Thursday, December 27, 2012

HILLHOUSE LOSS SERVES PURPOSE FOR NB


(As published on the New Britain City Journal website)

Todd Stigliano emerged from his postgame meeting after meeting Hillhouse on December 19 sensing his New Britain High boys basketball team learned valuable lessons.
Stigliano is as competitive as coaches come. Obviously members of his fraternity detest losing, but Stigliano came away from the 61-55 setback against Connecticut’s most storied scholastic program with the kind of facial expressions generally reserved for victory.
“They aren’t the best team in the State of Connecticut by accident,” Stigliano said. “We didn’t just go out and play a nobody. We played by far the toughest team in the State of Connecticut – physically tough, mentally tough. Nobody quit, and that’s what matters for us.”
New Britain has the depth and talent to go deep into the Class LL tournament this season. The Hurricanes have size and strength in frontline starters Craven Johnson and Curtis Hyman. Curtrelle Hyman is a capable reserve. They possess crowd-pleasing athleticism in multitalented swingman Daequone Clark. They have backcourt symmetry and a wealth of riches in Aramis Hernandez, Sheveran Williams-Hardy, Michael Robinson and Annuel Saint Juste.
The ’Canes will have to go through the likes of Hillhouse at some point if they are to fulfill their goal of winning a state title.
“I wanted to see what we were made of early in the season,” he said. “They don’t hand out state championships in game three.
“We’ll get another chance at it. The question is will we be ready. From what I saw, we’ll be ready.”
Hillhouse is a formidable outfit. Andre Anderson, a prolific running back for the Academics’ Class M champion football team, has an explosive first step and shoulders that only preparation for football can chisel. He has that gift great point guards have to find a way to the glass.
His running mates are rangy sniper Bobby Bynum and Shane Christie. The three guards combined for 73 percent of Hillhouse’s points. When their arching three-point shots caromed off the rim, they kept shooting.
The Acs led by just five points early in the third quarter when Bynum (game-high 22 points) flipped in four treys within 2½ minutes. The lead suddenly soared to 39-28. The Hurricanes trailed by 10 heading into the final four minutes but their confidence had grown. They realized that like them, the Acs laced up their Nikes one eyelet at a time.
“I thought our big guys boxed out better than they had but I told the guards they had to help,” Stigliano said. “There were a lot of long rebounds, and even though we did a decent job of boxing out, it wasn’t enough.
“With a team like that, it’s a toughness thing. That’s why they rebound so well. … They killed us on the glass and that’s the difference in the game.”
Statistics bore him out. New Britain shot 33 percent from the field (18-for-54) and Hillhouse shot 32 percent (21-for-66). Both shot a disconcerting 54 percent from the foul line. Although Johnson grabbed 17 rebounds and Curtis Hyman had eight, the Acs had five guys pounding the offensive boards.
“[Craven and Curtis] went hard all night,” Stigliano said. “They had to be physical. They had to outjump people who were bigger. I’m proud of them.”
Based on his team’s approach, Hillhouse coach Renard Sutton isn’t likely to write a profound treatise on strategy.
His immensely gifted stars go into a weave when they get the ball in their attack zone. When Bynum and Christie get looks from beyond the arc, it’s bombs away. The other option is Anderson using that first step to penetrate the lane for a layup or an assist. They go about their business confident that they own the glass.
Their defense is coast-to-coast pressure, with sticky halfcourt traps often leading to breakaway hoops and thundering dunks. Turnovers (26) were devastating, and that’s where Stigliano knows the ’Canes can improve.
“I said if we could keep the turnovers under 20, we’d have a chance to win the game. We need to be tougher and smarter with the ball,” he said.
Foul shooting, he said, will also have to get better. The combination of missed free throws, giveaways and losing the battle of the boards combined to shatter any dreams of upset.
Yet as the Acs made their way back to New Haven, Stigliano was smiling. New Britain’s growth over four challenging quarters served as superb preparation for the league schedule that lies ahead.
“If you get into a position come tournament time where you haven’t felt the tournament atmosphere, then you don’t know how your kids are going to react,” he said. “At least now, our kids are used to what happens when the other team makes a big play and the crowd erupts.”
The ’Canes encountered such surroundings when they fell in the Class LL quarterfinals last March at Fairfield Prep.
“You need to be ready for that and this game helps you prepare,” he said. “What do you do, down 10, everything going wrong and the crowd is against you? Do you have what it takes inside to step up? And we responded.”
Are lessons learned from game three that result in a defeat be absorbed well enough for New Britain to make a deep tournament run? If the fabled March winds prove to be of Hurricane proportion, Stigliano and his boys will remember the night of December 19.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

PLAINVILLE'S PASSION FOR THE PAST


The down-to-earth nature of Plainville’s sports heritage is shaped to some extent by the town’s geographical distinction – a village bookended by much larger municipalities.
When Byron J. Treado III and his group of selected sportsmen crafted a means of preserving the legacy through the Plainville Sports Hall of Fame, he touched a chord that for 14 years has emotionally moved men and women whose colorful athletic exploits once buzzed through the community.
The 13th induction dinner held Saturday night that filled Nuchie’s Restaurant in Forestville served as stirring testament to how Plainville’s sports heroes scattered across the nation can revel in reuniting in celebration of bygone triumphs.
Perhaps the greatest of those triumphs came on November 27, 1971, when a Plainville High football team that hadn’t beaten Southington in 23 years broke through with a giant-killing moment, an 18-14 victory in the Blue Knights’ lair.
The conquering hero was quarterback Jeff Palmer, son of the late, long-time Plainville coach/educator/administrator Charlie Palmer and a member of the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2006. Emotions overtook Jeff as he revisited the camaraderie of a great moment frozen in time with former teammates and townsfolk who reveled in his accomplishment.
Joining Palmer in this year’s class were former major league baseball player Earl Snyder, his PHS teammate Brian Biskupiak, two-sport star Jeff Sengle, swimming and track star Mary Boiczyk Westkott and lifetime athletic contributor Rich Buchanan. The state championship baseball squads of 1983 and 1984 piloted by 2003 Hall-of-Famer Ron Jones were inducted as teams.
Palmer and Snyder tugged on the crowd’s heart strings when their speeches came to a stop in mid-sentence because they were overcome by sentiment. Biskupiak entertained with the kind of deadpan humor that would have made George Burns snicker.
Buchanan shared a poignant personal moment from nine years ago when he strived to prepare himself mentally for undergoing colon cancer surgery, dipping into the lessons he absorbed from Charlie Palmer and legendary basketball coach Pat Riera. Their lessons, Buchanan noted, were reinforced by the famous speech by Jim Valvano, stricken with terminal cancer yet pleading, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”
Boiczyk Westkott took a similar approach, extolling the virtues of her late swim coach George Choiniere and the role he played in shaping her life.
“He was not a technician of the sport. He was not a conditioner of athletes. He made us want to be fast, he made us want to be successful, he made us want to be a team.”
Sengle, who went on to a career with the United States Secret Service that included protecting former President Bill Clinton, mixed a little humor with his memories when he said, “I can promise you that my speech will have nothing to do with the economy.”
Jones, as spokesman for his two teams, dwelled on the “us against the world” mentality that served as the centerpiece of his dynamic motivational skills.
Treado, who stepped down as chairman of the dinner two years ago in favor of Keith J. D’Amato, stitched it all together as toastmaster, keeping the honorees and dinner guests alike on the edge of their seats with colorful perspective and scintillating surprises.
For those who missed it, or wish to revisit a memorable evening, Nutmeg TV (Comcast channel 95, AT&T channel 99) filmed the proceedings for 7 p.m. airings on October 17, 21 and 27.
PHS athletic director John Zadnik kicked off the evening with the presentation of the Byron Treado Founders Award to recent graduates Tom Dinda and Chris Kuzia, both of whom were unable to attend because they were away at school.
Zadnik capably cut through the din of a crowd still settling in when he said, “I’d like to ask you for a moment of silence, please … for the Boston Red Sox.” The Yankee fans chuckled and the Sox fans hissed, but there was no doubt that Zadnik got their attention.
Jones, a lightning rod for criticism during his coaching tenure due to his fiery nature, explained how his antics were all part of the plan as he led up to the induction of the 1984 team. The season came to a head with the Devils playing Berlin for the championship before a huge crowd at Beehive Field.
“[The Berlin people] were all over me from the first pitch and I was loving it,” said Jones, his blistering rhetoric still very much a part of him nearly 30 years later.
“I wasn’t playing. That crowd could yell anything they wanted at me. They weren’t going to rattle me and my players that night would be able to do what they did best – above the pressure of any crowd and that was to play the Plainville way – hard, clean and aggressive, blue collar. …
“What a night! I won an Oscar and our program had secured back-to-back championships.”
Snyder played briefly for the Cleveland Indians and Red Sox after a brilliant career at the University of Hartford and an excellent minor league stint in the Mets system. But it was his time winning championships at PHS, with close friends and fellow Hall of Famers Biskupiak and Brian Edge by his side, that he said he cherishes the most.
Treado built up toward Sengle’s induction with a personal letter of congratulations that he secretly procured from Clinton himself.
Biskupiak kept the gathering in stitches with his Letterman-like list of secrets of success. His third rule to live by was, “Don’t wait until your junior year in high school to get braces. ... Do yourself a favor. You don’t want a metal-filled prom picture to surface on Facebook.”

