Baseball Preview: FCIAC Is Again Deep — And Full Of Contenders

Chad Knight pitched a complete-game victory for Staples in the state championship game. (Photo: Ellie Kravetz)

While lacrosse has been taking numbers away in many sports, FCIAC baseball is going through a golden era, as evidenced by the many players it is sending off to the college level, including top Division I schools. Last season the league took up three of the four spots in the Class LL semifinals and five of the eight in the quarterfinals.

The level of play will remain high this spring, with quality pitching and hitting. It is likely a dozen teams will be in the hunt for FCIAC Tournament spots, and trying to predict the top seeds from the rest of the pack is more guesswork and looking at historical perspectives. This sport more than any other in the league is where surprises rule.

The Favorite

Staples. As usual there is no clear-cut favorite at this point, so we will give the nod to the defending Class LL champion, which must compensate for a number of losses, the biggest being do-it-all Ben Casparius. The Wreckers have a lot of good players back, headlined by pitcher Chad Knight, who went 5-1 with a 1.95 earned run average and hit .420, with nine home runs. Catcher Matt Stone and centerfielder Chris Drbal are among the best in the league at their positions. A big key will be how a pitching staff strong in numbers but lacking in experience develops.

The Contenders

St. Joseph. The Cadets went 8-12 during the regular season before making a run to the Class M semifinals and losing to eventual champion Waterford. They have one of the most experienced lineups, headlined by first baseman Jim Evans (.387 average, 5 home runs and 26 RBIs), centerfielder Jake DeLeo (.372, 18 RBIs), third baseman Charlie Pagliarini (.346, 6 home runs and 25 RBIs) and transfer Stephen Paolini in the outfield. St. Joseph has four starting pitchers and six relievers, so it is built for success if the performances are as good as the numbers.

Westhill’s Bobby Zmarzlak is one of the state’s best hitters and outfielders. (Photo: Mark Conrad)

Westhill. The Vikings in the big picture had arguably the most impressive accomplishment in the league last year: winning the regular season title. But they were knocked out in the first round of the FCIAC Tournament and then came up on the short end of a 12-11 slugfest against Staples in the state quarterfinals. And now, for the second straight year, they have lost a top pitcher — Montana Semmel — to a season-ending arm injury. The Vikings will look to John MacDonald to lead the pitching staff and outfielder Bobby Zmarzlak to spark the offense. A lot of talent graduated but there is the potential to again be a factor in the playoff race.

Trumbull. The Eagles were hit hard by graduation and will be looking to pitcher Ben Fero and catcher Kevin Bruggeman to lead the way. The Eagles are a program that always reloads, and in what seems to be a common theme, have a number of pitchers that will have to deliver for them to be a factor in the title chase.

Alex Price finished with an 8-1 mark for Ridgefield last season. (Photo: Mark Conrad)

The Sleepers

Darien, Wilton, Ridgefield, New Canaan. It was too difficult a choice which teams to exclude. The Blue Wave will bring Henry Williams and Justin Jordan to the mound, the Warriors lost a lot from their FCIAC championship team and will have to hit, the Tigers are going to be difficult to beat on days Alex Price starts and the Rams could be one of the top offensive teams in the conference. One other school operating under the radar: Danbury. And Norwalk will have two transfer pitchers back at midseason if they can get off to a good start.

Video: FCIAC Baseball Preview (Part 1)

25 Players To Watch

Griffin Arnone, New Canaan
Nate Bozzella, New Canaan
Danny Collazo, Stamford
Jake DeLeo, St. Joseph
Chris Drbal, Staples
Jim Evans, St. Joseph
Ben Fero, Trumbull
Ryan Gabriele, Wilton
Javon Hernandez, Danbury
Justin Jordan, Darien
Chad Knight, Staples
Nico Kydes, Stamford
Dillon Lifrieri, Wilton
Zach Lopez, New Canaan
John MacDonald, Westhill
Kenny Martinez, Danbury
Zach McKay, Fairfield Warde
Marco Monteiro, Norwalk
Sean O’Malley, Darien
Stephen Paoloni, St. Joseph
Alex Price, Ridgefield
Frank Ramppen, New Canaan
Matt Stone, Staples
Henry Williams, Darien
Bobby Zmarziak, Westhill

Shortstop Dillon Lifrieri is back for FCIAC champion Wilton. (Photo: Mark Conrad)

The Lineups

Danbury: P Ryan Solimine, P Justin Solimine, P Rich Wekerle, P/2B Justin Hope, OF Kenny Martinez, OF Devin Trotta, OF Matt Sabine, OF Braylon Suarez, C Josh Lopez, SS Javon Hernandez.

Darien: P/CF Justin Jordan, P/SS Henry Williams, C/DH Sean O’Malley, OF Fin Batson, OF Max Gasvoda, P/IF Justin Van de Graaf, P/OF Jackson Vaught, Util Arthur Xanthos, 2B Nick Conte, IF Mac McLean.

