Baseball

Preview: Staples Opens In Lead Role, But Many Contenders For The Throne

Alex Deutsch played a big role in Staples’ league and state title runs as a sophomore. (Mark Conrad)

Baseball is back.

After a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the first new season in two years begins Saturday, with the expectations that the sport will pick up where it left off.

That means there will be more players headed to the top programs in Division I and, more importantly, more players headed to play at the next level.

The word this spring is pitching. Most teams seem to have one or two strong starters and depth.

As for the contenders, there are a lot of unknowns, with few juniors and seniors returning with much experience. Polling coaches for their picks of the top five teams, only five of the 16 schools did not get a mention.

Staples is the defending FCIAC and Class LL champion and the No. 1 team in the GameTime preseason poll. The Wreckers are a good starting point as we finally get to look ahead instead of behind.

Preseason No. 1

Staples. You could call this the safe play, with so much uncertainty look to the league’s strongest program when we left off. But the Wreckers are poised to pick up where they left off, which was winning the state title. They have the arms, led by Seton Hall-bound Carter Kelsey, Justin Lessing and Alex Deutsch, who was 4-0 in 2019 and had some big wins. First baseman Matt Spada and shortstop Alex Oppenheimer are two more players to watch.

Teams 2-5

Fairfield Warde. The Mustangs were a .500 team when we last saw them, but they are poised to make a run at their first league title since 2014. Catcher Roman DiGiacomo, who has committed to Duke, is a Player of the Year candidate, while outfielder John Heitzman should be one of the top hitters. Warde has a lot of arms and a lot of depth.

Trumbull. The Eagles are another safe play in a sea of question marks. They last won a league title in 2012 but have been to three finals since. Outfielders Ray Leonzi and Luke Masiuk will pace the offense, while Bryan Kraus leads one of the league’s deepest pitching staffs.

Greenwich. The Cardinals have hugged the line of being a game or two above or below the .500 mark for several years. This could be the season they make a leap into title contention, led by Vanderbilt-bound ace Miles Langhorne. Shortstop Christian Mingione is another standout.

Darien. The Blue Wave won two of the previous four league titles and look to be positioned to make another run. Transfer Jake Horowitz will have an impact on the mound and in the field. Karson Drake saw some time on the mound as a freshman and the Blue Wave are strong up the middle.

20 Players To Watch

  • Luke Barrientos, Ridgefield
  • Jackson Ciccone, Danbury
  • Roman DiGiacomo, Fairfield Warde
  • John Heitzman, Fairfield Warde
  • Jake Horowitz, Darien
  • Carter Kelsey, Staples
  • Miles Langhorne, Greenwich
  • Ray Leonzi, Trumbull
  • Matt Longo, Fairfield Ludlowe
  • Luke Masiuk, Trumbull
  • Pete Meyerson, Brien McMahon
  • Alex Oppenheimer, Staples
  • Craig Ottaviano, Westhill
  • Ryan Perez, Greenwich
  • Zach Ramppen, New Canaan
  • Matt Spada, Staples
  • Sam Strazza, Wilton
  • Matt Vivona, Fairfield Ludlowe
  • Jack Wallace, St. Joseph
  • Vance Ward, Norwalk

The Lineups

Danbury: 1B Nick Smith, 2B Kai O’Dell, SS Thailer Sestokas, 3B Alex Nunez, LF Jackson Ciccone, CF Sean Murphy, RF Eric McNamara, C Andrew Shafto,
P Ryan Delillo, P Andrew Melody, P Aiden Heferle, P Nick Parker, P Thailer Sestokis, P Marcus Marivilla, P Mason Rodrigues.

Darien: SS/CF Andre Briganti, P/1B Karson Drake, IF/P Frank Drugge, UT/P Jake Horowitz, OF Carson Kelley.

Fairfield Ludlowe: 1B Reese Palumbo, 1B Matt Longo, 2B Rhys Davies, SS Matt Vivona, 3B Justin Dennett, LF Ben Gaffney, CF Drew Buckley, RF Charlie Mulhall, OF Andrew Fortunato, C/DH Christian Smith, C/DH Noah Shaper, P Matt Longo.

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Fairfield Warde: C Roman DiGiacomo, 1B/P Zach Broderick, 2B Jack Andrews, SS Garrett Larsen, 3B/P Griffin Polley, OF Sam Swanson, OF Declan O’Hara, OF John Heitzman, OF Jake Balogh, OF/P Paddy Galvin, OF Jack Fitzpatrick, DH/1B/C Jack Corcoran, P Edmund Hogan, P Jack Passeck, P Elliott Hyde, P Brady Pomer, P Nick Hios, P Jim Kennelly, P Will Stellato, P Jake Harmony.

