Baseball

Baseball 2017: Deep League Portends Closely Contested Race

Ben Casparius is one of the top returning players at Staples. (Photo: Gregory Vasil)

In compiling this preview, coaches were asked to name in order the top five teams in the league heading into the new season. Ten of the 17 schools were mentioned, which gives you an idea of the murky outlook with the first pitch just two days away.

Will Staples live up to the same promise of 12 months ago? Will Westhill make the big leap? Can Darien repeat, or Wilton win its second title in three years?

All are possible. Or none of the above.

Perhaps the lone certainties right now are the league is again deep and contenders aplenty.

The Favorite

Staples. Last year was a big letdown for the Wreckers. They got off to a slow start with a demanding non-league schedule, were hobbled by injuries and never got any traction, failing to even qualify for the FCIAC Tournament. An opening-round state playoff win over Ridgefield was the lone modest distinction. Staples lost a lot but returns a nucleus capable of making good on expectations. A healthy Ben Casparius is part of a deep rotating that includes Chad Knight, Ryan Fitton, George Goldstein and Rob Stone. The offense remains strong and a huge intangible is motivation coming off a humbling season. There is no such thing as a prohibitive favorite with the league deep and a single-elimination playoff, but the Wreckers have a lot going for them this year.

Sean O’Malley had the game-winning hit in last year’s FCIAC championship game. (Photo: Gregory Vasil)

The Contenders

Westhill. The city of Stamford has lost its edge as a power player in the sport, but this is the year the FCIAC title, after a 17-year absence, could make its return. The Vikings are poised for perhaps the biggest leap of any team in the league. They have as much pitching depth as anyone, led by Blake Newcomer, Leo Socchi, Mike Lisinicchia and John MacDonald. Lisinicchia leads an offense that includes Anthony Frangiose and Dean DePreta. A combination of returning veterans and skilled underclassmen should provide the type of defense that is always high on coach DJ Mulvany’s priority list. Westhill has the goods, but will that translate on the field?

Trumbull. The Eagles were an extra-inning walkoff hit away from an FCIAC title, then had a good run in the state tournament. Their infield, with Andrew Lojko, Vinny DeRubeis, Danny Ruchalski and Dustin Siqueira, ranks with the best in the league. Will the pitching be as strong as a year ago? If so, Trumbull will have a chance to take the next step.

Wilton. The Warriors are in much the same position as the Vikings, a .500 team ready to build on a year ago. Can Wilton make it two championships in three years? It again has an ace in Billy Black and one of the top players in shortstop Dillon Lifieri. In fact the Warriors have few faults, with experience around the diamond. If the pitching comes through, the trophy could be making a return appearance.

Dustin Siqueira is a mainstay on Trumbull’s veteran defense. (Photo: Mark Conrad)

The Sleepers

St. Joseph. The Cadets are an intriguing mixture: six starters in the field and three on the mound are back, and there are six sophomores in contention for full-time jobs. The pitching will keep the team in every game. Shortstop Neil Velasquez is one of the league’s top players.

Darien. After a dream season in which the Blue Wave became one of the few teams to win both the regular season and postseason titles, they should still be in the hunt despite considerable personnel losses. Justin Jordan and Jake Geddes are solid on the mound, and the offense is strong with Casey Brown, Peter Marren, Sean O’Malley and Cord Fox. There are a few holes to fill, but coach Mike Scott has built a sustainable program.

Preseason Honor Roll

Billy Black, Wilton

Giacomo Brancato, Fairfield Warde

Casey Brown, Darien

Owen Buhrendorf, Fairfield Warde

Matt Burger, New Canaan

Ben Casparius, Staples

Michael Claps, Brien McMahon

Dean DePreta, Westhill

Vinny DeRubeis, Trumbull

Anthony Ferraro, Greenwich

Ryan Fitton, Staples

Cord Fox, Darien

George Goldstein, Staples

Mike Halas, Danbury

Javon Hernandez, Danbury

Chad Knight, Staples

Justin Jordan, Darien

Robby Jones, New Canaan

Matt Landry, Fairfield Ludlowe

Connor Langan, Greenwich

Dillon Lifieri, Wilton

Michael Lisinicchia, Westhill

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Andrew Lojko, Trumbull

Collin Lowe, Ridgefield

Michael Lisinicchia, Westhill

Eddie McCabe, Norwalk

Marco Monteiro, Norwalk

Thomas Montelli, St. Joseph

Colin Motil, Ridgefield

Sean O’Malley, Darien

Brad Papp, Stamford

Dustin Siqueira, Trumbull

Dom Svrcek, Trinity Catholic

John Thrasher, Ridgefield

Neil Velasquez, St. Joseph

Bobby Zmarzlak, Westhill

Connor Langan provides Greenwich with experience on the mound. (Photo: Gregory Vasil)

The Lineups

Danbury: OF/P Andrew Luis, OF Brent Jacobellis, OF Brian Yim, IF/P Jeff Torres, IF Javon Hernandez, 1B Nick Gervasio, C  Mike Halas, P Noah Meeks, P Brian McCarthy, P Ryan Solimine, P Justin Solimine, P Rich Wekerle.

Darien: 1B Casey Brown, IF Peter Marren, UTL Cord Fox, C  Sean O’Malley, CF/P Justin Jordan, P Jake Geddes.

