Friday, May 24, 2019

A Re-Introduction and Renewal

Life has changed significantly for me since I last posted a blog, as life is prone to do over 10 years.

A torn meniscus in my right knee and psoriatic arthritis effectively ended my days as a sports writer/reporter in the scholastic domain in January, 2018.  I was ready for it anyway having passed my 65th birthday and growing weary of contemporary journalistic principles.

Sports reporting today is rife with rumor-mongering, speculation and conjecture, a far cry from what enticed me to the medium as a child and student.  I was always anxious to research news-oriented stories and feature pieces on worthy scholastic athletes as a service to the reader.  Any speculation or opinion on my part was limited to columns with my photo on top, an indication that what was written below was not necessarily the opinion of my newspaper du jour.

For example, The Hartford Courant today (May 13, 2019) ran a story from The Washington Post that erstwhile Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving being reunited with Lebron James for the Los Angeles Lakers "could be on the table."

Sure it could be, but I wonder if that table has one, two or three legs because it sure doesn't come your way from the steady sphere of reality.  The writer indicated her source was an ESPN commentator speculating on his radio show.  Aha!  We know that this yap crap on radio, television and sprinkled liberally across the internet is essential to drawing clicks, page views or whatever it is that the media thrive upon today so they can mislead advertisers and retain their shrinking niche in American culture.

I see it ad nauseum in forums that once reported the truth and I don't have the slightest inclination to be any part of that.  Writers that can't match the tense of their verbs to their subjects go off on absurd tangents and bend their opinions to lure unsuspecting readers searching for positive reinforcement about their teams.  I've heard it referred to as "click bait" -- websites needing a reaffirmation of relevancy to lure in advertisers.  They'll mislead the reader in any way they can to get that page view.

Kyrie purportedly is joining the Lakers because he and Lebron were seen chatting with their lips shielded to prevent lip-readers from eavesdropping?  Surely they were talking about reuniting after their uneasy existence in Cleveland, right ESPN?  Hey, I think Kyrie could have just as easily been asking Lebron what he thought of the Peloponnesian Wars and their effect on modern-day Greece.

Greece, as in slippery slope?  Yeah, I'd apply that to the piece of dreck in The Courant.  If Kyrie should end up playing elsewhere or stay in Boston, does the Post and Courant have to print retractions?  Thankfully not because retractions would fill the space every day.

So, I've removed myself from the scene.  What little is available on scholastic sports no longer piques my interest.  My intense interest in minor league baseball for over 30 years left my consciousness when the Eastern League departed New Britain under venal circumstances.  What the hell is a Yard Goat anyway and what does it have to do with Hartford?  I have not even been to Dunkin' Donuts Park.

The downside of my reclusive mantra is that I had made some sincere friends and had the pleasure of entertaining discerning readers who must wonder what the heck happened to me.

Well, I've had about a year-and-a-half to contemplate where I'd like my life to go, and I know that writing should be a part of it.  Some small media outlets and internet concerns inquired about my availability but sheepishly asked if I'd be willing to write for free.  While money has never been a big issue with me, I'm heavily into respect.  Respect for a gift that God was good enough to grant me.  Respect for my opinions that are probably not shared by many but are nonetheless my intellectual property to project as I see fit.  If I'm going to write for free, I'm not going to conduct interviews and run up mileage on my 14-year-old Avalanche.  If my opinions send you scooting for the "ist" page (you know, sexist, misogynist, racist), too bad.

I cannot readily opine on scholastic sports or the minor leagues anymore since I'm removed from those realms.  I do enjoy my sports on television -- most notably basketball because I'm completely averse to what Major League Baseball has become.  I enjoy interjecting my opinions on related matters.

So is Kyrie going to the Lakers?  Is the sun going to be shining on my birthday in August?  What will swallow us first, the pathetic financial condition of our state or the hideous specter global warming that no amount of money or attention can alter?  Heck, I don't know.  Kyrie doesn't know.  ESPN doesn't know, and The Washington Post must have other assignments into which its sports reporters can delve.

I'm not going to offer the same unsubstantiated junk here, and whether or not people want to read it is up to them.  I'm just going to use this space to let off some steam, sports-related or otherwise, and those who wish to read along, you're welcome.  Those who don't like it, simply use your ESC key.