Thursday, October 4, 2012

PRAYING FOR PAT


Life's peaks and gulleys were never so vivid to me than over the last 48 hours.
Pat Neshek is a sidearming right-handed relief pitcher for the Oakland A’s who spent parts of three seasons with the New Britain Rock Cats.  He ranks among the most genuine people I’ve ever encountered in the 30 years I was around professional baseball.
Neshek was riding the crest of elation. 
After five big league seasons with the Minnesota Twins and San Diego Padres, he overcame the trauma of Tommy John (ligament replacement) surgery on his pitching arm and the ensuing rehabilitation.  He retraced his minor league steps and played an active role in his team’s improbable surge to the American League West title as an exceptional right-handed specialist, as his 1.37 ERA over a 24-game period would heartily attest.
On the personal side, he and his wife Stephanee were about to experience the birth of their first child.  Neshek’s love of baseball, not only as a player but as a fan, surfaced brightly in his naming the baby boy Gehrig.  Gehrig John Neshek was born Tuesday, the same day the A’s were beating the Texas Rangers to set up Wednesday’s one-game battle for the division championship.
“Thinking of the long nights in AAA, my TJ surgery & the days when I thought it was over makes this the sweetest playoff ‘birth’ of my career!” he tweeted.
Neshek, who was writing blogs and using computers to spread baseball’s gospel before it was fashionable, posted a photo of him holding Gehrig for his many Facebook friends to see.  I could feel the warmth pulsing throughout my torso, feeling the joie de vivre that radiated from his smile.
Before Pat and Steph could enjoy their view from the top of the world, the unthinkable happened.  Gehrig died on Wednesday without having experienced life for a full day.
I woke up Thursday morning to the following Facebook entry: “Please pray for my family. Tonight my wife & I lost our first & only son 23 hours after he was born with no explanation.”
Life is a perplexing phenomenon.  Everybody experiences problems, and when those problems are worked out, we’re worrying about new ones.
I thought about some of the ones I encountered in recent years, one is of a personal nature that only my family and dearest friends are aware.  In addition, there have been substantial professional setbacks that have tested my mettle and my faith.
I bitch about the economy and the corrupt and/or inept politicians who can’t turn it around.  My voice reaches a higher crescendo when I talk about the eroding effects of greed on the human race, and on my industry in particular.  I scream in the solitude of my Avalanche when some brain-dead idiot passes me on the right at 90 miles per hour.
Such petty injustices invade our minds on a daily basis.  Often we are stunned by a death in the family or stung by a severe injury to a loved one, but please take a moment to contemplate the torturous slide from the height of pure human joy to the depths of utter despair that Pat and his family have had to endure.
Am I a spiritual enough man that I can ask you all to pray for the Nesheks?  I hope so.  Prayer never hurts.
But as I do from time to time when tragedy intercedes, I feel so helpless to reach out and provide something to help them feel better in the hour that’s hurled them beyond their greatest nightmare.
I cried for joy when the Oakland A’s, a team I’ve rooted for since its days in Kansas City.  This morning, I cried out of desolation for a friend who touched my life with his kindness.  I wish there was something more I could do.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

POLITICALLY CORRECT IDIOCY REACHES NEW LOW


Is there any foreseeable end to the politically correct rubbish that has permeated our society?
The latest is a local report that stopping or advancing a soccer ball can be deleterious to the health of our children. Wow, no wonder so many of these soccer kids are such a mess when they reach their teenage years. Perhaps we can trace road rage to this phenomenon.
Get this, politically correct idealists! If you look at anything close enough, you’ll find something ugly about it. Even the supple skin of a beautiful woman looks rough and scaly if you scan it under a microscope.
Before addressing the possibility of spawning a society of teenagers and young adults with fatal forehead contusions, let us understand how sports became such a vibrant part of American culture.
In the decades following the American Revolution, our nation was an agrarian-based society. As soon as youngsters could walk and think, they were engaged to help their families plant and harvest the crops and tend the farm animals.
The kids got plenty of exercise, although breathing in the fumes from horse manure may well have caused traumatic brain disorders.  Reading and witnessing politically correct horse manure surely does, but back to our history lesson.
With the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s, more and more Americans left the farm for 9-to-5 positions as bankers, manufacturing managers, lawyers, etc. They found that after a day’s work, they had leisure time.
Baseball, or some version of it, was being documented as part of life in New Britain midway through the 19th century. As Americans recognized the merits of enjoying the great outdoors and the health benefits of physical activity, other popular sports evolved in the century’s latter stages.
What are sports but a microcosm of war. Man’s violent nature and unquenchable thirst for excitement ignited many a bloody conflict since his very arrival on the planet. Sports provided an outlet so men could exercise their masculinity without killing each other.
Think for a minute how sports have evolved? Baseball rapidly became our national pastime. Pastime translates as an amusement or hobby. If you still think it’s a pastime, you haven’t been following the coverage it gets on all the incessant talk shows that have turned it into a soap opera.
The other part of that evolution is the games themselves.
In the NFL, they have all but done away with the kickoff return. Quarterbacks are placed in glass cubicles so when 300-pound men are hurtling toward them at maximum speed, they are expected to stop or be penalized.
Friends, football is a violent sport. If you venture to strap on the helmet and affix the pads, you are acknowledging the concept that you may get hurt. If you don’t want to get hurt, nobody is forcing you to play. If $3 million a year isn’t enough to convince you to play, become a data analyst and play golf on your day off.
What if bullfighting had been an American tradition? What about buzkashi, the national sport of Afghanistan where participants attempt to advance a headless goat carcass.
Yes, football is violent, and soccer can be, too. I’ve covered hundreds of games and witnessed myriad injuries.
Hundreds of incidents leading to injury could arise during games. How many soccer players have sustained a knee to the lower midsection where the family jewels are stored? A player could step in a hole and break a leg. Heading a soccer ball could cause a brain injury. So could a meteorite falling from the sky.
And is this so vital that it needs to become front-page news? Between that, and media outlets eviscerating the political candidates of their choice for making the simple mistakes inherent to being human instead of highlighting their differences so voters can make educated choices, I’m beginning to recognize the value of cultural isolation.
For so many years, I referenced the quote by former Chief Justice Earl Warren in support of my calling as a sports reporter.
“I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people's accomplishments,” he said. “The front page has nothing but man’s failures.”
After reading some of the trash in today’s papers and the sensational revelations about athletes in the new media that have nothing to do with the games, I use another famous sports quote uttered by a mere child on the steps of a Chicago court house nearly 100 years ago.
“Say it ain’t so.”