Fairfield Ludlowe: P Matt Kubel, P Zach Day, P Mike Randazzo, P Liam Rosengren, P Matt Grabowski, P/2B Mike Ghiorzi, P/OF Sam Meyers, P/OF Chris Benton, C Alex Scott, C Vince Camera, C Jack Knisely, 1B John McMillan, Tighe Jorgensen, 2B Jack Hogarth, SS Ryan Devany, 3B Rob Farruggio, 3B Conor Cronin, OF Matt Landry, OF Conner Devaney, OF Derek Tallman, OF Jack McGuire, OF Edwin Leon.

Fairfield Warde: CF Giacomo Brancato, SS Austin Stewart, C Finn Mobley, 3B Owen Polley, 1B/C Max Lee, DH/1B Will Mitola, RF/P Chris Radovic, P Zach McKay, P Ryan Donnelly, P Mark Garcia, LF Owen Buhrendorf.

 

Greenwich: C Jake Beinstein, C Kyle Woodring, C/P Cristian Perez, 1B/P Mark Sunoo, 1B Henry Saleeby, 2B/3B Ricky Columbo, 2B Hayden Kistler, SS/P Aaron Schurr, SS/P Simon Bass, 3B/P Connor Langan, 3B/P Matt Circelli, 3B Yosh Satake, RF Paul Williams, RF Erik Mini, CF/P Anthony Ferraro, CF Michael McGrath, CF Brandon Chow, LF Brando Chow, LF Mark Sunoo, LF Robbie Lanni, P Henry Quinlan, P Andrew Desino, P Connor Bylciw.

Brien McMahon: C Anthony Socci, SS Chris Giordano, 2B Michael Claps, CF Griffin Root, P/1B Andrew Matthews, P Ethan Blattman, P James Stefanowicz, P Jake Dumas, 3B James Stefanowicz, 1B Chris Ehlers.

New Canaan: Matt Burger, Mike Pelli, Griffen Arnone, Zach Lopez, Lucian Tamburro, Patrick Diamond, Nate Bozzella, Rob Jones.

Norwalk: C Marco Monteiro, 1B Randy Mateo, 2B Kyle Mossop, SS Eddie McCabe, 3B Tom Benincaso, LF Gavin Key, CF Reid Singewald, P Issac Keehn.

Ridgefield: CF John Thrasher, P Collin Lowe, IF Colin Motil, IF Matt Colin, P Alex Price, OF Tony Macchia, OF Dan Ignatowich, DH Lucas Furneri, IF Quinn McDonald, C Ben Cohen.

St. Joseph: 1B/P Al Paolozzi, 1B/P Hadyn Gourley, 2B: Jack Mathews, 2B AJ Guerrero, SS Neil Velasquez, 3B Charlie Pagliarini, C Zach Dunkel, CF Jake DeLeo, RF Stephen Paolini, LF Thomas Montelli, DH Jimmy Evans, P Ben Talbot, P Michael D’Agostino, P Antonio Ferraro, P David Summers, P Brendan Finch.

Stamford: C Nico Kydes, 1B/P Lucas Beldotti, 1B Justin Wexler, 1B/P Joey Price, 2B/P Matt Wirz, 2B  David Collazo, SS Sam Berkun, 3B Brad Papp, 3B Jack Palmer, LF Nick Romanello, CF Danny Collazo, RF Ruben Rodriguez, P Owen Kilian.

Staples: 2B Drew Rogers, SS Max Popken, IF/P Ben Casparius, P/3B Chad Knight, OF Chris Drbal, OF Danny Thompson, OF Kevin Rabacs, P Ryan Fitton, P George Goldstein, P Rob Stone, DH Mike Fanning, C Matt Stone, P Harry Azadian.

Trinity Catholic: C Dom Svrcek, 1B/P Thomas Chiappetta, 1B/3B Anthony Possidento, IF Nico Morse, IF Sammy Santiago, IF/P Chris Raduazzo, 3B/P Zachary Hurd, 3B John Farrell, 3B/P Jay Lockwood, OF Tyler Austin, OF/P John Petrizzi, OF/P Sam Pensiero, OF Matt Rutherford, OF Mike Marchetti, OF Mikey Riddle, P Nick Gatto, P David Broncati.

Trumbull: P/3B Andrew Lojko, 1B Vinny DeRubeis, SS Danny Ruchalski, 2B Dustin Siqueira, P/IF/OF Jack Lynch, 1B/DH Robert Olah, P Ben Fero.

Westhill: C Joey Skarad, 1B Hunter Semmel, 2B TJ Wainwright, SS Dean DePreta, 3B Montana Semmel, OF Anthony Frangiose, OF Bobby Zmarzlak, OF/P Michael Lisinicchia, OF Michael Grafstein, DH Zac Feinstein, DH Matt Masi, DH, P Leo Socci, P John MacDonald, P Blake Newcomer, P Michael Newman, P Simon Uka, P Hunter Semmel, P Montana Semmel, P Charles Olsen, P Andrew Lappas, P Ryan Carroll.

Wilton: P Billy Black, P Ben Rusin, P Gyan Gabrielle, P Cole Lipsky, OF Matt D’Elisa, OF Drew Connolly, OF Henry Strmecki, IF  Jack Dooley, 2B Colin Kahal, SS Dillon Lifieri, 3B Kyle Phillips, C Jack DiNanno.

(Teams missing did not reply to requests for information.)