Fairfield Ludlowe: C Jack Knisely, 1B John McMillan, 1B Tom Stasko, 2B Jack Hogarth, 2B Brian Howell, SS/3B Rob Farruggio, SS/3B Patrick Calabrese, 3B James Delmiche, 3B Jack Vogel, P/OF Chris Benton, OF Derek Tallman, P/OF Jake Schwarztstein, P/OF James Fink, OF Trey Hensel, OF Brian Kiremidgian, P/OF Ryan Lilly, P Liam Rosengren, P Matt Micinilio, C/3B Vince Camara, P Mike Randazzo.


Fairfield Warde: P Zach McKay, SS/P Ryan Donnelly, 2B Alex Steele, RF Sam Vincent, C Finn Mobley.

Video: FCIAC Baseball Preview (Part 2)

Greenwich: P Simon Bass, P Alex Roath, P Charlie Zeeve, P Zach Karson, P Luc Thibeault, P Joe Mingione, P/3B Ian Colalucci, P Mitchell Grimes, C/1B Kyle Woodring, 1B Henry Saleeby, 2B Stephen Bennett, 2B/OF Hayden Kistler, SS Matt Circelli, SS Daniel Perez, 3B Chris Genaro, OF Jackson Blanchard, OF Robert Lanni, OF Sean Pratley, OF Henry Jonokuchi, IF Charlie Povinelli.

Brien McMahon: SS/P James Stefanowicz, C Anthony Socci, P/IF Ethan Blattman, IF/CF/P Korey Morton, 1B Chris Ehlers, OF Jake Osborne, OF Jason Thornley, C Chris Clemens, P Frankie Greco, P Max Pomponi, IF Jack Fitzpatrick, IF Cooper Grillo, C Jeff Cocchia, C Brian Ehlers.

New Canaan: C Griffin Arnone, SS Nate Bozzella, RF Kyle deMayo, LF Grant Morse, CF Frank Ramppen, 2B Ryan McAleer, 1B/3B Jack Defrenceaco, 2B/3B Ben Sarda, 1B Jackson Yancy, P Zach Lopez, P Patrick Metzger, DH AJ Rokoczy, DH Chase Fichtner.

Norwalk: P Jack Arnold, P Jake Dumas, P Joe Benincaso, P/3B Clayton Bray, P/3B Scott Whalen, C Marco Monteiro, 1B Ethan Platt, 2B Brendon Edvardsen, SS Mike Boiyon, LF Gavin Key, CF Kyle Gordon, RF Tyler LaFranco.

Ridgefield: P Alex Price, 3B Pete Columbia, SS Matt Stamatis, C Ben Cohen, 2B Quinn McDonald, DH/P Jake Artzt, 1B Nick Cullinan.

St. Joseph: 1B Jim Evans, 2B Owen Horne, 2B Jack Wallace, SS Jack Mathews, 3B Charlie Pagliarini, C Aaron Kirby, CF Jake DeLeo, RF Stephen Paoloni, LF Luke Kirby, P Ben Talbot, P Al Paolozzi, P Hadyn Gourley, P Trent Price, P Antonio Ferraro, P Jim Evans, P Connor  Murphy, P Thomas Agonito, P Michael Chaves, P Ryan Novitski.

Stamford: CF Danny Collazo, C Nico Kydes, 2B/P Matt Wirz, SS David Collazo, P/1B Joey Price, 3B/P/C Jack Palmer, OF Mark Raimondi, P/1B Jay Lockwood, P Matt Tiplady, P/OF Jon Oliveri 3B, P/2B Ross Green.

Staples: C Matt Stone, 1B/P Harry Azadian, 2B Drew Rogers, SS Max Popken, 3B Andrew Moy, 3B Chris Veneruso, CF Chris Drbal, OF Zach Zobel, OF Kevin Rabacs, P Chad Knight, P Jack Portman, P Sam Robin, P Alex Cheema, P Alec Burns.

Trinity Catholic: P Zach Hurd, P David Broncati, P John Petrizzi, CF John Petrizzi, SS Nico Morse, 3B Zach Hurd, 1B Anthony Possidento, C Cole Imbrogno, LF Sam Penseiro, 2B Sammy Santiago.

Trumbull: C Kevin Bruggeman, P Ben Fero, SS Chris Brown, P Jay Chiappetta, P Brandon Bottino, P Ryan Gomes, P Jake Teixeira, P Evan Warner, P Ryan Vawter, OF Tim Lojko, OF Chris Briganti, OF Justin Nyarady, 3B Ben Micinilio.

Westhill: P John MacDonald, IF/P Leo Socci, SS TJ Wainwright, OF Bobby Zmarzlak, P Charles Olsen, P Andrew Lappas, P Ryan Carrol, P Chris Candito, 1B Zac Feinstein, 3B Jason Bria, C Alex Cordone, OF Sammy Spingola, P/OF Geoge Psicopaidas, IF Noah Skaug, 1B Joe Gambino, 3B Shane Hackett.

Wilton: C Jack DiNanno, P Ryan Gabriele, SS Dillon Lifrieri, 3B Kyle Phillips, 2B, Drew Phillps, 1B Cole Judelson, P Brendan Skewis, P Anthony Passiniti, OF Parker Ward, OF Dominic Romeo, OF Chris Tienken, OF Will Holmquist, OF Johnny Maggio, OF Olin Lancaster, P Colin Tiedjen.