a look at the local teams:
Head coach: Roberto Mercado (10th season)
2019 season: 11-11, lost in first round of Class LL state tournament
Key losses: Danniel Rivera (SS), Kevin Slisz (OF), Jehlon Rose (OF), Danny Costa (P), Rufino Santiago (P), Justin Adorno (SS/2B), Michael Gajada (C)
Key returnees: Nigel Crundwell (senior, C), Chris Gibbs (senior, P), Nate Kumm (senior, P/1B), Yan Hernandez (senior, OF), Leandro Guzman (senior, OF), Ryan Lipinski (senior, OF), Elian Collado (junior, INF), Will Estronza (sophomore, SS), Jomar Rodriguez (sophomore, 3B/P)
Outlook: Finishing the 2019 season with a .500 record, the Hurricanes will look to get back to their winning ways this season. New Britain fell to eventual Class LL runner-up Southington in the second round in an 11-inning contest, 4-3, last season. The Hurricanes will look to replace former shortstop Danniel Rivera and middle infielder Justin Adorno, who are now playing at Southern New Hampshire and Central Connecticut State, respectively. Senior catcher Nigel Crundwell leads the list of returners for New Britain, followed by senior pitchers Chris Gibbs and Nate Kumm.
Head coach: Steve Gaudet (1st season)
2019 season: 8-12, lost in qualifying round of Class L state tournament
Key losses: Jagger Duquette, Ethan Ryan, Trevor Mays, Matt D’Amato, Noah Hickey, Carson Sassu
Key returners: Dylan Woodsome (senior), Andrew Lozier (senior), Brayden Moore (senior), Ryan Fradette (senior)
Outlook: The Lancers had a bit of a disappointing 2019 season as they were knocked out of the qualifying round of the Class L state tournament. Bristol Eastern lost numerous contributors from that team, but will look to seniors Dylan Woodsome, Andrew Lozier, Brayden Moore and Ryan Fradette this season.
Head coach: Bunty Ray (14th season)
2019 season: 8-12, lost in second round of the Class L state tournament
Key losses: Alec Diloretto, Jake Santiago, Jaylen Dias, Austin Brown, Evan Bouchard, Peyton Clark
Key returners: Michael Lorenzetti (senior), Sean Wininger (senior), Gavin Greger (junior)
Outlook: The Rams returned to the state tournament in 2019, after missing out the previous season for the first time in 20 seasons, and advanced to the second round as the No. 30 seed. Bristol Central will be missing many of the pieces from that squad, but have Michael Lorenzetti , Sean Wininger and Gavin Greger to lead squad this season.
Head coach: Charlie Lembo (10th season)
2019 season: 21-4, lost in Class LL state final
Key losses: Billy Carr, Jake DelMonte, Bryce Fournier, Joe Gaudio, Jared Kelly, Ethan McDonough, Kevin McIntyre, Jack Meade, Jake Neuman, Andrew Paradis, Vin Spizzoucco, Chase Swain, Nico Gaudio, Ryan Henderson, Brendan Kavanagh, Jason Krar, Kyle Leifert, JT Martin, Jake Romano, Tyler Strong, Bryce Worth
Newcomers to watch: Devan Bade (senior, INF/P), Drew Belcourt (senior, OF), Jackson Cordozo (senior, OF), Dante D'Amore (senior, P/INF), Jake DellaVecchia (senior C), Mike Furgalack (senior, P), Bob Lasbury (senior, P/INF), Nick Marecki (senior, INF), Jack McManus (senior, OF), Devin Pelletier (senior, INF), Josh Pyle (senior, P), Brady Aylward (junior, C), Vin Borghese (junior, P), Justin Chiulli (junior, INF), Manny Izzo (junior, P/OF), Chris Magzag (junior, INF), Joe Meade (junior, OF), Jackson Rusiecki (junior, OF), Connor Whitehead (junior, P/INF)
Outlook: Much of the 2019 roster that lost in the Class LL championship game is now gone and the Blue Knights will have a lot of internal competition this spring. All-Herald team selections Andrew Paradis, Jake Neuman and Jake Delmonte leave a big hole for Southington to fill. Binghamton commit Devan Bade and Sacred Heart commit Dante D’Amore will likely carry the Blue Knights this season, along with pitcher Mike Furgalack and infielder Devin Pelletier.
Head coach: Leo Veleas (34th season)
2019 season: 22-2, lost in Class L state final
Key losses: Ryan Hyde (C), Gianni Fanelli (OF)
Key returnees: Nick Melville (OF/P), Justin Piskorski (senior, INF)
Newcomers to watch: James Ellis (senior, P), Connor Gileau (senior, P/INF), Tyler Rice (senior, P/INF), Joshua Bois (senior), Matt Kozak (senior, P), Patrick Lukens (senior, C), Benjamin Schulz (senior), Nick Spinalli (senior), Kasey Ouellette (junior, INF), Sal Dastoli (junior, C), Harrison Lombardi (junior, OF), David Manafort (junior, P), Jamie Palmese (junior, OF), Garrett Fallon (junior).
Outlook: The Redcoats had an impressive 2019 season that saw them go all the way to the Class L state championship game, before falling to Waterford, 1-0. Catcher Ryan Hyde and outfielder Gianni Fanelli mark Berlin’s two most notable subtractions, while outfielder/pitcher Nick Melville and infielder Justin Piskorski will be counted on to lead the Redcoats this season. Fourteen newcomers will join the Berlin roster this season, headlined by pitchers James Ellis and Connor Gileau.