Greenwich: P Miles Langhorne, P Carson Bylciw, P/2B Tommy Healey, P Nathan Jones, P/LF John McGrath, P/1B Cage Lasley, P Michael Rose, P Matt Chioditti, P/UTL Auggie Bancroft, P/SS Christian Mingione, C/1B Felipe Echeto, C Jack Zola, C Jaden Lombardi, 2B/SS A.J. Barber, 3B- Justin Zych, LF Jack Zola, CF James Babb, CF Tyler Cusimano, RF Ryan Perez, RF Matias Fernandez.

Brien McMahon: P Mike Berkowitz, P Joey Cambareri, P Jake Pomponi, P Nick Natalie, P Justin McNamara, C Pete Meyerson, C Jose Mendez, INF Kam Walker, INF Cole Forcellina, INF Kevin Pascual, INF Pierce Hingtgen, INF Chris Ely, OF Jose Vasquez, OF Matt Claps, OF Phil Stalzer, OF Eli Good. 

New Canaan: P Tristan Pearl, C Zack Ramppen, 1B Henry Cannon, 2B Alex Benevento, SS Clete Wheeler, 3B Jack O’Donnell, LF Andrew Rashad, CF Matt Balkun, RF Riley Gardiner, RF Luke Hickey.

Norwalk: P Alistair Morin, P/3B Brendan Edvardsen, P/OF Vance Ward, OF Ethan Platt, C Jaden Echevarria, C/UTL Will Arnold, 1B Mitch Stiles, 2B/SS Javier Gonzalez, OF Danny Miller.

Ridgefield: P Luke Barrientos, P Jack Bohrer, P/2B Andrew Castelluccio, P/2B/SS Ben Cherico, P Luke D’Antonio, P Wyatt Jacobson, P John McLoughlin, C/3B Liam Bohrer, C Aidan Stern, C Jason Hartnett, 1B Luke D’Antonio,1B/3B Andrew Filippelli, 3B/SS Mitchell Brown, 3B/SS Matthew Bucciero, 2B Justin Leonard, IF Daniel Bucciero, 1B Brendan Busby, 2B Matthew Levy, OF Luke Barrientos, OF Jack Jelkovac, OF Grady Gernert.

St. Joseph: CF Brady Hutchison, C Justin Keeler, 2B Jack Wallace, 1B/P Andew Keeler, 3B/P Matt Tabet, SS William Singewald, OF Chris Simone, P James Fahan, UTL Landon Zdru, UTL Sebastian Sampieri, OF/P Joe Adzima, P Hayden Jamli, OF/DH/P Mike Brown, UTL Nicholas Dreyer.

Stamford: 1B Will Gordon, 2B/P Patrick Teasdale, 2B/OF Avery Mui, SS Matt Farro, 3B/P Diego Wirz, 3B/P Mike Iorfino, C Jeremy Fauci, C Kyle Morrell, OF Jack Hoch, OF Miles Aquila, OF Sean Fenske, P Tyler Restivo.

Staples: 1B Matt Spada, 2B Matt Gervasio, SS Alex Oppenheimer 3B Chris Kennedy, OF Brennan Herold OF Justin Holmes, OF Cam Manna; P Alex Deutsch, P Carter Kelsey, P Justin Lessing.

Trumbull: C Scott Gell, C Henry Honychurch, 1B Dylan Moran, 1B Rob Dunkle, 2B Johnny Bova, SS Jake Gruttadauria, 3B- Kevin Katragadda, 3B Jack Ligouri, LF Justin Delaney, LF/P Connor Johnston, CF Ray Leonzi, RF Luke Masiuk, P Bryan Kraus, P Andrew Harvey, P Joey DeRienzo, P Logan Huzi, P Matt Gay, P Tyler Bashar, P Matt Cummings, P Riley Simpson.

Westhill: P/1B Craig Ottaviano, P/INF Christian Rubino Chuckas, P/INF Jake Benner, C Connor Sullivan, OF Mika Petersen, OF Mike Edwards, OF Nick Montagnese, P Kyle Kipp, P Eric Osterhus, INF/DH Ryan Lee, UTL Ethan Skaug, P Aidan Hamilton, P James Lavelle, OF Omari Lewis, P Ryan Ebright.

Wilton: P Nevin Belanger, P Cameron Case, P Anthony Passiniti, P Cole Silvia, P John McMahon, P Ryan van Heyst, C Chris Jones, C Chris Calderon, C Chris McCann, CF Luca Wetzel, LF Sean Lengyl, LF Ryan Johnson, RF Chris Drummond, RF Kiel Polito, 1B John McMahon, 2B Cole Silvia, SS Sam Strazza, SS Ryan van Heyst, 3B Cameron Case, 3B Ian Kineon.

(Teams missing did not respond to repeated requests for information)