THS Baseball Retools and Seeks NVL Title. Preview from John Torsiello.
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
The Torrington High school baseball team is hoping for a much faster start to the season than it had in 2014 when the Raiders stumbled out of the batter’s box in early April.
And if THS can get its motor running off the line in 2015, who knows what good things lay ahead for head coach Pat Richardson’s team.
The Raiders lost their first three games of the 2014 campaign, one by a lopsided score of 28-14 to St. Paul Catholic in the season opener at Fuessenich Park before righting the ship.
The Raiders won two of their next three games and then reeled off eight straight wins and finished the regular season capturing 13 of its final 14 games to win the Naugatuck Valley League Copper Division and reach the finals of the NVL Tournament, where it was ousted by eventual champ Holy Cross when the Crusaders’ Kyle Skidmore outdueled Torrington’s Shane Bierfeldt.
While four teams entered the final week of play in last year’s regular season with a chance at the Copper Division baseball title, it was Torrington that won three league games in three days to earn the honor. The Red Raiders’ final stretch included an 11-5, come-from-behind victory over rival Naugatuck. Mitch Zagrodnik went 3-for-3 with two runs scored, while Ben Thompson doubled twice and batted in three runs to lead Torrington to the home win.
Bierfeldt hurled a three-hitter as Torrington defeated Sacred Heart, 7-1, the following day, to take a one-game lead over Holy Cross and Naugatuck with one contest remaining. Torrington then clinched the division with a 10-3 defeat of Wilby at Bucks Hill Park, with Jason Vinisko knocking in three runs and earning the pitching win.
The Raiders finished 10-2 in the Cooper Division, 14-5 in the NVL (tied for second best behind Seymour) and was 17-7 overall after winning a game in the NVL Tournament and one in the state Class L tourney. The Raiders beat Bethel, 2-1, in the first round of the state tournament before losing to Maloney, 5-2, in the second round.
Richardson said his team’s goals are lofty against this spring.
“We hope to contend for division, league and state titles. The key to our success is to play fundamentally sound baseball, while our young pitchers emerge to compete at the varsity level.”
Torrington did suffer some key losses to graduation, namely James McCarthy and Stanley Rijo, All-Copper Division selections, along with Bierfeldt, Zagrodnik and Thompson.
But Richardson has some top returnees with which to make a run at the NVL top spot this season. Back are senior infielder Ben Bonvicini, senior pitcher Josh Rubino, senior outfielder Manny Rijo, senior infielder/outfielder Nick Santillo, senior pitcher/outfielder P.J. Kilmartin, senior pitcher Anthony Pandolfo, juniors Nathan Manchester, a hurler, and Kobe Covington, an infielder, and sophomore outfielder Dom Sabia.
Up and coming players include sophomores Jason Vinisko (pitcher), Nick Dallavalle (infielder), Marcus Bloom (infielder), Tyler Troth (pitcher/outfielder), Delvin Alvarez (pitcher/infielder) Ben Vanotti (pitcher/outfielder), Jake Reynolds (outfielder), Tim Latosek (infielder/outfielder), and freshman Cameron Cerruto, a catcher.
Bonvicini hit .356 last season with a team-high 24 RBI, Rubino was 2-1 on the mound, Rijo hit .288 with 11 RBI, Manchester hit .386, Covington was at .355, Vinsko hit .300 in limited at bats and was 3-1 with a save, and Sabia hit a lofty .422 with 13 doubles and 20 runs scored.
“A strength this year will be our pitching,” says Richardson, “We have several players that will see mound time this season. We have a nice mix of youth and experience. We are healthy overall going into the season with just some minor injuries and illness.”
This is Richardson’s fifth year with Torrington after coaching Housatonic for two years.
The NVL should once again be one of the best baseball circuits in the state. Last year, 11 teams qualified for the state tournament at various levels and no fewer than eight teams had a .500 record or better, including Torrington, Holy Cross, Seymour, Derby, St. Paul, Woodland, Naugatuck and Ansonia.
Holy Cross lost two of its top players, including Skidmore and Ben Brown, who was the league tournament’s Most Valuable Player last year. But the Crusaders are always tough. Seymour, Derby, St. Paul and Naugatuck also look like teams to beat this spring. Torrington will compete in the newly formed Iron Division.
The Raiders hope to again be a team that can score runs as well as pitch, as it did last season when it scored 10 or more runs eight times during the regular season. The pitching and defense improved dramatically as the season wore on, with THS allowing two runs or less in eight games, including three shutouts.
The Raiders open up their season Wednesday with a game against Woodland on the road. THS opens its home schedule Friday with a non-league contest against Nonnewaug of the Berkshire League. Then it has big games against Derby on the road Saturday, and Holy Cross and Seymour at Fuessenich Park on April 13 and 15 respectively.