Friday, September 21, 2012

SAFETIES, TURNOVERS CRAMP NB'S STYLE


Southington 32, New Britain 7
Southington (2-0)      7  0  25  0 – 32
New Britain (0-2)      0  7    0  0 –   7
SCORING SUMMARY
First Quarter
S – Stephen Barmore 19 run (Kyle Smick kick), 6:43
Second Quarter
NB – Malique Jones 1 run (Juan Usuga kick), 9:49
Third Quarter
S – Safety, Jones tackled in end zone, 8:55
S – Safety, Lamar Bowsky tackled in end zone, 7:39
S – Alex Jamele 42 pass from Barmore (Smick kick), 6:59
S – Zach Jamele 3 run (Smick kick), 3:45
S – Barmore 10 run (Smick kick), :46.5
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING – Southington: Jarrid Grimmett 15-34, Barmore 9-53, Z. Jamele 1-3, Preston Testa 2-(-6), Steven Hamel 1-7. NB: Bowsky 14-63, Jones 16-79, Dylan Krivickas 3-10, Bryan Gray 1-0, Marc Aponte 2-6.
PASSING – Southington: Barmore15-33-1, 211 yds.; NB: Jones 8-27-3, 83 yds.
RECEIVING – Southington: Anthony Bonefant 7-88, A. Jamele 3-89, Corbin Garry 3-21, Grimmett 2-13; NB: Gray 3-43, Kyle Anderson 2-23, Daequone Clark 2-13, Fitz Ingram 1-4.


NEW BRITAIN – The first half against arch-rival Southington left the New Britain High football team in an optimal position to win.
The defense kept the high-powered Blue Knights passing game in check. While the Hurricanes were rarely able to control the line of scrimmage, they left the field at halftime with the game tied.
An abomination of a third quarter separated the arch-rivals quickly.
Southington rode the momentum from two safeties in just over a minute to a 32-7 conquest in a CCC Division I West game that left some serious questions about where the season is headed.
In addition to the two safeties, the third quarter featured a steady parade of New Britain players, including top running back Lamar Bowsky, leaving the field with cramps. When a Southington touchdown followed the second safety to put the ’Canes in a 25-7 hole, the will to compete visibly ebbed from their play.
Head coach Tebucky Jones is not the excitable type, but the word “quit” bandied about his sideline is something he won’t endure.
“This stuff has got to be corrected,” he said. “If they can’t get it right, somebody else has got to come in and do it. It’s that simple. It’s all discipline – doing the job and trusting the guys next to you are going to do their job. Right now it doesn’t look like that.”
The Southington defense stuffed New Britain’s first possession of the second half and on fourth down, the center snap sailed over the head of punter/quarterback Malique Jones. Southington had the ball at the 13 but a holding penalty led to an interception in the end zone by Mikel Robinson.
An illegal block on the return put the ball at the New Britain 3. Two plays later, Malique Jones was ambushed in the end zone and Southington gained a 9-7 lead.
The New Britain defense, sparked by a second-down play by defensive end Jonathan Semidey, forced the Knights to punt. The referees ruled that Southington’s Corbin Garry downed the ball at the 1. Tebucky Jones said he saw Garry brush against the pylon, which would have been a touchback, but New Britain was once again in the shadow of its own goal post.
The defense swarmed over Bowsky as soon as he got the handoff just 1 minute, 16 seconds after the previous safety. It was all downhill from there.
“The punt unit is doing a good job getting down there,” Southington coach Mike Drury said. “Nate Bonefant did a great job punting. The defense hunkered down and really wanted it.”
Two plays after New Britain’s free kick, Southington’s stellar junior quarterback Stephen Barmore connected with Alex Jemele for a 42-yard touchdown.
Three plays after the ensuing kickoff, Garry picked off a tipped pass to put Barmore back in command at his 43. On third-and-12 from the 40, he hit Anthony Bonefant for 37 yards. Jarrid Grimmett ran for 20 to the 3 and Zach Jemele scored two plays later. Heads were down all along the home sideline.
“Once they get down, they don’t have that fight. That’s basically what it is,” Tebucky said. “To win games, you’ve got to learn that. Until they learn that, it will be like that the rest of the season. It’s in a person. If they don’t get it the JVs will get it. I’ll put them in the rest of the year.”
Southington took a 7-0 lead when Barmore raced 19 yards on a perfectly executed quarterback draw with 6:43 left in the first quarter.
New Britain began its lone scoring march when fullback Dylan Krivickas bulled for eight yards and Bowsky broke off a 28-yard gallop to the Knights’ 7. Malique Jones crossed the goal on a third-down quarterback sneak. Juan Usuga booted the extra point to tie the game two minutes into the second quarter.
When Southington went three and out, New Britain had the chance to take command of the game. Bursts by Bowsky and Malique went for first downs. A flare from Malique to Bryan Gray picked up another at the Southington 30. But a holding penalty bogged the drive down and Malique was intercepted by Tyler Hyde on third-and-14.
The game was marred by penalties. Southington was assessed 137 yards on 14 infractions. New Britain was found guilty on 12 for 113 yards. New Britain turned the ball over five times.
Cramping was as costly as it was painful for the host of players grasping their calves and hamstrings and writhing on the turf.
“We tell them every day to drink,” Tebucky said. “If you’re not [urinating] clear, you’re not hydrated. We give it to them here. This is two weeks in a row.”
New Britain seeks its first victory at home Friday against East Hartford.


Friday, September 14, 2012

NEW BRITAIN HIGH FOOTBALL PREVIEW


The New Britain High football program has never been at a loss for talent at the skill positions.

The list of former Hurricanes with flashing feet, soft hands and gridiron intuition is lengthy and impressive. The challenge for coaches over the years has been aligning enough tough kids with big bodies dedicated to winning the line of scrimmage.

Standing atop the list of skilled players whose hearts are enveloped in a sheath of maroon and gold is Tebucky Jones. Jones ran roughshod over the competition during his scholastic years, earned a scholarship to play at Syracuse and made a transition from offense to defense brilliant enough to play for pay on Sundays for seven seasons.

Now in his second year of giving back, resurrecting the program from a gradual deterioration that resulted in the Disaster of 2010, Jones has an ample mix of veterans and youngsters preparing for the next step forward.

“We have more older kids and more younger kids than we had last year,” he said. “The biggest thing is we’re farther ahead than last year.”

Jones said a bountiful sophomore class will be getting a lot of playing time and the junior class is thin, but he does have a senior core that helped the Hurricanes recover from the 1-9 mess in 2010 to post a 6-4 mark last fall.

Jones’ son Malique will again lead the offense from his quarterback slot. Tailback Lamar Bowsky has been logging varsity time since he was a freshman. Young Jones has a talented receiving corps in Fitz Ingram, Daequone Clark, Juan Usuga, Waterbury transfer Brian Gray, former backup quarterback Marc Colon and tight end Cam Lytton.

Tebucky said Malique prepared diligently for his senior campaign, but Tebucky leaves the offensive decisions to assistant and former Hurricane teammate Arnie Delio. One of the strengths of Tebucky’s regime has been to stow egos at the door and relegate specific duty to those most equipped to handle it.
“[Malique] worked out, trained and threw more,” Tebucky said, “but I don’t coach him. I don’t deal with offense. Arnold and the others put together the game plan.”

Bowsky generally was the second choice to run the football behind DeVante Gardner last year.“Hit him high and he’ll run over you,” Tebucky said. “He’s a strong kid.”

Dylan Krivickas will fill the fullback role when the offensive set dictates.

When it comes to the trenches, New Britain has long relied on the gritty and the rugged rather than the biggest and strongest. Linebacker Geovanni Medina is the perfect example. Medina, perhaps the best wrestler to ever come out of New Britain with a season remaining, makes up for his 5’9, 150-pound stature with intelligence, maturity, leadership and toughness. He’s the heart and soul of the defense and a leading candidate for postseason recognition.

“He’s a rah-rah guy,” Tebucky said. “No nonsense. He’s not that big but he’ll come up and hit you in the mouth. Everybody gets amped up when they see that. Pound-for-pound, he’s the toughest.”
Krivickas and Ben Fischbein line up alongside Medina.

Defensive end Jonathan Semidey is somewhat bigger than Medina at 6’2, 190 pounds, but his ability to impact a game doesn’t come from overwhelming size.

“He’s my motor man,” said Tebucky, who primarily remembers his players through the nicknames they earn. “He’s non-stop. He just goes and goes and goes.”

