Apr. 9—When the Coventry High baseball team won its first Class S state tournament title since 1984 on June 8, 2019, no one could have predicted that its reign would last until 2021.
But the COVID-19 pandemic forced the CIAC to cancel the 2020 spring sports season before it began, extending the Patriots reign another year.
Monday’s home opener against East Granby will be the Patriots first game since winning the state title, a span of 674 days.
“It’s pretty crazy how long it’s been,” Coventry coach Ryan Giberson said. “The older kids are excited to be back and the younger kids are excited too. The turnout we had, we had 32 kids. For us, that’s a lot. I think it’s exciting. We’re taking it one day at a time.”
The NCCC has returned to its one-division format after being split into two regions based on geography in the fall and winter.
The CCC will use its traditional East, West, North and South divisions after using different regions in the fall and winter. The conference will also allow its member schools to play non-league games.
Traditional state tournaments will be played, something that hasn’t happened in any sport since March of 2020. The baseball tournament starts on June 1, with championship games slated for June 11-12.
The regular season begins Saturday. Here’s a look at the Journal Inquirer’s area teams.
COACH: Adam Jodoin
2019 RECORD: 8-12
RETURNEES: Seniors: Josh Orzolek; Colin Nichols; Juniors: Cal Bulley; Patrick Frommer; Justin Decker; Peter Czepiel; Matt Godek; Thomas Zalewski.
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Senior: Kaleb Carlson; Sophomores: Ben Post; Jack Werhle; Freshmen: Tiarnan Doyle; Bryan Diehl; Riley Gavin; Ben Roth; Sam Segar; William Heller.
OUTLOOK: Consistent pitching and solid defense will be the keys for a Bolton team returning a solid core of upperclassmen led by Orzolek, Nichols, Bulley, Frommer, Decker, Czepiel, Godek, and Zalewski. Jodoin is excited about the potential of pitchers Doyle and Diehl, who he describes as having “live arms”.
COACH: Ryan Giberson
2019 RECORD: 23-2
RETURNEES: Senior: Josh Malcom, c/p; Junior: Matt LaFountaine, inf.
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Junior: AJ Rooks, p; Freshmen: Ethan Hunt, p; Evan Menzel, inf.
OUTLOOK: Malcom and LaFountaine are the only starters remaining from Coventry’s 2019 Class S state title team. The Patriots are young and inexperienced, particularly on the mound, where they don’t have a single pitcher who has thrown an inning in a varsity game. Giberson hopes to build his rotation around Malcom, Rooks, and Hunt.
COACH: Steve Burndrett
2019 RECORD: 12-10
RETURNEES: Senior: Mike Russotto, c; Junior: Jake Martin, p/if.
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Juniors: Ryan Lee, p, Jordan Agey, p/if;, Curt Zyra, p/if; Eric Wyse, p/if, Nic Saponare, of, Sophomores: Shane Ritchie, p/if; Matt Blachuta, p/of.
OUTLOOK: East Windsor will rely on Russotto, Martin and Lee to lead the inexperienced Panthers to a fourth straight state tournament appearance in 2021 after graduating 22 seniors over the last two years. Martin, the only pitcher with varsity experience on the roster, will anchor the rotation alongside Ritchie, Blachuta, Lee, Zyra and Agey.
COACH: Jim Pointek
2019 RECORD: 11-11
RETURNEES: Seniors: Jason Leslie, of; Tommy Garrow of.
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Seniors: Tyler Sakos, p/of; Jordan Terry, c; Matt Mateya, inf; Ethan Sgarlata, p/inf; Noah Madore, p; Brandon Zanher, inf; Junior: Mike Bontempo, inf; Sophomore: Ryan Delaney.
OUTLOOK: The Knights are ushering in a new era, as Pointek takes over for longtime coach Keith Tautkus, who retired at the end of the 2019 season after 22 seasons at the helm. Leslie, the team’s only returning pitcher with varsity experience, will be relied upon to anchor the Knights rotation. Pointek expects defense and leadership to be two of the team’s strengths this season.
COACH: Greg Caron
2019 RECORD: 18-6
RETURNEES: Seniors: Anthony Mierez, p/of; Joe Kaminski, inf; Juniors: Steven Kozak, of.
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Seniors: Matt Walsh, p/of; Zach Clapp, inf; Sam Wheeler, c; Jack Steed, dh; Alex Dionne, p/inf/of; Juniors: De’Shaun Perry, p/inf; Matt Ryan, inf; John Ryan, of; Sophomore: Joe Stawski, p/inf.
OUTLOOK: Mierez, who helped lead Rockville to an 18-6 record and an appearance in the Class M tournament semifinals as a sophomore in 2019, will anchor the Rams pitching staff alongside Perry and Stawski. Caron expects Mierez, who hit close to .300 while going 6-3 with a 2.63 ERA and 46 strikeouts as a sophomore, to be one of the top pitchers in the NCCC.
COACH: Brian McCarthy
2019 RECORD: 6-14
KEY PLAYERS: Seniors: Shawn Gentilcore, p; Ethan Haluch util; Juniors: Alex Grenier, c; John Zapolski, inf; Cody Palazzesi, p/inf; Kaede Wood, p/of.