Friday, January 30, 2015

"BLOUNT-LY" SPEAKING, HYPE IS HORRIBLE


Aah, what a great time of the year it is!
To augment the joy we derive by straining our back muscles shoveling away a foot of “global warming,” we get to sit in front of the fireplace and read the latest Super Bowl hype. And you thought the expense of newsprint was one reason why everything is shifting toward digital. How can they fill column space with such drivel?
In its never-ending urgency to create the news instead of report on it, the media inflates (no, I won’t go there again) the saga surrounding LeGarrette Blount’s commentary about the Patriots’ defense not being immortal. It conjures up the notion of reporters scrambling to satisfy the concept that they even need to be on-site a week before this overblown affair.
But, the reporters are just doing what they have to do, and modern-day mainstream America has such an unquenchable thirst for soap-opera antics.
The Pats’ running back, who wore out his welcome in Pittsburgh, said the Patriots’ defense is not immortal. I’m neither an anatomist nor a pathologist but human beings, and thus the grouping of human beings, do not live forever. He stated the obvious. If that’s all there is to write about, leave the column space for something important, like some questions and answers about strategy.
Given the subject matter of Blount’s views on immortality, I can understand why his gregarious Seattle counterpart Marshawn Lynch lampoons the pregame falderal, although I wouldn’t condone his methods. What is there to say? Do we really need to know who Brady’s favorite actor is and what he eats for Christmas dinner?
I’m glad I don’t have to cover that junk. If I did, I’d become a gentleman farmer.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

MY LOVE IS STRONGER THAN MY FEAR OF DEATH

The tale of 2 men who lovingly touched so many lives

The obituary page in Wednesday's Hartford Courant told a sobering story of two men taken from us who did everything in their power to make life better in the greater Bristol area and beyond.

Francis W. Mullins, 89, and Theodore C. Scheidel, Jr., 69, have passed on and many people are so much the better having known them and benefitted from their munificence.

Fran Mullins served the American Legion baseball program in Connecticut for 60 years, but even moreso in Bristol and the surrounding area covered in Zone 1.  Teddy Scheidel, perhaps the most dedicated public servant I've ever seen grace a local stage, was Burlington's first selectman for 26 years.

The highlights of their stories confirm that they knew each other.  Mullins was the personification of the Legion program and all for which it stood having served as state tournament director and Zone 1 chairman. Among the many legacies Scheidel left us was a Legion team that he initiated in 1999 and lovingly helped administer until 2012.

I am so glad that I nominated Mullins for the Connecticut Sports Writers' Alliance in 2006.  I vividly recall the conversation I had with him when I told him that he would be receiving a John Wentworth Good Sport Award, emblematic of giving back to the community through sports.  

Phone calls generally drip with the commonplace, sometimes sad, but rarely do you get to make them to tell a worthy person that he or she is being honored.  The awestruck nature of Fran's response is the full reason behind why I treasure my work with the Alliance.  Rarely do you have such an opportunity to spread some joy in a person's life while reaping financial byproducts that help put aspiring sports journalists through college.

I knew Scheidel much better.  

When I first moved to the region in 1990 and was looking for work, I hooked on with The Bristol Press as a freelance writer.  Naturally, my goal was to become a sports writer but I welcomed the challenge put forth by suburban editor Linda Smith when she asked if I would cover the Town of Burlington.

I called Teddy's office to gain some background, made an appointment at the new Town Hall that he was so instrumental in building.  When I walked out, I had a new friend.  He always wanted to please people, an element so tragically diminishing as people move faster and faster through the pages of their lives.  

When I told him of my dedication to baseball, he told me that he was a diehard Dodger fan, dating back tothe days of his boyhood when the team was in Brooklyn.  He related a story of how his father took him to games and the thrill of rooting for Gil Hodges and Duke Snider.  I'm sure an L.A. Dodger cap is in the keepsakes he leaves behind.

His willingness to share his knowledge with a struggling reporter trying to make an impact in town affairs was remarkable.  Years later, he still remembered my name.  I recall his coming to a New Britain Rock Cats game, an encounter which enabled us to rekindle our friendship.

He spoke of days at his beloved Lake Waramaug with his dear friend Denise.  When he spoke of her, he reminded me so much of the "Moonlight" Graham character in "Field of Dreams" played so exquisitely by Burt Lancaster and the familiar way he referred to his wife. 