Lytton and sophomore Alex Swaby join Semidey up front. Twins Josh and Luis Rivera will also see time.
Tebucky’s method for arranging his defense takes the pressure off the individual players and applies it to their technical ability to interpret and execute it as a team.

“It’s all in the scheme,” he said. “We were the smallest team against everyone, but they really couldn’t run with us. It took time for us to start believing. [In 2010] we lost by an average of almost 30 points. Even last year, we could have been 9-1 if it wasn’t for some little things here and there.

“When I was playing (1990-92), we didn’t have size. The linemen had that quickness. It’s all in the heart. A lot of big kids are what I call ‘pudding pops.’ I don’t want soft, I want tough.”

The Hurricane linemen leave the custard in the cupboard. Senior center Michal Filipkowski brings toughness and experience to a key position.

“He’s been starting for three years. He’s the brains of the offensive line,” Tebucky said.

The Rivera brothers will flank him. So will senior Tyler Ounthongdy.

“The main advantage the other teams have is height, but we can get underneath them,” Tebucky said. “You have to have leverage playing the line.”

The ’Canes have no shortage of athleticism in the secondary.

Marcus Torres, the quarterback for the undefeated freshman team last year, will be a cornerback and deep man on kick returns. Mike Robinson possesses all the skills that defensive backs require, including a great vertical leap. Gray and Ashon Anderson is also in the mix.

The quarterbacks of the future currently stack up as junior Toby Taradeina and freshman C.J. Gaskin.

The ’Canes open on the road against Glastonbury (Friday, 6:30 p.m.) before hosting Southington (Sept. 21, 7 p.m.) in the home opener at Veterans Stadium.

NEW BRITAIN
Coach: Tebucky Jones (2nd year, 6-4)
Last Year: 6-4, 2-2 CCC Div. I West (tied for 3rd); ranked 16th in Class LL
Key Losses: DeVante Gardner, Larry Garcia, Kyree Largent, Garrett Shaw, Giovanni Viven, Lamont Priest, Jared Boddie, Mason Whistnant, Jose Gonzalez, Brandon Baskerville, Jose Palma, Axel Rosado
Key Returnees: Malique Jones (sr. QB), Daequone Clark (sr. WR/DB), Lamar Bowsky (sr. RB), Fitz Ingram (sr. WR/DB), Geovanni Medina (sr. LB), Michal Filipkowski (sr. OL/DL), Brian Gray (sr. WR/DB), Ben Fischbein (sr. LB), Juan Usuga (sr. WR/DB), Jonathan Semidey (sr. DE), Tyler Ounthongdy (sr. OL), Josh Rivera (jr. OL/DL), Luis Rivera (jr. C/DL), Cameron Lytton (jr. DE/TE), Mike Robinson (jr. CB), Dylan Krivickas (jr. FB/ILB), Toby Taradeina (jr. QB), Marcus Torres (so. CB/KR), Ashon Anderson (so. S), Alex Swaby (so. DE), C.J. Gaskin (fr. QB)
Of Note: NBHS football began in 1892, making this season No. 121. … Since the implementation of the CIAC playoffs in 1976, NB has won four titles – 1992, 2001, 2003, 2004. Coach Jones played for the 1992 team that clubbed Greenwich in the ‘LL’ final before moving on to Syracuse University and the NFL. … NB played in the Tri-Angular League with Hartford Public and Hillhouse from 1915-54 and then the Capital District Conference through 1983 before the formation of the Central Connecticut Conference the following year.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

GREAT BASEBALL NIGHT FOR THE UNDERDOGS


Boy did I have a good time Friday night.
Dear friend and voice of the New Britain Rock Cats invited me back for an on-the-field, pregame interview to reminisce about my 15 years covering the team.  With time to roam around instead of working, I ran into some old friends and enjoyed some great conversation.
But even more enjoyable was watching the Oakland A’s pulverize the Red Sox.  As those who are closest to me are well aware, I’ve been rooting for the A’s since 1960.  I truly enjoyed the great times – the World Series conquests in 1972, 1973 and 1974, and the Earthquake Series in 1989 – but they were all but curtailed as Major League Baseball went into its rich-get-richer phase.
I can’t fully explain the miracle that has Oakland at 74-57 and battling for a playoff spot after losing slugger Josh Willingham, top-notch starters Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill, and All-Star closer Andrew Bailey.  And then there’s the Red Sox.
The members of so-called Red Sox Nation who were populating stadiums across the league have suddenly either thinned out or stopped wearing their Sox garb since the team has fallen on hard times.  Suddenly, the Sox phenomenon has reverted back to the pre-2004 days when the Sox were still in search of their first World Series success since 1918.
It’s not like I detest any of the Red Sox players.  I interviewed many of them when they were coming through the Eastern League and I still cover the Portland Sea Dogs for the Portland Press Herald when the team visits New Britain.  David Ortiz was one of my favorite Rock Cats, and I think he is one of the most colorful, fun-loving players I’ve ever seen play.
It’s just the overspending, and holier-than-thou attitude that permeates the fan base and has them believing that winning 95 games every year is their birthright.  The Sox fans snickered when they snared Bailey and outfielder Ryan Sweeney in the offseason for outfielder Josh Riddick, first-base prospect Miles Head and pitcher Raul Alcantara.
Well get a load of Friday night’s results.  Oakland 20, Boston 2. Reddick went 2-for-5 with a grand slam and a double.  Sox castoff first baseman Brandon Moss went 4-for-5, scored four times and smacked a homer and two doubles. George Kottaras, a backup catcher who spent time in the Sox chain, went 3-for-5, scored three runs and hit two homers.
Oakland-turned-Sox reliever Craig Breslow yielded five runs in 1/3 of an inning.
I watched right until the final out, savoring it almost as much as when the A’s beat Boston in the 1989 ALCS.  The A’s have now won six straight against the Sox.  One Sox fan in attendance in Oakland wore a brown bag over his head.
To cap off a satisfying night, my equally beloved Cincinnati Reds extended their lead in the National League Central to 9 ½ games and are on the verge of welcoming Joey Votto back from knee surgery.  Plus, the bloated payroll powerhouse in the Bronx were dashed by the Orioles, who don’t look like they’re giving up.  A’s win, Reds win, Sox lose, Yankees lose?  August 31, 2012.
Sometimes those baseball gods ride shotgun right next to you, but like the nature of the game itself, they’re likely to turn on you any time.  I hope they’ll hang with me through the beginning of November, and then I’ll hope their football colleagues will take their place by my side and guide the Giants to another Super Bowl championship.