Head coach: Ben Alaimo (11th season)
2019 season: 15-7, lost in the second round of the Class LL state tournament
Key losses: Ethan Errera (OF), Gunnar Johnson (C)
Key returners: Zach Nakonechny (senior, P/1B)
Newcomers to watch: Joey Petronio (senior, 2B), Brandon Baglan (senior, P), Shaun Callahan (junior, P/OF), Austyn Howe (junior, P/OF), Connor Daly (junior, LHP/OF), Nick Dicioccio (junior, C), Chase Prestia (junior, P/3B, Sean Hurley (junior, P/1B), Anthony Bongiavani (junior, P/1B), Sam Parsell (junior, 1B), Bryan Gilliam (junior, 3B), Alex Bugnacki (junior, P/OF/INF), Alex Cappellucci (sophomore, SS), Gavin Gray (sophomore P/MI), JT Gallinoto (sophomore, 2B)
Outlook: The Nor’easters will head into this season will a lot of inexperience as senior Zach Nakonechny is the only returner with significant varsity playing time. Newington lost in the second round in the Class LL state tournament in 2019 and will have to cope with the graduations of Ethan Errera and Gunnar Johnson from that squad. The Nor’easters will have 15 newcomers this season, with their biggest unknown coming in the starting rotation. Joey Petronio and Brandon Baglan join Nakonechny as the only seniors on the roster.
Head coach: Louis Mandeville (9th season)
2019 season: 12-9, lost in the first round of the Class M state tournament
Key losses: Nathan Johnson (P/1B), Tyler Dufour (P/INF), Mason Sarra (P/INF), Alex Grabowski (P/C), Tyler Mandeville (P/1B), Dominic Sousa (OF), Wyatt LaCombe (OF), Louis Passaretti (OF)
Key returners: Alec Couture (P/SS), Brennan Staubley (P/C/3B), A.J. Lestini (3B), Jayden Cumbo (P/1B),
Alex Rosado (1B), Tucker Rau (P/RF), Tanner Rau (2B), Kaleb Malone (P/RF) , Tanner Callahan (LF), Tyler Bonney ( P/CF), Matt Lagassey (C)
Outlook: The Blue Devils lose a fair share of experience this season, highlighted by Nathan Johnson, Tyler Dufour and Mason Sarra all graduating. Plainville hasn’t been able to take the field since its 12-4 loss to Lewis Mills in the first round of the Class M state tournament in 2019. Alec Couture, Brennan Staubley and A.J. Lestini will return to the Blue Devils roster this season, spearheading a team hungry to compete.
Head coach: Joe Granja (23rd season)
2019 season: 1-19
Key losses: Ryan Johnson, Diajeh McCall,
Key returners: John Higginbotham (senior, 3B), Edgardo Oscacio (junior, SS/P), Mike Lukaszewski (junior, C)
Outlook: The Gladiators have nowhere to go but up this season after recording just one win in 2019. John Higginbotham leads the senior class while Edgardo Oscacio and Mike Lukaszewski highlight the juniors for Goodwin Tech.
Head coach: Ryan Anderson (second season)
2019 season: 7-9, lost in first round of Class S state tournament
Key losses: Steven Hicks
Key returners: Yonathan Ramos (junior, C)
Outlook: The Ravens had a solid first season under new coach Ryan Anderson, but ran into Coventry in the first round of the Class S state tournament for the second season in a row in 2019. Innovation will try to get back to speed this season with Yonathan Ramos at the helm.
ST. PAUL CATHOLIC
Head coach: Vic Rinaldi (6th season)
2019 season: 19-7, lost in the Class S state semifinal
Key losses: Dylan Gagnon, Christopher Mills, Joshua Cofrancesco, Matthew Biscoglio
Key returners: Owen Davis (senior), Shaun Remillard (senior), Mike Lodge (senior), Ryan Daniels (junior), Mario Izzo (junior), Brendan Foley (junior), Casey Cerruto (junior), Jamie Leggett (sophomore), Devin Kulas (sophomore)
Outlook: Just one game short of reaching the Class S state final in 2019, the Falcons will strive to repeat their success from two years ago. St. Paul lost to the eventual state champs in Coventry in the semifinal round, 6-4. The Falcons will have to deal with the departures of Dylan Gagnon and Joshua Cofrancesco from the 2019 group, among others. Seniors Owen Davis, Shaun Remillard and Mike Lodge will provide the leadership for St. Paul this season.
Head coach: Patrick Norton (first season)
2019 season: 11-11, lost in the quarterfinal round of the Class S state tournament
Key losses: Albert Molina (P/OF), Zack Rinkavage (INF), Nick Ieronimo (P/INF), Colby Rheault (P/OF), Anthony Pires (INF/OF), Kevin Stamm (OF)
Key returners: Sean O’Donnell (senior, P/OF), Adam Audibert (senior, P/INF), Dylan Hogan (senior, INF), Jacques Caron (senior, Utility), Jake Rinkavage (junior, P/OF), Vinny Okenfels (junior, INF,) Joe Garbus (junior, INF)
Outlook: After their surprising run to the Class S state quarterfinal in 2019, the Kangaroos will look to put together another strong season this year. First-year coach Patrick Norton will be without Albert Molina, who serves as the biggest loss for Terryville, with Zack Rinkavage and Nick Ieronimo also counting as important pieces who are now gone. The upperclassmen will need to step up for the Kangaroos this season, led by Sean O’Donnell, Adam Audibert and Dylan Hogan.