"I've got to be getting home. Alicia will think I have a girlfriend," he said with a wink and that broad Lancaster smile.

In that respect, Teddy's story all comes together.  The Legion ball team.  Nassahegan Athletic Fields.  A love of baseball.  A sincere familiarity in the way he shaped his words that made everybody feel like they were among his closest friends.

The way a man dies isn't nearly as important as the way he lived.  The emphasis in the lives of Fran Mullins and Ted Scheidel are reflected in what they gave to others, and no man could strive for a greater legacy.



Monday, July 22, 2013

GROWING WITH THE CHANGES

"Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights."


I actually saw this marvelous quote when I searched the internet for something that would define the last few years of my professional life.  Imagine my surprise when I found that this was the intellectual property of a friend -- Pauline R. Kezer -- tossed in among words of wisdom from people like Einstein, Churchill and Shakespeare.

Pauline was Secreatry of State from 1990-94.  I met her through her husband Ken, the former New Britain High baseball coach who became a friend during my 15-year tenure at the New Britain Herald.  That kind of brings the parameters of this blog full circle.

I've never responded well to change.  When I went from two pillows to one, I couldn't sleep.  When I went from Hellman's Mayonnaise to Miracle Whip, I could no longer eat tuna salad.  When I go from the comfortable confines of my Chevy Avalanche and to my wife's claustrophobic Honda to save money on gasoline, I wind up needing a chiropractic adjustment.

Man do I hate change, but when it comes to my professional career, the latest one has become a Godsend. I hope the CFO at my new newspaper, the Meriden Record-Journal, doesn't see this because he may want to reduce my salary, but I'm loving this.

I left the Herald in November, 2010 for a crack at running a weekly sports sections for the [Farmington] Valley Press/West Hartford Press.  I enjoyed the writing and the reporting.  The people of those towns reacted extremely well to my work.  But all that gets nullified when you have a nitpicking psychotic for a publisher who almost drove that baby into the ground.

By June, 2011, I was washing my hands of that awful experiment and began freelancing.  Freelancing is great if you're financially set and the opiate of seeing your name in print just refuses to ebb, but when you can use the cash and you have to keep searching for work, it's a tough racket.

I worked for some great papers, like the Portland (Maine) Press-Herald, the Worcester (Mass.) Telegram, the Union Leader in New Hampshire, to name a few.  I've worked for others who have taken their time about paying, which means I have to lean back on the days working at my parents' collection bureau to get the funds due me.

That's all gone now.  Employment at the MRJ is a blessing, and I'm trying my very best to churn out quality stories for my new readers.  The one overlap with my past is Southington, which in my opinion ranks among the top 10 sports towns in the state.  When it comes to the rest of the circulation area -- Meriden, Cheshire and Wallingford -- I'm a newcomer.  Being a native of nearby Hamden has helped with the transition.

Inevitably what makes or breaks a job experience are the people with whom you work, particularly those who make the decisions.  Personally, I've found it unsettling to be a boss in this business.  I'd prefer to concentrate on my own work and be a viable part of a dynamic team and that's what it's all about in Meriden.

The sports editor is Bryant Carpenter.  I've known Bryant for more than 10 years.  We crossed paths in the field when teams from our respective circulation areas clashed and we developed a mutual respect.  Working on the same team with him is a treat because of his deep respect for his colleagues and genuinely good- natured demeanor.

It sounds like a basic thing, but today's younger generation seems to rank power above people.  Working relationships are hard to foster when the person at the top is bent on reinforcing the hierarchy instead of focusing on the product.  Some power-mongers are subtle, others blatantly overbearing, but neither approach works well with me.  At MRJ, we're all working together and that means happy days for our readers.  I've been working in this business for more than 20 years and it's nice when somebody asks for my opinion or my help instead of playing dictator like the charlatan at my previous full-time stop.  I know it sounds ultra-corny but a happy employee is a productive employee.

The third member of our writing team is Sean Kroffsik and a nicer guy you'll never meet.  I've know Seanie for awhile and I've never heard him say a bad work about anybody, nor has anybody I know ever said a bad word about him.  I'd have to work awful hard at being nice to develop that kind of personality but it comes naturally for Sean.  Lord knows I've failed at it since I know of a few people who would gladly take away my second pillow and put Miracle Whip on my turkey sandwich if they had the chance.  And those are only the ones I know.