Monday, August 27, 2012

BOSOX LEARN A LESSON FROM A'S


Major League Baseball has been turned upside down in New England with the blockbuster trade that made martyrs out of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, pitcher Josh Beckett and outfielder Carl Crawford.
The part that amuses me the most to hear how the Red Sox fan on the street analyzes the loss of players once touted as Hall of Famers now relegated to the rear of The Nation’s pock-marked history. They’re beloved heroes one day, banished infidels the next.
However you stack it up, the 2012 season joins the 2011 finish as an embarrassing disaster for a fan base that expects and demands victory at all costs, even at their own cost. No matter how many billions management has spent to light up the Boston headlines and incessant talk shows during the Hot Stove portion of the year, the team stuffs its satchels with the booty gained from exorbitant prices for seats and ballgame amenities.
Now comes the pronouncement that even all that money (over $100 million to sign Daisuke Matsuzaka?) can’t buy happiness in the Hub. It couldn’t be Boston if the fans and the 24/7 media didn’t blame somebody.
But here’s where my tone changes.
General manager Ben Cherington has seen that victories have come a lot cheaper for the teams that draft wisely and develop talent well. For example, a gander at the American League West standings reveal that the austere Oakland A’s are in position to challenge the stacked Texas Rangers for first place and have a four-game lead over the fat-cat Angels in the fight for a possible wild-card berth.
And as an A’s fan dating back to the days in Municipal Stadium Kansas City where Charlie O. the Mule grazed and a mechanical bunny would come out of the ground to re-supply the home-plate ump with baseballs, I would like to thank the Red Sox for helping Oakland along with the generous gift of right fielder Josh Reddick.
Reddick is the case-in-point why Cherington and company should succeed in the long run. Instead of trusting their draft-and-development people, the Epstein regime was blinded by greed and paid dearly to land players like Crawford. Meanwhile, Reddick has become the top-notch clubhouse guy that the Red Sox could have used.
The Red Sox have drafted and developed talent admirably over the last decade. The nature of the business, like everything in which human beings engage, is cyclical.
Consider the talent that was pumped into the system through the draft: Kevin Youkilis (the White Sox thank you) and Kelly Shoppach in 2001; Jon Lester and Brandon Moss (the A’s thank you) in 2002; David Murphy (the Rangers thank you) and Jonathan Papelbon (the Phillies thank you) in 2003; Dustin Pedroia in 2004; Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz in 2005; Daniel Bard, Justin Masterson (the Indians thank you), Ryan Kalish and Reddick in 2006; Will Middlebrooks in 2007; Ryan Lavarnway in 2008.
That’s a substantial amount of big league-caliber talent as far as a decade’s worth of drafts go.
When it comes to development, I have the utmost respect for those who toil away in virtual anonymity in the minor leagues.
How many Red Sox fans can identify Ralph Treuel? I had the chance to know Treuel when he was a roving pitchers instructor in the Detroit Tigers system in the mid-1980s and minor league pitching coordinators don’t come much better.
Some astute Connecticut fans may recognize the name Ray Fagnant. Fagnant, longtime Red Sox Northeast scout, played for the New Britain Red Sox and is a frequent visitor to New Britain Stadium after the amateur draft in June as he becomes more familiar with Double-A talent.
Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler and former Double-A manager Todd Claus were stand-up, no-nonsense guys who continue to do great things for Boston’s future.
Kevin Boles is near and dear to my heart. Boles, the manager of the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs, is the son of former Marlins manager John Boles. When John managed the Glens Falls (N.Y.) White Sox in 1984 (I was assistant general manager), his 9-year-old always had a glove in hand, eager to play ball and learn the game. It’s paid off for him and the Sox.
Kevin has been at the heart of the Sea Dogs’ 2012 turnaround, never wavering from a horribly slow start and nurturing a clubhouse climate conducive to winning.
Aah, chemistry. No fan, no intrusive media reports can fully reveal its exact nature, or what part it plays in building championship atmospheres. It transcends batting averages, slugging percentages and on-base ratios; ERAs, WHIPs and OPS. It’s far more intangible than anything even the most intricate analysis any computer may spit out.
But as Crawford, Gonzalez and Beckett leave their tangled Red Sox legacies behind, Cherington has chosen to “trust his stuff” in the parlance of pitching professionals; to trust the outstanding people he has aligned behind him in the Red Sox hierarchy.
It’s likely the Sox won’t be challenging for a pennant next year. Questions about veterans like David Ortiz still abound. But keep some of the following names in mind: Bryce Brentz, Travis Shaw, Matt Barnes, Jeremy Hazelbaker, Derrik Gibson, Jackie Bradley, Drake Britton. If the Sox are as patient as Cherington seems to be, some of these will be names you’ll see on the backs of blue t-shirts around Red Sox Nation in the years ahead.
SHOW SOME LOVE: If you want to praise somebody for baseball insight, give it up for A’s GM Billy Beane and his shrewd troupe.
Shackled with bargain-basement payroll limitations, Beane has once again displayed his savvy by cobbling together homegrown talent, other organizations’ top minor league pitching through trades deemed questionable when they were made, and a handful of modest free-agent acquisitions that would have only brought scorn in places like Boston.
So as August turns to September, where are the ramshackle A’s when New England sports fans are gearing up for the Patriots? Getting ready to print playoff tickets.
As a seasoned baseball observer, I didn’t think this was possible, but there it is: Oakland 69-57.
Do I see any hands raised for Bob Melvin as manager of the year? It’s 2012. Technology is wonderful. Tune in to an A’s game someday soon and visualize just how much chemistry truly means. It can happen in Boston, too, and Cherington is ready to let it rip.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A RETURN TO ROCK CATS LAND


The power that nostalgia holds over me was palpable Saturday as I parked my truck in the New Britain Stadium press lot.
For 15 years, I covered the New Britain Rock Cats like they were a major-league team. For the better part of 40 years, I was active as either an administrator or a sports writer in the ballparks of the Eastern League. I watched the Double-A circuit graduate from small, dingy ballparks in smaller towns or in the seedy section of cities to the grand palaces like New Britain Stadium, where a family can enjoy a night of merriment without any concern for safety, without spending a fortune.
Everything looked just as I had left it. Former co-owner/president/general manager Bill Dowling, who will go down in history as the founding father of the state’s most successful professional sports franchise to date, was conspicuous by his absence. Dowling, supremely dedicated to his patrons, was a fixture in the portal from the concourse to the first-base side of home plate. He remains a consultant, but only attends games occasionally. His contribution to the welfare of New Britain must never be overlooked.
Who better to replace Dowling in the GM’s chair than John Willi, his disciple for nearly a decade? Willi left the team for a year, but returns with the Dowlingesque passion for the fan and the community.
The weather is spectacular. The Rock Cats, two years removed from the embarrassment of a 44-98 season in 2010, are playing representative baseball. Manager Jeff Smith, one of the most popular players during his playing days in New Britain, guides the young Minnesota Twins protégés with a firm but friendly hand. His wife Ronna and young sons Cutter and Cooper have become part of the culture. The boys can’t wait to don their gloves. They worked on their double-play turn around the keystone bag after the teams hit the showers.
The grandstands are packed. The Rock Cats announce their ninth sellout of the season and second in two days. Summer weekends that attract over 20,000 people to the city have become the norm. Here’s a comparative statistic to chew on a spell: the 1988 New Britain Red Sox drew under 80,000 to outmoded Beehive Field, which stands next door.
People congregate in front of the stadium dubbed “The Emerald of the Eastern League” because of its distinctive green façade. A band plays familiar tunes. People line up at the ticket windows and gleefully distribute their bounty to families and friends, anticipating a relaxing evening where the kids can safely romp in a well-supervised playground, cold adult beverages flow freely and the enticing aroma of barbecuing meats satiate the air.
Just like I hadn’t missed a day, I greet some familiar people and make my way to my former auxiliary office, the press box. Radio announcer Jeff Dooley flashes by as he prepares for his broadcast. Venerable scoreboard operator Larry Michaels has seen almost as many innings in Willow Brook Park as Vin Scully has in Dodger Stadium.
A new group of youngsters, determined to forge careers in professional baseball, buzz around in every capacity of support. As Willi notes, he has seen groups of dedicated employees come and go. His new management group took the reins at a late date in terms of season preparation and his roster underwent more sweeping change, but newcomers like media assistant Patrick O’Sullivan and box office manager Josh Montinieri blend magnificently with the “old guard” – behind-the-scenes stalwarts like community relations mavens Lori Soltys and Amy Helbling.
The relationship between the Rock Cats and Twins continues to prosper fruitfully.
The Twins have fallen on some hard times in terms of player development and their resultant standing in the American League Central Division. The flow of high-level prospects moving through like Torii Hunter (1996-98), Joe Mauer (2003), Justin Morneau (2001-03), Michael Cuddyer (2000-01), Jason Kubel (2004) and more recently Denard Span (2005-06), has slowed to a trickle.
The Twins rely heavily on player development. They are reluctant to engage in the high-priced free agent derby, and painfully have been unable to lock up their own. Cuddyer and Kubel rejected the team’s advances over last winter and signed with Colorado and Arizona respectively. Consequently, the Twins put a heavy emphasis on what happens in New Britain and management is almost always represented at Rock Cats games.
I am fortunate that my visit coincides with that of long-time friend Bill Smith.  Bill Smith and I go back to the early 1980s when I was general manager of the White Sox’ Double-A team and he was in the same slot at Class A Appleton, Wisc.
Bill was presented the opportunity to become the Twins’ general manager when his decorated predecessor Terry Ryan opted to focus more on the scouting end of the business. Like so many GMs, Bill was relieved of his duties, but his deep loyalty to the Twins, and theirs to him, has him back in a consulting position. He’s a New Hampshire boy by birth, but grew up in Ledyard where he still has family. Talking baseball with Bill Smith is like talking religion with an archbishop.
The most uplifting facet of the evening was reconnecting with former Rock Cats manager Riccardo Ingram (2006-07).
The good-natured, always positive Ingram faced his own mortality when he was confronted with a cancerous brain tumor in the summer of 2008. He sports a significant scar on the top of his head, but his faith through the whole ordeal was unshakeable. He is in good health and commutes between New Britain and Triple-A Rochester as a minor league hitting instructor.
Pitching coach Stu Cliburn is in his 11th season in New Britain, qualifying him as an adopted son. He spent a couple seasons (2006-08) in Triple-A Rochester when his twin brother Stan (Rock Cats manager from 2001-05) was managing the Red Wings, but like the prodigal son, he returned to his familiar post in the New Britain bullpen.
One of my goals in life is to sit through a game on television – a time when Stu isn’t working – to have him evaluate and analyze the art to which he’s dedicated his life. There is so much about pitching that even the most avid baseball enthusiast (and so many baseball writers) don’t comprehend.
The game moves forward. The Rock Cats, leaders in the Eastern Division for a large chunk of April and May, show a disturbing trend of failing to hit in the clutch, the plague of so many slumping ballclubs. They drop a 4-1 decision to the Erie Seawolves and fall closer to the .500 mark.
Jeff Smith can’t offer an explanation. A multitude of Hall-of-Fame managers before him couldn’t either. The nuances of a game played daily are that fortunes rise and fall, just like everything else that contains a human fingerprint. The constants – symmetry, tradition and color – are reasons why I’ll shed the depression of not having it as a daily routine and continue going back for reinvigoration.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

