SWC BASEBALL PREVIEW: Who will catch fire in the end?
Like in so many prior years, whoever gets hot at the right time will walk away with the SWC baseball championship.
Last season it was Newtown that caught lightning in a bottle, reeling off three straight wins and another in states after an 11-9 regular season. The year before it was eighth-seeded New Fairfield that snuck in and went the distance.
Most of the clubs in the conference are equally capable of collecting championship medals when the temperature heats up in May, and nearly every squad has legitimate hopes of reaching the field of eight. And when you get there, seeds can be thrown out the window.
The SWC is looking to snap a long state title drought: Pomperaug was the last conference team to win a title, claiming Class LL in 2010.
The league is loaded with talented catchers, as Brookfield’s John Garizio, Immaculate’s Mat Giorgio, New Fairfield’s Jared O’Conner and Newtown’s Ben Harrison are just four of many backstops who are vital contributors to their respective teams.
The season for several teams began Saturday. Let’s take a quick look at the league:
TOP PLAYERS BY TEAM
Bunnell: P/INF Tyler Vancho, P/OF Alex Koletar, C/OF Justin Herrera, P/1B Colin Richards
Joel Barlow: P Jacob Lenes, INF Ryan Prather, OF Kyle Andreoli.
Masuk: INF/P Nick Lorusso P Mike Marella, OF Chris Nicolia C Enzo Merlonghi P/OF Josh Wittenberg
New Fairfield: INF/P Sean King, C Jared O’Connor, OF/P Vincenzo Dimaggio, OF Sean Jamieson
New Milford: C Derek Profita, OF Austin Swanson, P Tim Ciancolo P/IF Chris Gesualdi P/OF Zach Prahach P Kyle Fabich INF Colin Lindner IN/P Ben Silver
Newtown: P Kyle Roche P Orlando Swift, C Ben Harrison, INF Todd Petersen
Pomperaug: OF Zach McGettigan, INF/P Will McDonald, C Nick Hebert, INF Ryan Loiselle, P Matt Lenczewski, P Jake Veillette
Bethel: INF/C Brain Ridzik OF Liam Ford OF/P Tyler Davis, INF Jack Carraturo, INF Jaxon Millet
Brookfield: C John Garizio, P/OF Michael Kolf SS Billy Oldham OF/P Cameron Gleichauf, INF/P Anthony Rendino, OF Jaychi Levi
Immaculate: C Matt Giorgio, P Matt Brugnatelli, P Andrew Chiodi, Christian Johnson
Kolbe Cathedral: OF Demetrius Gordon
Notre Dame: P/INF Dillon Higgins, P/INF Pete Minore, INF Bob Karosy, INF/P Jeremy Tierney, C Jacob Rainey, P/OF Austin Allen, P/INF Tyler Romano, P/OF Brian Teskey.
Stratford: INF/P Brendan Duffy, OF/P Zack Fedak, OF Kevan Duffy
Weston: INF Dan Covino, INF Will Valella, C Jake Cavicchia, P Daniel Olin, INF Daniel Santa Maria, Will Bunkoci
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
NICK LORUSSO, MASUK: Perhaps the most talented player in the conference, Lorusso starred at the plate and on the mound for the Panthers last season, posting a 0.59 ERA while batting .357. Committed to Villanova.
DAN COVINO, WESTON: One of the top hitters in the league batted .400 last year while playing second base. The Trojans will be a serious threat to claim their first league title since 2013. Committed to Central Connecticut.
TYLER DAVIS, BETHEL: The do-it-all senior for the Wildcats hit .359 a year ago while delivering several key performances on the hill. Committed to Endicott.
MATT GIORGIO, IMMACULATE: The Mustangs could be one of the league’s dark horses this season, and the standout catcher is a big reason why. A first team All-SWC selection as a junior. Committed to Wesleyan.
ORLANDO SWIFT, NEWTOWN: Should form a two-headed monster at starting pitcher with Kyle Roche, Swift hurled five shutout innings in last season’s SWC final and began last season with a shutout against Staples.
FIVE TEAMS TO WATCH
BETHEL: Though several key pieces departed, the Wildcats bring back a ton of experience and hopes of winning their first SWC title since 2005. The Wildcats carry seven seniors, including Liam Ford, Davis and Brian Ridzik. Bethel reached the SWC final as a four seed last season, though replacing the talented graduated duo of Ben Brod and Kyle Brelling will be a challenge.
NEWTOWN: The defending champions return a host of talent, including infielder Todd Petersen. The last time he was wearing Newtown blue, Petersen was named MVP of the New England Regional as the town’s 15U Babe Ruth team reached the World Series. Several other league coaches pegged the Nighthawks as the league favorite.
MASUK: Strong year in and year out, 2018 will be no exception. The Panthers are loaded with talent including Lorusso, Enzo Merlonghi and Chris Nicolia. Lorusso and Mike Marella will be a formidable 1-2 punch on the hill. Masuk — which has won at least 16 games the last four years — last won the league in 2015.
ND-FAIRFIELD: One of the more intriguing teams in the league, the Lancers went 14-9 with a host of close losses a year ago and return much of its lineup this time around. Dillion Higgins will be the ace of the staff, while Peter Minore and Bob Karosy will man key infield positions. The Lancers have finished over .500 in four of Bill Mazzucco’s five years with the team.
NEW MILFORD: The Green Wave found out last season how meaningless seedings meant as they earned the SWC regular season title before bowing out in the first round, and lost in the second round of states as a No. 4 seed. But New Milford has a sparkling 37-12 record over the past two years and is due for things to break its way in the postseason. A strong group led by Derek Profita, Tim Ciancolo and Colin Lindner should have the Green Wave near the top of the standings again.
FIVE GAMES TO WATCH
NEW FAIRFIELD AT MASUK, APRIL 9: A tough league opener for the Rebels, who made a surprising run in the Class L playoffs before falling in the quarterfinals. An early test for both.
ND-FAIRFIELD AT MASUK, APRIL 20: Another matchup between two title hopefuls; the Panthers won the matchup 12-5 a year ago. The game is the last of six in a row at home for Masuk.
NEW MILFORD AT NEWTOWN, APRIL 25: Two of the top teams in the league could be battling for first place in the standings all spring.
IMMACULATE AT BETHEL, MAY 14: The Mustangs hope there’s something on the line by the time this one — which comes in a stretch of four games in seven days — rolls around.
BROOKFIELD AT WESTON, MAY 15: The Bobcats are always a competitive squad and one of many hopefuls to reach the postseason. The regular season finale for both squads could be crucial.