The two guys who work on the desk are George Dalek and Paul Rosano, and they're great guys, too.  They have to be to wade through my copy, eliminate some of the flowery adjectives and toss out the typos.  A tip of the chapeau to the talented guy I replaced, John Petit.  Filling John's shoes isn't easy because he's so talented and so passionate.

Folks who know me know I'm heavily into history.  Through five years at the Bristol Press and 15 at the Herald, put together volumes of copious notes on sports at the local schools.  When I went to the weeklies, I began accumulating information on Simsbury, Avon, Granby, Canton and West Hartford.  My time in West Hartford was particularly heartwarming.  I am missing my friends there and come the fall, I'm going to miss the awesome coaches at Conard, Hall and Northwest Catholic.

But as the old door closes, new ones open.  I get to work with some pretty great athletic directors and coaches at my new schools with whom I've made acquaintance.  It'll take some time to revise my history books but I'll get her done.

I hope y'all will stay with me for what I hope is the final chapter of my career.  I have a feeling we're going to enjoy some memorable times and I'd like you to be on board.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

NOSTALGIA IN THE OLD HOMETOWN

It’s Father’s Day and I’m trying to figure out why we get more nostalgic as time goes by.  Is it simply a consequence of chronology – we’re spending more and more time here so we leave more and more footprints?  Yet surely the majority of people think about nothing but the moment.
I raise my glass to my Facebook friends who lean toward the nostalgic, with special thanks to Mr. Hamden Plains, Ralph Santoro.  Ralph is one of those guys who I didn’t spend enough time with – he was chillin’ on Church Street while my boys and I were bombin’ around on Belden Road.
Ralphie was astute enough to get interested in photography and almost always had a camera slung over his shoulder when I’d run into him at those great places we went back in the 1970s.  Consequently, he snapped a few of me during a time when I wasn’t doing a heck of a lot of posing.  Photos of me in my 20s are pretty darned rare.
Through the miracle of Facebook, scanners and Ralph’s diligence, I was flipping through his collection of Hamden nostalgia and readily recognized so many of my old friends.  Most of them I haven’t seen in 20 to 30 years like that wild bunch of Spring Glen guys – the Lee brothers, the Boyle brothers.  Some of them I see from time to time, like Brooksvale Park caretaker and good buddy Vin Lavorgna and Billy Mezzano.
A few of the guys pictured are sadly gone at much too young an age.  Gary Conte, half-brother of one of my best friends Andy Vas, perished in a Long Island Sound boat mishap along with Paul Mangan, Billy Ford and Billy Collake on Memorial Day 1975.  That’s nearly 40 years ago, and their faces are etched in my mind.
Another wonderful guy – Joe Gambardella, brother of Andy and Leo – passed away within the year.  I spent many happy hours with the Gambardellas at their house that was demolished so Dunkin’ Donuts would have more parking spaces.  Ralph remembers.  So does my dear friend Sharon Davis, who married Andy G.  It pains me that I haven’t heard from Sharon in about 40 years, but shift happens.