DISC-OVERING A NEW SPORT


Baby boomers remember it as a simple pastime in which they engaged on so many college campuses.

Several generations later, the skill of making an accurate toss with what remains universally known as a Frisbee has become part of an evolving professional sport, and New Britain is a cornerstone.

The sport once called Ultimate Frisbee with rules made up as you went along is formally known as Ultimate Disc. The Connecticut Constitution, members of the professional American Ultimate Disc League, play their home games at CCSU’s Arute Field.

The team is being operated capably and modestly by the players themselves.  General manager/coach/leading scorer John Korber leads by example. Vice president of marketing and sales Rafe Steinhauer, a former cross country and track athlete, plays a position known as “cutter,” but perhaps more importantly answers inquiries into the sport’s burgeoning position.

“The professional league will help the sport as a whole,” Steinhauer said. “It’s always been uphill battle to get the general public to buy into the game as legitimate. We’re battling a short history.

“Lots of people play just for fun recreationally without cleats and with tie-dye shirts. There’s nothing wrong with that. People play softball in beer leagues. It’s the same split. There’s nothing wrong with either form but they’re very different. Our version is a spectacular spectator sport.”

BRIEF HISTORY: The Ultimate game was invented in 1968.

For the first 20 years, play proliferated primarily on college campuses, where it developed what Steinhauer called, “a hippie stigma.”

The first competitive development occurred in the late 1980s when the Ultimate Players Association was born. Four years ago, it was “rebranded” as USA Ultimate. It became the governing body for competitive amateur play and established national championships at the high school, college and club (adult) levels.
Such tournaments have been going on for 25 years, Steinhauer said, yet the stigma remains.

“There’s definitely a generational divide,” he said. “As anybody 40 and up and they’ll say it’s just a bunch of hippies. Ask anybody in their 30s and it’s an intensely competitive and perhaps the most aerobically challenging team sport. It’s a split we deal with on a daily basis.”

THE GAME: Steinhauer has multiple reference points when he evaluates Ultimate’s aerobic challenges.
The teams play 7-on-7 over the wide-open space of a football field. Players cannot run with the disc; it must be advanced via the pass. “It’s a constant series of sprints,” Steinhauer said.
A team earns a “point” or goal when its player catches a pass in the end zone, which is 20 yards deep, twice as big as the area allotted in football.

Substitutions are allowed only after points or between the 12-minute quarters. Points come much more frequently than soccer goals or touchdowns. The Constitution’s last game played on May 27 produced a 28-21 victory over the Columbus Cranes. In other words, the teams successfully crossed the goal lines nearly 50 times in 48 minutes.

Steinhauer said sports fans familiar with similar team sports will pick up the game almost instantly.
“Anybody familiar with basketball and football would totally get it,” he said. “It’s a very intuitive game. Any incompletion is a turnover. The other team picks it up immediately. There’s no stopover with a change of possession. Once you catch it, you have seven seconds to throw it, kind of like a shot clock. It’s a lot of action and constant cutting.”

THE LEAGUE: The AUDL presently consists of two divisions.

The Constitution, 5-1 at press time, competes in the East Division with the Philadelphia Spinners, Rhode Island Rampage and Buffal Hunters. The West Division includes the central Ohio-based Cranes, the Detroit Mechanix, the Indianapolis AlleyCats and the Louisville-based Bluegrass Revolution.

The season runs April through July. Divisional playoffs begin in mid-July. The inaugural league championship is slated for the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich., on Aug. 11.

THE TEAM: Steinhauer said the Constitution have an amicable relation with its landlords at CCSU.
The games have attracted an average of 600 people. The first game of the year drew 1,050. Unlike other professional teams, the financial needs of the organization are much less. Steinhauer said the team can function by drawing 700 per game with 500 per a first-year goal.

“Having the players chip in is absolutely vital,” he said. “John Korber selected a team with an eye toward product. It’s an easy decision to take the best 25 athletes who don’t care about the sport or the organization but John chose 25 who are very good on the field and have dedicated themselves to helping the sport and growing the business.”

He said the team’s strategy is based on the phrase, “Our motto is product.”

“We have to represent our product, represent our organization and the players have bought into that,” he said.

The team has access to all the amenities at Arute, providing a comfortable setting for fans.
“Central has been very helpful,” Steinhauer said. “We pay a good amount of rent but it’s a very nice facility. In my mind, it’s the best facility in the league.”

Philadelphia plays at Franklin Field, the former home of the NFL Eagles. Detroit plays at the massive Silverdome, once the Lions’ domain. Neither team is averaging substantially more than the Constitution, which gives those stadiums a rather cavernous look on game day.

“Arute is a great atmosphere,” he said. “You’re right on top of the game. We wouldn’t trade with anyone.”
Ticket prices have a Rock Cat-like affordability at $6 per game. The Constitution’s strategy mirrors that of the highly successful minor league baseball team across town.

 “I head a speech by [NBA Dallas Mavericks owner] Mark Cuban,” Steinhauer said. “He said everyone thinks the Mavs are about basketball, but they’re selling a form of entertainment that people can’t get at a movie theater.

“At the end of the day, people don’t go to minor league baseball games because they are interested in detail. It’s just an experience they can’t get anywhere else. The players have conversations with the fans. We have activities between quarters. If we put a lot of effort into the fan experience, familiarity with the game doesn’t matter.”