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Juniors: Aidan Connors, inf; Sophomores: Thomas Lesco, inf; Colby McCormick, of.
OUTLOOK: Somers returns six starters from its 2019 team and has a solid core of veterans highlighted by Gentilcore, Haluch, Grenier, Zapolski, Palazzesi, and Wood. If the Spartans continue to improve defensively, McCarthy expects his team to compete with the upper echelon in the NCCC.
COACH: Scott Martin
2019 RECORD: 6-14
RETURNEES: Seniors: Nic Houle, p/of; Trent Kology, c/of; Junior: Isaac Minaya, p/inf/of.
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Juniors: Ryan Duffy, c/of; Attley Stevens, c/inf/p; Andrew McGann, of/p; Sophomores: Collin Gudeman, inf/p; Sam Formus, p/of.
OUTLOOK: Optimism is abound around the Bulldogs program. Martin says the 2021 Bulldogs have more pitching depth than at any point in his tenure (since 2006) and called Houle “one of top overall players in league, and likely one of top pitchers.” Martin says the team has enough pitching to contend for a league title if the offense can produce at a high level.
COACH: Jason Flynn
2019 RECORD: 8-12
RETURNEES: Vincenzo Marmo, inf; Max Beaudoin, inf.
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Mason Ferrari, of; Nicholas Gomes, of/p; Chase Tyburski, p; Sam Beaudoin, p.
OUTLOOK: Suffield boasts a deep pitching staff with six players who can “pound the zone and go deep into games,” Flynn says. The rotation will be anchored by Beaudoin, Gomes and Tyburski. The Wildcats expect to compete for a conference title and play deep into the post season.
COACH: Ken Precourt
2019 RECORD: 15-7
RETURNEES: Seniors: Ryan Barthel; Colin Hinckley; MJ Perry; Juniors: Chris Duquette; Michael Jubrey.
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Sophomores: Dalton Wright; Allen Hinckley.
OUTLOOK: Precourt calls Barthel and Colin Hinckley the “anchors on defense.” Hinckley is a “strong defensive catcher” and Barthel can play “multiple positions.” The Raiders expect to be a NCCC contender despite having a young, inexperienced squad.
CCC East Colonial
COACH: Martin Fiori
2019 RECORD: 16-6
RETURNEES: Seniors: Frankie Mozzicato, p; Ryan Shaw, p; Ryan St. Jean, of/inf; Trevor Juan, of; Abel Collado, of; Hank Penders, c; Michael Wearne, p; Sammy Neves, inf; Alex Irizarry, inf; Ryan Turco p/inf.
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Sophomres: TJ Winn, p; Harry Roy, p; Freshman: Dylan Roy, inf.
OUTLOOK: The Eagles return a talented core highlighted by Mozzicato, a UConn commit, Ryan Shaw, a UMass Boston commit, Ryan St. Jean, a Western New England commit, Trevor Juan, a Roger Williams commit, and Abel Collado, a UConn-Avery Point commit. Fiori calls Mozzicato has “arguably one of the best arms around” and Irizarry “arguably one of the best all around infielders and hitters,” according to Fiori. East Catholic, which is ranked third in the GameTimeCT/New Haven Register preseason state poll, expects to be in contention for both the CCC and state titles this season.
COACH: Matt Rondinone
2019 RECORD: 14-7
RETURNEES: Seniors: Jack Falvo, p/inf; Jacob Tipton, c/p/inf; Antonio Ortiz, of; Darrion Williams p/of; Jacob Carrion, p/inf; Juniors: Xavier Quiles, p/inf, Max Banelis, inf.
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Freshmen: Kacin Robinson; Cody Seggara; Sam Montovani.
OUTLOOK: East Hartford is going through a rebuild after graduating 13 seniors in the last two years. Quiles, who started at second base as a freshman in 2019, will anchor the Hornets defense. The team has four dependable starters in Falvo, Williams, Carrion, and Tipton.
COACH: Gary Marineau
2019 RECORD: 10-10
RETURNEES: Seniors: Alec Bairos, of/inf; Jason Bourcier, p; Mike Nicholetti. util; Juniors Mark Osorio, c; Dylan Jackson, inf.
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Juniors: Mason Cycenas-Heimer, p; Ben Cherry, of/p; Nate Heimer, of; Jonah Neilson, of; Brandon Wrona, inf; Tyler Barry, inf/p; Gio Morales, of/p; Cam Forstell, p; Ben Roy, p. Sophomores: Jared Lindstrom, c/inf; Dennis Flores, inf/p; Jack Stokes, inf.
OUTLOOK: The Red Hawks graduated nine seniors but return a talented core of upperclassman highlighted by Bairos, Bourcier, Nicholetti, Osorio, and Jackson. Marineau is excited to see how his players handle a season unlike any other.
COACH: Mike McDermot
2019 RECORD: 19-3
RETURNEES: No returning Varsity players
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Will Bonazelli; Brian Allard; Jack Dempsky; Jordan Dill; Robert Godi.