Next Saturday (June 22), Hamden will be the scene of two nostalgic shindigs.  A group of guys led by Belden Road’s own Pete Sportino founded The Mighty Metropolis group of Facebook, which is now more than 1,700 members strong.  We had a get-together at Glenwood (best hot dogs on Planet Earth; where Hamdenites will always find an old friend) and now we’re re-convening at Brooksvale Park (10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) where Ranger Vinny certainly will be a gracious host.
The Hamden Plains Park Reunion is scheduled to take place at Outer Space, 295 Treadwell Street, Hamden from 4 to 7 p.m.  Live music will be provided by The Slides (original rock) and Broadway Hearts (piano-based rock).  I’d like to hit both but sometimes life intervenes.
Back to Ralphie’s photos … .  The old block on Dixwell Avenue where the Strand Theater once stood tugged at the heart strings.  I remember when sister Marji used to work there and we’d take in all the hits of the day – “Deliverance” and “The Poseidon Adventure” come to mind.  I can still smell that delectable combination of mildew blended with stale popcorn bathed in that exquisite drawn butter.  If Yankee Candle Company had that scent, I’d have to get a few.
He’s got photos of his mother Myra and the dance studio she ran on Church Street, including the newspaper clipping about Little Ralphie making his stage debut at Oakdale when he was 5.  That’s where he gets that dynamic stage presence he exhibits during his musical gigs. 
The photos from the Blizzard of ’78 were classic.  That’s when my Datsun got buried under a snow bank and I went without a vehicle for quite a spell. 
My old buddy Vinny “Bear” Pantera made sure I got to work at the Hamden Public Works Department every day.  Geez, I hope I thanked him enough.  Thought I saw Vinny one day a few years back when I was covering Rock Cats baseball, but it was his twin brother Mike.  That’s a mistake anybody can make.
Vinny played hockey for Hamden High during the years before Fairfield Prep made recruiting a priority.  I remember the twin rinks on Sherman Avenue hosting a team from Sweden and the place being packed.  Ah, the days when high school sports drew a crowd!  Vinny was a burly defensemen who patrolled a section of the ice where no West Haven forward would care to tread.
I can’t continue without paying homage to the Shultz clan.  Big Kirk and Little Richie, are the twins that look nothing alike.  Younger brother Scott yearned for the city life.  Youngest brother Bruce lives on a ranch in Montana. 
Middle brother Craig settled down in Hometown on followed in father Dutch’s footprints by pouring out his heart to youth sports, primarily girls basketball.  I remember when Craig took up lacrosse.  I wondered what the heck he would do that for.  Now, all these years later, I’ve covered my share of lacrosse and fully comprehend how he got attached to the sport.
Hey, I know I’ve missed a lot of good times and great people, particularly the great days when The Family – Ron Sambrook, Andy Vas, Johnny Coassin and Ray DeAngelis and I – were wandering Grateful Dead Heads.  The Great Bus Ride to see Jerry Garcia at Waterbury’s Palace Theater, courtesy of Ken Dubin, was a classic.  A longer one all the way to Norfolk, Va., courtesy of Lenny Young, was even crazier since it was something like 20 hours round trip. 