Saturday, June 9, 2012

MISTAKES DOOM SOUTHINGTON IN SOFTBALL FINAL


(First appeared in Southington, Orange and BethWood Patch)

STRATFORD – Anxiety took its toll.
Both Southington and Amity displayed some jitters as the Class LL softball championship unfolded.
A plethora of walks, defensive mistakes and substandard pitching marred play on both sides, but one team was able to regain its poise.
Leadoff hitter C.J. Semones earned MVP honors by rapping four hits and scoring three runs Friday night as the No. 6 Spartans rumbled to a 10-6 win over top-seeded Southington at DeLuca Field in a title game between the two schools that have been there the most.
Amity (23-5) was crowned champion for the fifth time. Southington (22-3), which has won a state-record 14 championships, is now 3-3 against the Spartans in ‘LL’ title tilts. The two schools combined have appeared in 29 of the 39 championship games.
The Spartans last won a state title in 2003 when they recorded a 3-0 win over the Knights.
Amity, champions of the Southern Connecticut Conference’s Housatonic Division, pounded out 17 hits. The Blue Knights, perennial kingpins in the CCC, punched out seven hits and made four errors.
“I’ve been with these girls for four years, we know each other so well and senior year it just all came together,” Semones said. “It’s an amazing feeling.”
Bores was humbled by his team’s poor play.
“You’re not going to beat a Little League team giving up 10 runs,” he said, after an extended postgame meeting with his girls. “And I think the four errors were very generous. I counted about seven or eight.
“We played [badly]. We couldn’t have played worse.”
Semones started the game with a dribbler in front of the plate for a single. Emily Fox’s sacrifice bunt was thrown away by third baseman Alyssa Dumphy and Jacqueline Ferraiolo (3-for-5, double, HR, 4 RBI) made it sting by cracking a three-run homer over the fence in left.
Staked to a three-run lead, Amity hurler Dana Blydenberg promptly walked Nicole Rossitto and Sarah Carangelo. The pair pulled off a double steal and scored when Sydney Ferrante (3-for-4, 3 RBI) drilled a single under the glove of shortstop Heather Watt and into center field.
“We got a little nervous but I knew our team was going to make the plays in the end,” Semones said.
The pitchers and the defenses settled in. Amity padded its lead with a run in the fourth, an inning that saw Bores replace his junior starter Jordyn Moquin with freshman Kendra Freidt after Semones’ leadoff double.
“I knew it wasn’t her night when she gave up [eight] hits over [three-plus] innings,” Bores said.
Emily Fox collected the RBI with a single.
The Knights were still in the game, but unlike Amity, they couldn’t chase away the butterflies.
“I kept trying to keep them loose,” Amity coach Bob Purcell said. “I kept being very light and not coaching too much. The coaching’s all done. Now it’s just keeping the girls’ tempers down and their attitude good. That’s what I tried to do for the whole game.”
The fifth inning proved Southington’s undoing. Amity used well-placed bunts and doubles by Semones, Ferraiolo and Jenna DiLorenzo to pile up five runs.
“The ump was very selective with his zone so we just waited for our pitch,” Semones said, about hitting Moquin like she hadn’t been hit before.
Two Southington errors contributed to the merry-go-round.
‘I don’t know if they were nervous,” Bores said. “We haven’t given up 17 hits in two weeks, in five or six games. …
“It’s embarrassing. I’ve never been more embarrassed in my life as a softball coach. I’m embarrassed for them. That’s not a showing of how they played all season.”
With Amity leading 10-3 in the bottom of the seventh, the Blue Knights showed that they weren’t going down without a fight. Hits by Ferrante and Moquin led to three runs but too much damage had been done.
“It was over,” Bores said. “You could tell by my body language that I just wanted to go home.”
Moquin, who re-entered the game as a pinch-hitter and returned to the mound in relief of Friedt, allowed 11 hits, waqlked one and struck out three in five full innings of work. Blydenburg went the distance, yielding four earned runs on seven hits, walked six and fanned just one.

Class LL Softball Championship
At DeLuca Field, Stratford

Amity 10, Southington 6

Amity                                       Southington
                           ab  r  h  bi                               ab  r  h  bi
Semones 1b        5  3  4  1       Rossitto 2b        1  2  0  0
Fox lf                  4  2  2  0       Carangelo rf       3  2  1  1
Ferraiolo rf          5  2  3  4       Ferrante ss         4  0  3  3
DiLorenzo dp 5  0  2  2            Harvey c            4  1  0  1
Watt ss               0  0  0  0       Moquin p           4  0  1  0
Zdrowski cf         5  0  1  0       Friedt p              0  0  0  0
Luce c                 4  0  0  0       Dumphy 3b        2  0  0  1
Blydenburg p       2  1  0  0       Paterson 1b       3  0  0  0
Baker 2b             4  1  3  0       Zazzaro cf          3  0  0  0
Reynolds 3b        3  1  2  1       Downes lf          3  1  2  0
Shepa ph             1  0  0  0      
                                                                        
Totals               38 10 17  8      Totals                27  6  7  6

Amity                      300 150 1 – 10  17  1
Southington              200 010 3 –   6    7  4

E – Baker, Dumphy, Ferrante, Rossitto, Harvey.
LOB – Amity 11, Southington 7. DP – Amity 1.
2B – Semones 2, Ferraiolo, DiLorenzo. HR – Ferraiolo.
S – Fox.  SF – Dumphy. SB – Carangelo, Rossitto.

Amity
                            ip    h  r  er  bb  so
Blydenburg W      7     7   6   4   6   1

Southington

Moquin L             5   11   5   4   1   3
Friedt                   2     6   5   5   1   2

Moquin faced 1 batter in 4th.

WP – Blydenburg. T – 1:57. A – 1,000 (est.) . Records – Amity 23-5; Southington 22-3.









Thursday, June 7, 2012

SIMSBURY'S LAX SEASON ENDS IN SEMIS


Class L Boys Lacrosse

Fairfield Prep 10, Simsbury 7


Semifinal

At Robert J. McKee Stadium, West Hartford
Fairfield Prep     (15-3) 2 1 3 4 – 10
Simsbury           (17-2) 0 2 2 3 –   7


First quarter – 1. FP, Tim Edmonds 3:52; 2. FP, Kevin Brown (David White) 7:37.
Second quarter – 3. S, Trevor Gallagher (Eric Hesketh) 12:08; 4. FP, Matt Brophy 19:28; 5. S, Gallagher 23:54
Third quarter – 6. S, Mason Burr (Evan Ruszala) 25:52; 7. FP, Edmonds (Brown) 27:18; 8. FP, Brophy 27:42; 9. FP, Brown 28:38; 10. S, Hesketh 24:58.
Fourth quarter – 11. FP, Brophy (White) 38:12; 12. FP, Edmonds (White) 38:50; 13. FP, Brown (Edmonds) 39:14; 14. FP, Brophy (Edmonds) 43:03; 15. S, Gallagher 43:09; 16. S, Gallagher (Hesketh) 43:42; 17. S, Gallagher (John Ryan) 45:38.
Saves – FP, Mike Seelye 6; S, Tim Maher 6. Shots – S, 26-19. Ground balls – FP, 26-18.

By Ken Lipshez
WEST HARTFORD – Lacrosse wasn’t invented in Connecticut but if someone wanted to build a state shrine, the campus of Fairfield Prep would be a likely spot.
The Jesuits came into the Class L tournament having been in the final game last six years running. Of their three losses this season, two have been to powerful out-of-state teams. 
So when Simsbury wrested away the momentum after a sluggish first quarter and tied the game shortly after the halftime break, the notion of upset coursed through Trojan hearts.
As it turned out, such notions were very short-lived.
The fifth-seeded Jesuits responded by bunching three goals in just over a minute’s time Wednesday to oust the Trojans, 10-7, in a semifinal skirmish at Conard’s Robert J. McKee Stadium.
Simsbury, the top seed in the tournament, finished at 17-2. Fairfield Prep (15-3) moves into the familiar territory of playing for a state title on Saturday.
“I would never lie and say that we’re not frustrated losing to Prep because it’s frustrating every year,” Simsbury coach Jim Martocchio said. “We’ve had ups and downs with them. We’ve beaten them a couple of times in the regular season but when it counts, we seem to come up short every time. You’re got to play a perfect game of lacrosse to beat a team like that.”
Matt Brophy had four goals for the Jesuits. Tim Edmonds had three goals and two assists, Kevin Brown and three and one and David White contributed three helpers.
For Simsbury, Trevor Gallagher scored five goals. Eric Hesketh had a goal and two assists.
Martocchio and most of his players took the loss in stride, savoring the challenge and anxious for another crack at the downstate powerhouse that draws talent from multiple towns in the region.
“They bring kids from different towns to play and it’s hard to compete with that, working with one [town],” Hesketh said. “We wish we could have beaten them, but I’m not going to hang my head over the loss. They’re a pretty explosive team. When they get on a run they’re hard to stop.”
Prep dominated the first quarter and entered the second quarter with a two-goal lead, but the Trojans answered assertively. Hesketh took the opening draw, stormed down the center of the field and set up Gallagher just eight seconds in.
Brophy responded for Prep, but Gallagher made an aggressive inside roll and eluded a defender to bring Simsbury within a goal just six seconds before intermission.
Mason Burr tied the game when he gathered a pass from Evan Ruszala two minutes into the second half. It lit a blaze under the Jesuits. Edmonds, Brophy and Brown scored in rapid-fire succession within a span of 1 minute, 20 seconds to gain a 6-3 lead.
Hesketh reeled in an errant pass near midfield, rushed up the center of the field and rammed it under the crossbar with just over a minute left in the quarter, but the Jesuits countered in decisive fashion. Whtie assisted on goals by Brophy and Edmonds. Edmonds fed Brown for another and Brophy for a fourth unanswered tally that gave Prep a 10-4 lead with under five minutes remaining.
Gallagher scored three times down the stretch but the Jesuits proved too tough once again.
“The level of competition that we play through the season – beating Chaminade (N.Y.), we should have beaten St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) – and they’re two of the top high school teams in the country. So we’ve been battle-tested,” Prep coach Chris Smalkais said. We’ve played in a lot of great games where we know that if we can elevate our level of play, we can be successful. We played the most difficult schedule in Connecticut and it seems to work for us on an annual basis.”
The Jesuits’s sticky defense made advancing the ball difficult in Simsbury’s offensive zone.
“Their long-stick middie [Conor Barr] and their close defenseman [Andrew Hatton] – we knew all day we didn’t want to go on [Barr],” Martocchio said. “He takes your best player right out of the game.”

