Apr. 3—Ledyard baseball coach Scott Chiasson knows who’s on first for his team this season (senior Julian Munitmuri).
After that, there’s a lot of question marks.
“(Munitmuri) was the only kid that has seen a varsity baseball game,” Chiasson said. “He had one at-bat (in 2019) and went back down to JV.”
This year’s high school spring season is going to be unpredictable statewide after the 2020 season was canceled by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference due to the pandemic. The majority of teams will have inexperienced starting lineups because many of this year’s seniors and juniors spent 2019 either on the bench or playing on the junior varsity team as sophomores and freshmen.
There are coaches around the Eastern Connecticut Conference who will have entirely new starting lineups or, in the case of Ledyard baseball, and entirely new varsity team.
“We had a starting class of 18 seniors on the 2019 roster,” Chiasson said. “It’s basically starting at ground zero. I have to go through cut-offs and relays every day again. I have to go through bunt plays. I have to go through first and third defenses. You’re basically starting at zero like it’s their first time in the program.
“It’s funny — I went over bunt plays (Wednesday), and it’s like, ‘Holy cow. Not one person knows this.'”
Last year’s cancelation was a terrible thing for Connecticut high school players to endure, most especially the seniors. In the case of the Waterford baseball team, it expected to make a serious run at its second straight state title because it had several players back who started for the 2019 CIAC Class L championship team. It would’ve also had a pitching rotation with three Division I players — Jared Burrows (Hartford), Ryan O’Connell (Central Connecticut) and Payton Sutman (Holy Cross).
Seniors Connor Podeszwa (left field) and Ryan Salvador (second base) are Waterford’s only returning players with varsity experience. Both started in the 2019 final, but played only several varsity games because they were both pressed into service late that season.
“It’s tough,” Waterford head coach Art Peluso said. “Everybody says you lost a year, but when you really look at it, we’ve lost 22 months because of when we stopped playing. In 2019, we played June 7th in the state final. You start counting the months, you’re at the 22-month mark. You’re looking at closer to two years than one year.
“(The team) is working hard. I think they’ll surprise a lot of people, but I don’t know what Fitch has, or NFA has, or East Lyme has. I have no idea, and usually, going into the season, you have an idea of who are the top pitchers you’re going to face. You don’t have that.”
Peluso does see an upside to all the uncertainty.
“It’s going to make it fun,” he said. “We were outside practicing (Thursday). It was kind of cold, blustery and windy. It was great. It was fun because a lot of the times you have kids come back, they know the defensive alignments, they know the first and third, the bunt coverages. They know all that stuff.
“This year, it’s kind of re-teaching them. So it makes it fun. And I think the kids appreciate just being out there.”
The Stonington girls’ lacrosse team won its seventh straight ECC Division II regular season title in 2019 and played in the Class S final. There’s only one starter back from that team, but head coach Jeff Medeiros isn’t concerned because he’s confident in his players. He’s got an entirely different problem.
“I can’t recognize anybody because they have masks (and helmets) on, so I have to try to learn names and I can’t see faces,” Medeiros chuckled. “That’s my biggest problem. I’ll see a girl and think, ‘Wow, she’s got good footwork. What the freak is her name?’ … I’m having a hard time remembering a name because I can’t see faces.
“One girl wears orange cleats. I know who she is. I have one girl who wears her hair a certain way. One girl wears a knee brace. I’m trying to find things that I can recognize them with.
“When I take attendance, I call out their names and they say, ‘Here’. And I’m like, ‘No-no. Raise your hand because I need to see you. I need to get a visual.'”
There will be some teams who are in good shape because they started so many sophomores or freshmen in 2019. Ledyard softball is one of those outliers because it had a young roster two years ago and has seven starters back from that team.
Being so young two seasons ago may give the Colonels an edge over their opponents this year.
“We were expecting big things last year, so it’s kind of built up in us to really come out and prove ourselves this year,” Ledyard head coach Brittany Connors Robinson said. “I haven’t really thought about (our experience) in comparison to what other teams may have lost, but we’re aware that what we have is pretty special right now and we’re trying to put that together.
“That lost year in between is tough because we didn’t really know what we were two years ago, so last year would’ve been huge to kind of help us this year.”
Starting lineups generally stay the same throughout a season. That might not be the case this year with so many new starters.
“I tell the kids that this is a program,” Peluso said. “What we are on April 10 won’t be what we are on June 1st. Just keeping getting after it and things might fall into place for you.”
Chiasson said, “I think there’s going to be a lot of lineup changes throughout the year. … I feel like I’m going to switch about four-or-five guys around. It makes it exciting. It makes it interesting. It definitely makes it interesting.
“If you think you can predict your record this year, God bless you. I could go from winning four games to winning 10 games, I really have no idea.
“It’ll be a fun year, and that’s what I told the kids — whether we win three games or we win 15 games, just enjoy the season. You’re out there (playing) and enjoy the season because things have been taken away from us for a while now. You never know when it could be taken away again.”