Thanks for letting me spout.  On this Father’s Day, I urge you to remember your families, remember your friends, remember those who have passed before us and do something nostalgic.  

Sunday, June 2, 2013

HARRIS LOWERS THE BOOM ON HIGHER SEED

(Berlin Citizen exclusive)
VERNON  – The clouds were gathering in the first inning.
The Berlin High softball team used its patented small-ball style of offense to load the bases with no outs, but Rockville’s All-State pitcher Kaitlyn Lajoie struck out the third and fourth hitters in the Redcoats order.
Early momentum, so vital in a game where runs would almost surely be at a premium, was hanging in the balance. Exactly which way the game would turn rested with the next hitter, pitcher Makayla Harris.
Harris consummated a long at-bat with a two-run double to left and went on to pitch a gem in a 3-0 whitewash of the defending Class L champion and third-seeded Rams in a quarterfinal clash May 31 in the stifling heat at Rockville High School.
The memory of last year’s tournament ouster was thick in the air.
The sixth-seeded Redcoats were one pitch away from securing a second-round win at Brookfield 364 days earlier, but wound up losing 3-2 in eight innings. Berlin coach Jason Pires analyzed the game ad nauseam and took full responsibility. Harris, just a sophomore at the time, gained the kind of experience that nothing but playing the game can teach.
“I’d be lying if I said last year didn’t cross my mind when the bottom of the seventh started,” Pires said. “We’re not that team. I knew it wouldn’t happen again. I knew we were winning this game when it got to the seventh.”
Lajoie and Harris waged a memorable battle as opposing pitchers. Each gave up only three hits. Neither issued any walks. Lajoie struck out 10 and Harris countered with nine. The first inning at-bat was a microcosm of their personal battle.
Brittany Sullivan began the game by beating out a bunt. Megan Wicander tapped back to the mound but with the first baseman charging, the bag was left uncovered. Courtney Silvia slapped a grounder toward the hole. Third baseman Megan Gardiner made a diving stop, but Sullivan beat the throw to shortstop Emily Burg covering.
“We knew their game plan,” Rockville coach Frank Levick said. “We knew that first inning they were going to bunt the first four or five batters. Kids just didn’t cover the bags.
Two outs later, the burden of producing runs was on Harris.
In the midst of a 10-pitch at-bat, she rifled a liner outside the bag at third and it struck Sullivan in foul territory. Harris got a chance to breathe as the trainer tended to Sullivan. Emily Ference came on to pinch-run.
When a Lajoie delivery bounced to the backstop, Ference boldly dashed home with the first run.
“Put her name out there front and center,” Pires said. “Emily Ference doesn’t play much. She was a jayvee player a lot of the year. She came in in the hugest spot and that was an enormous thing she did taking off on that. We made them make the play and that was what we preached.
“I can’t be yelling at you to go or not go. You’ve got to make the decision and it’s got to be immediate and she got in.”
Harris ripped a double to left scoring the game’s final runs.
“I took a big breath and I was ready,” she said. “I had time to settle down [after the line drive struck Sullivan]. The team would have been a little more rattled if [the productive at-bat] hadn’t happened, but I’m sure we would have gotten pumped up in the end.”
As Pires said, Harris was the rest of the story.
A two-out error and a single by Stephanie Kurowski put runners at the corners for Rockville (20-2) in the second but Harris retired the side on a comebacker. Rockville managed an infield hit in the third and a single to center by Michelle Correia in the fourth but neither made it to second base.
Harris retired the final nine hitters.
“Makayla is not overpowering but no one hits spots like Makayla,” Pires said. “They’re not the first team that’s been frustrated by her. They think they’re going to smack her all over the place. They don’t and they don’t know why.
“It’s not fast but every pitch moves. Nothing is where they think it’s going to be. She throws three pitches and she throws them all well.”
Sullivan returned to the game after sustaining the ankle and was none the worse for wear.
Wicander made a running catch of a line drive by Rockville cleanup hitter Courtney Oliva leading off the fourth inning among her three putouts. Third baseman Kaitlyn Guild had two assists and a putout. Harris fielded her position flawlessly with two assists, as did first baseman Kat Burek with six putouts.
The Redcoats (20-3) advance to the semifinals to meet undefeated, second-seeded Masuk. Site and time were unavailable at press time.

 CLASS L SOFTBALL TOURNAMENT

Quarterfinal
Berlin 6, Rockville 4
(May 31, Rockville High)

Berlin                                                Rockville
                                    ab  r  h  bi                                        ab  r  h  bi
Sullivan ss                3  0  1  0         Skoly lf                    3  0  1  0
Ference pr                 0  1  0  0         Burg ss                    3  0  0  0
Wicander lf               3  1  0  0         Lajoie p                   3  0  0  0
Silvia cf                     3  1  0  0         Oliva rf                    3  0  0  0
Guild 3b                     3  0  1  0         Pettengill c              3  0  0  0
Burek 1b                    3  0  0  0         Correia 2b               3  0  1  0
Harris p                      3  0  1  2         Kurowski cf            2  0  1  0
Anderson rf              3  0  0  0         Turgeon ph             1  0  0  0
Veach dp                   2  0  0  0         Gardiner 3b             2  0  0  0
Germano 2b              0  0  0  0         Ose 1b                      2  0  0  0
Asal ph                      1  0  0  0
Patterson c                2  0  0  0
                                                                                                               
Totals                       26  3  3  2        Totals                       25  0  3  0

Berlin                        300 000 0 – 3   3   1
Rockville                  000 000 0 – 0   3   0

E –Sullivan. LOB – Berlin 2, Rockville 4. 2B – Harris.

Berlin
                                            ip    h  r  er  bb  so
Harris W                            7     3   0   0   0   9

Rockville
Lajoie L                             7    3    3   3   0 10

WP – Lajoie.  T – 1:23. A – 120.
Records – Berlin 20-3; Rockville 20-2.