Monday, June 4, 2012

NWC STORMS PAST EAST CATHOLIC


WEST HARTFORD – Baseball apocalypse stared Northwest Catholic in the face on two fronts.
Underdog East Catholic was poised to stage an upset after dodging several threats and catching a few breaks. After the Indians built a four-run lead and had ace pitcher Mac Crispino on the hill to close it down, black clouds percolating in the western sky nearly escorted the visitors to a monumental comeback.
But even stormy weather and shaky karma couldn’t keep Northwest from advancing a step closer to its goal -- regaining the Class S championship.
A strong start from sophomore righthander John Arel and relentlessly aggressive baserunning staked the top-seeded Indians to a 5-3 victory over the resolute Eagles Sunday in a quarterfinal at Northwest Catholic.
Northwest (20-2) will take on Cromwell Tuesday at Waterbury's Municipal Stadium with game time slated for 7 p.m. Cromwell, which ousted St. Paul Sunday, eliminated Northwest in a Class S football semifinal in December. Northwest won its first and only 'S' title in 2010.
Arel tossed six sparkling frames, allowing the No. 24 Eagles (10-13) one run on three scratch singles. He walked just one, struck out three and used a three-pitch mix to jam the East hitters, inducing slow grounders, humpback line drives and lazy fly balls.
The Indians carried a 5-1 lead into the seventh inning after scoring four times and sending eight batters to the plate in the sixth. Northwest coach Cory Carlson had Crispino ready, but neither the Eagles nor Mother Nature was going to let the Indians and their ace slide by without a tussle.
The wind rustled the nearby treetops, the rain sent the crowd scurrying and the burden of coping with the sudden calamity fell on Crispino. Singles by Casey Carone and Tyler Aprea and a two-out walk to number-nine hitter Nick Benoit brought Garrett Richardello up with the tying run.
First baseman Dan Errico called for an infield pop and was startled when the wind blew it back toward the first-base dugout, well out of his reach. Given a reprieve, Richardello lashed a two-run double to left but Crispino struck out Andrew Gordon to end the game.
“Weird circumstances. It should have been a 5-1 game,” Carlson said. “When a kid hits a routine pop-up to first base, we’re in monsoon conditions and it takes a 90-degree turn. It’s a state tournament and you’ve got to get it in. The umpires did a good job getting it in and luckily things worked out in our favor.”
Crispino said he retained his focus in spite of the atmospheric onslaught.
“You want that situation as a pitcher right there. You want to close it out with all the fans here,” he said. “The thing about it is you can’t even throw the ball across the diamond. Did you see that pop-up? It flew like 10 feet. Pretty crazy.”
The key element in all of Northwest’s scoring was the stolen base. The Indians tried eight and succeeded on seven. Crispino had three and Alex Mortillaro, who scored the go-ahead tally in the sixth, had two. But the strategy wasn’t flawless. The Indians had one runner thrown out at the plate and another caught off second base.
“[Aggressive baserunning] is something we’ve always done,” Carlson said. “We have the best first-base coach in the state if not New England (Jason Maule) at the high school level. He’ll take guys that aren’t fast and makes them fast by reading the pitcher. He’s done an outstanding job getting our baserunners prepared.”
Northwest took a 1-0 lead in the third against East starter Aprea. Crispino laid down a perfect bunt on the first pitch of the frame and proceeded to steal second and third. Mortillaro laced a one-out single to left.
Arel faced the minimum through four and hadn’t allowed a hit when Ryan Wieczorek began the fifth with an infield hit in the hole. He advanced on a balk and a tapper back to the mound. With two down, Aprea singled to the opposite field on a payoff pitch to score the equalizer.
“[Arel] was fantastic,” Carlson said. “Two cue shots and an infield single. Honestly what he does is throw strikes. … He’s doing a better job mixing pitches and getting ahead of guys.”
East loaded the bases but Arel sawed off Richardello on a 3-2 pitch to retire the side.
Mortillaro worked a walk to start the big sixth-inning rally and stole second. Mike Wine laced a 3-2 single to left. Mortillaro held up at third, but when catcher Alex Fulco fielded the throw from the outfield and tried to get Wine at second, Mortillaro scored in a cloud of dust.
“Early in the game the same thing happened but [Will Carew] got tossed out on a close play at the plate,” Mortillaro said. “We were talking about how the catcher was blocking the plate so you do a hook slide and try to get your hand in. I saw the throw to second was low so I figured I’d be aggressive and go off my instincts.”
Dylan Robinson, who struck out looking with the bases loaded in the first, reprieved himself with a base hit that scored Wine. Andrew Dornfried drove in Robinson with a single and Carew scored the final run on a wild pitch.

Class S Baseball Tournament
NW Catholic 3, East Catholic 2
Quarterfinal
At Northwest Catholic

East Catholic                         NW Catholic
                           ab  r  h  bi                                ab  r  h  bi
Richardello ss     3  0  1  2       Wilson ss            3  0  0  0
Gordon cf          4  0  0  0       Crispino cf          3  1  1  0
Cella rf-3b          3  0  0  0       Errico 1b            2  0  0  0
Wieczorek lf       3  1  1  0       Mortillaro 3b      1  1  1  1
Carone dh          3  0  1  0       Wine c                2  1  1  0
DiPace 2b           0  0  0  0       Robinson lf        3  1  1  1
Fulco c               3  1  0  0       Carew rf             1  1  0  0
Aprea p-rf          3  1  2  1       Angelini dh        3  0  1  0
Felice rf              2  0  1  0       Arel p                 0  0  0  0
Rooke p              0  0  0  0       Dornfried cf       3  0  1  1
Greene p             1  0  0  0      
Benoit 1b           1  0  0  0
                                                                             
Totals                26  3  6  3       Totals                21  5  6  3

East Catholic    000 010 2 – 3  6  1
NW Catholic     001 004 x – 5  6  0

E – Fulco. LOB – East Catholic 5, NWC 6. 2B – Richardello.
SB – Crispino 3, Mortillaro 2, Wilson, Robinson, Dornfried.
CS – Wilson.

East Catholic
                                 ip    h  r  er  bb  so
Aprea L                    5     4   3   3   5   4
Rooke                       0.1  2   2   2   1   0
Greene                      0.2  0   0   0   0   0

NW Catholic
Arel W                     6     3   1   1   1   3
Crispino                    1     3   2   2   1   1

Aprea faced 2 batters in 6th inning.

WP – Rooke. BK – Arel, Rooke. HBP – by Aprea (Mortillaro, Wine);
by Arel (Richardello). T – 1:59. Records – EC 10-13; NWC 20-2.