OUTLOOK: South Windsor is entering a rebuilding year after graduating all nine starters from its 2019 team. The Bobcats will need Bonazelli, Allard, Dempsky, Dill and Godi to produce at a high level to keep them competitive in the CCC East.
CCC East PATRIOT
COACH: Jay Gaucher
2019 RECORD: 17-6
RETURNEES: No returning Varsity players
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Seniors: Caleb Martinek, inf/p; Justin Chaplin, of/p; Jake Chaplin, p; Max Chipman, inf/c/of; Zander Boyd, p; Brady Rancourt, of/p; Matt Voneisengrein, of; Juniors: Chris Seille, inf; Bryce Dipero, of; Brendan Rowe, of; Tighe Thebedeau. of; Jayden Maynard, p/inf; Tom Kluntz, c/p; Dom Kohler, inf/of; Anthony Noke, p/inf; Sophomore: Cannon Marshall inf/p.
OUTLOOK: Enfield has five capable starting pitchers and four solid arms out of the bullpen. The question mark is the Eagles offense, which will need to manufacture runs for the team to have success.
COACH: Paul Steiner
2019 RECORD: 7-13
RETURNEES: Seniors: Matt Milone, p/Inf; Brendan Foley, inf/p; Dan Orzech If/p/of; Ryan Schultz, p/of; Junior: Mike Poncini, p/inf.
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Senior: Kevin Braunwart, c/of; Juniors: Chase Melzen, of; Bradley D’Amico, inf; Garrett Nichol, of; Pat Miller, inf; Sophomores: Max Nylen, c; Ethan Polochanin, p/inf; Tom Puetzer, p/inf; Chase Massey, p/inf; Aiden Zern, p/inf; Freshman: Sean Connolly, of.
OUTLOOK: The Raptors return five starters from their 2019 team — Milone, Foley, Schultz, Orzech, and Poncini. Steiner expects pitching to be an area of strength with Milone, Poncini and Schultz anchoring the rotation. Nylen, Polochanin, Puetzer, Massey, Zern, and Connolly will be relied upon to step into the starting lineup and contribute.
COACH: Howie Dietch
2019 RECORD: 4-16
RETURNEES: Senior: Ethan Bonadies, of/p; Junior: Jared Wilhelm, of/p.
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Junior: Joey Keane, inf/p; Sophomores: Nate Bowes, c.
OUTLOOK: Dietch takes over a team that went 4-16 in 2019 and returns only one starter. The Eagles will rely on a talented core of upperclassman, led by Bonadies and Wilhelm, for production.
CCC NORTH PATRIOT
COACH: Joe Serfass
2019 RECORD: 11-9
RETURNEES: Seniors: Isaac Rosario, of/inf/p; Julian Rivera, inf; Clark Churchill, p/inf; Jeremy Blackwood, p/inf; Alec Lachniet, p; Juniors: Jonathan Lattimer, c; Mason Glickman, inf/p; Breon Parker, of.
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Senior: Christian Hicks, of; Juniors: Ryan Cramer, inf; Brandon Cosgrove, inf; Nason Busca, of; Aiden Serrano, of; Sophomores: Nate Acabchuck, p/inf; Frank Kula, inf; Luis Hiraldo, of/p; Austin Oberle, of/p.
OUTLOOK: The Warriors have quality pitching depth with Blackwood, Churchill, Glickman and Lachniet, along with a few younger arms. Parker and Rivera will be relied upon to set the table at the top of the lineup ahead of power hitters Rosario, Lattimer, Glickman and Blackwood.
CCC WEST PATRIOT
COACH: Dennis Accomando
2019 RECORD: 17-5
RETURNEES: Owen Stephens, p/inf/of; Ben Curcio, c; Sam Benedict, inf.
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Grant Powers; Spencer Azarra; Sean Borden; Patrick Flaherty; Colin Thomas; Alex Boucher; Jake Benedict; Nick Verdone; Drew Jean; Mike Herviuex; Dan Cantafi; Dan Beagle; Luke Fahey; Elliott Hamilton.
OUTLOOK: Glastonbury has a solid defense with a balanced line up, but the pitching staff is an area of concern. The Guardians will need arms to step up as the staff battles injuries and inexperience.
COACH: Ken Leggo
2019 RECORD: 16-9
RETURNEES: Seniors: Jared Holbrook, p/inf; Isaiah Brothers, p/inf; Shawn Rock, of; Ben Gendreau, of; Junior: Adam Bowman, inf.
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Sophomores: Dylan Connaughton, p/c; Jack McLellan c; Ben Schaefer, inf; Jacob Perez, inf; Elias Martinez, inf; Freshmen: Rafael Acevedo, of/inf; Branden Robles, of/p.
OUTLOOK: Cheney Tech’s rotation is anchored by a pair of talented upperclassman in Holbrook and Brothers while the lineup is paced by Rock, Gendreau, and Bowman. The Beavers will need Connaughton, McLellan, Schaefer, Perez, Martinez, Acevedo, and Robles to step up in order to win a second straight CTC Conference championship.
For daily updates on high school sports in JI’s coverage area, follow Kyle Maher on Twitter: @KyleBMaher, Facebook: Kyle Maher, and Instagram: @KyleBMaher.