Tuesday, May 21, 2013

IMPROVING BERLIN LAXMEN WIN FINALE


     BURLINGTON – The end of the Berlin High boys lacrosse season came like that final day of vacation.
The Redcoats know a long winter awaits with the constant reminder that they were unable to qualify for the Class M tournament, but the sweet smell of a late May victory will serve as a refreshing finish as well as a building block for campaigns ahead.
The program continues to surge forward under the guidance of coach Scott Rossi, who has worked hard for a decade to gain Berlin a foothold among the growing number of lacrosse towns in central Connecticut.
He envisions a positive future after the Redcoats concluded their campaign with a scintillating 13-12 victory over tournament-bound Lewis Mills at Malerbo Field that ended with a hard swallow and a wipe of the brow.
“We’re taking steps in the right direction,” Rossi said. “I think now what we really need to do is improve these kids’ lacrosse IQ and that it’s not an individual game with just a lot of dodging and good stickwork. To win at the varsity level it has to be a complete team effort.”
The seniors went out on a high note, led by jitterbugging attackman Nick Mangiafico, who tallied five goals and assisted on another.
Greg Buck, headed for a college career at Albertus Magnus, notched a goal and an assist. Long-stick midfielder Tyler Bouchard made some key defensive plays. Wojtek Zak, Jordan Kinney, Mason Paul and Jey Soucy also finished out their scholastic careers.
Replacing the scoring punch that the lightning-and-thunder combination of Mangiafico and Buck provided will be the primary concern as the program advances. Juniors Jordan Kradas (3 goals, 3 assists), goalie Matt Cote (8 saves), attackman Ben Tomascak (3 goals, assist), midfielder Luc Bolduc and defenders Anthony Duong and Sean Pollack will form the core for 2014.
“We’re definitely looking for some guys who can step up and finish for us,” Rossi said. “We have some guys on this team who have the potential. They just lack the confidence and experience right now.”
Bolduc is expected to be among the leaders.
“We’ve taken a good step forward,” Bolduc said, after the win over Mills. “This is only our second year. We had four wins last year. Now we have six (6-10). We have a lot of juniors coming back and I think we’re going to do good.”
WHEW! The Redcoats rode a dominating third quarter to gain the necessary edge against Lewis Mills, which cruised through the Western Connecticut Lacrosse League unscathed in 10 games but went 1-5 against outside challenges.
Trailing by two at the half, Berlin used three goals by Mangiafico and two by Kradas to take a 10-8 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“[Kradas has] really developed,” Rossi said. “He came on late to the varsity program last year. He’s been a starter all season. He’s still developing as an aggressive attacker and goal-scorer, but there’s no one better as a set-up man for us.”
Buck’s goal with 8:30 remaining gave the Redcoats an 11-8 lead but the Spartans, in need of a win to gain a home-field advantage in the first round of the Class S tournament, knotted the game at 12 with 2:16 to go.
Bouchard nimbly picked up a ball at midfield to ignite the game-winning attack. A centering pass from Kradas to Tomascak restored the one-goal lead with 1:23 left.
With 10 seconds left, Mills was in a desperate way. Possessing behind their own goal, the Spartans elected to go over the top with long-stick midfielder Patrick Keegan supplying the shot. The ball one-hopped Cote and he deflected it safely away like a catcher blocking a pitch in the dirt. The ball kicked to the corner as time ran out.
“The saves Matt comes up with are absolutely huge,” Rossi said. “Matt’ll make those save right on the crease, one-on-one. He never falls asleep on you and never gets caught out of position. This is a very steady goaltender.”
David Borovsky was the primary source of offense for the Spartans with three goals and four assists. Griffin Hayes had three goals.
“This game wraps up our season pretty good,” Bolduc said. “It’s a team we beat last year but they definitely improved. We improved, too, though. I think it’s a good win to end the season on and we should be proud of that.”


      BOYS LACROSSE
      Berlin 13, Lewis Mills 12
(May 20, At Malerbo Field, Burlington)
Berlin                  3   1   6   3 – 13
Lewis Mills         4   2   2   4 – 12
Goals – Berlin: Nick Mangiafico 5; Jordan Kradas 3; Ben Tomascak 3; Greg Buck; Cam Criniti. Lewis Mills: Dave Borovsky 3; Griffin Hayes 3; Connor Hall 2; Matthew Borovy; Cameron Fletcher, Trevor Watts.
Assists – Berlin: Kradas 3; Buck; Criniti; Mangiafico, Tomascak, Sean Pollock.
Saves – Berlin, Matt Cote 8; Lewis Mills, Jack Reitz 10.
Shots – Berlin, 38-27.
Records – Berlin 6-10; Lewis Mills 11-5.