Spring Preview: High School Sports in Full Bloom
(Newington pitcher #22 Kat Lagace returns to the mound for the Indians, pictured with sophomore Cyan Gonzalez)
Cromwell is coming off a deep run in the Class S tournament last spring. The Panthers finished the regular season with a modest 10-10 record, but won three tourney games to advance to the semifinal round where they fell to Morgan. Luke Matchett returns for his senior season after leading the team in hits and RBIs a season ago. Junior Noah Budzik and senior slugger Sean Melaven will also be counted on from the plate. Head coach Lewis Pappariella’s toughest task will be replacing the pitching lost to graduation, but David Dewey and Austin Roy garnered some experience last season and should assume a bulk of the load from the mound.
Newington won 12 of 20 regular season games and added a tourney victory, before losing to a red-hot Xavier squad in the second round of Class LL. Junior ace Joey Zawisza returns to the mound for the Indians, who will also lean on the senior leadership of Jordan Blanchette and Nathan Torres this season.
Wethersfield graduated a solid senior class following a second-round exit a season ago, but the Eagles return a talented group of players entering their senior seasons. Michael Santiago, Jordan Laske, and Eric Shields bring versatility to the lineup and Jaden Krueger, along with juniors Tim Blaisdell and Samuel Tenney, will be counted on to complete the pitching rotation.
Middletown is loaded, with their top seven hitters returning following a Class LL quarterfinals appearance in 2016. Reliable plate performers Alex Giardina, Sam Pizzonia, and Kelsey White are back following All-CCC selections a season ago. Pizzonia also stars on the hill for the Blue Dragons, winning 16 of her 22 starts last spring. Also keep an eye on Dominique Highsmith, who had 15 extra base hits as a freshman.
Rocky Hill won 18 of 19 regular season games and advanced to Class M state championship game, before losing a 1-0 thriller to Seymour. It was an extremely successful inaugural season for head coach Tyler Catlin, who is now tasked with replacing several key players lost to graduation. The departing players included pitching ace Jess Greenspan, leadoff hitter Victoria Spellman, and fielding specialist Julia Slavin. Senior Riley Pickett and Erin Kelly will be asked to fill the leadership void and juniors Sophie Kurdziel and Gina Genovese now assume bigger roles.
Newington advanced to the second round of Class LL tourney following a 13-7 regular season last spring. Veteran coach Steve Markie welcomes back pitching sensation Kat Lagace, who struck out nearly 150 batters and shutout four opponents a season ago. The now-senior was also the Indians most reliable performer from the plate, registering 41 hits and driving home 21. Cyan Gonzalez returns after leading the team with 30 runs and earning All-CCC as a freshman. Rachel Thureson also had a phenomenal freshman season last spring and senior Kacey Blais will add a veteran presence from the plate and the field.
Rocky Hill advanced to quarterfinals in Class S, following a 13-3 regular season. It marked the second straight season that the Terriers won a postseason game under the tutelage of head coach Michael Albano. Goalie Peter Lucente returns between the pipes and he’ll have a talented nucleus surrounding him, headed by seniors Sam Cimini, Ricky Montalvo, and Hunter Held.
Cromwell is coming off a difficult season, but the team has a new approach and returns a stable of skilled players. Leading scorer David Beauchemin is back, along with assist leader Jack Shauck and productive midfielder Sam Beardsley. The Panthers also have senior goalie Carlos Beltran back protecting the net and keep an eye on Jon Siena, who is a tremendous athlete and primed for a monster year.
Newington missed postseason following a 5-11 season, but will have a lot of firepower returning. Senior Jack Lam and sophomore Dan Pestrichello will assume a bulk of the offensive load and goaltender Gage Garcia returns for senior season. Juniors Gavin Bissoni and Mike Ganley are candidates to take their games to the next level this season.
Newington is hoping to get over the hump after narrowly missing the tournament following 6-10 regular season last spring. Maya Gajowiak is back and better than ever following her All-CCC selection as a freshman. Joining her will be a solid senior class, led by McKenna Gernander, Symantha Fazzino and Neve Manion.
Rocky Hill posted a 4-12 record a season ago and aims to improve on that with the return of Emily Zarrilli, who was an All-CCC selection a year ago. The Terriers are very young, with lone senior Cristina LoGiuduce ready to assume the leadership role.
Newington was ousted in the semifinals last season, ending their bid for a third straight championship. Veteran coach Curt Burns has a well-rounded senior class returning, including All-CCC selections Kevin Bilbraut and Zach Harmon. Andres Ithier-Vicenty, who was second on the team in kills last season, and Vinh Dau, who led the team in aces, will also be back pursuing another championship for the Indians.
Wethersfield made a nice push a season ago, earning a tournament berth for the first time since 2014 and nearly upsetting Masuk in the first round. The Eagles graduated a slew of talent, including All-CCC selections Jack Malizia, Joseph Sottile, and Colin Stewart. The void in production should be filled by up-and-coming star Brian Rodriguez, who is able to do a bit of everything on the court.
Boys Outdoor Track
Wethersfield was the best in the state last spring, winning both the Class L championship and the Open Finals. Following the triumphant season the Eagles graduated a ton of talent, but they do have speedster Tevin Walker and jumpers Arben Zoto and Stevenson Paul returning in their attempt to repeat as champs.
Middletown finished fourth in Class L a season ago and should improve on that mark with most of their roster returning. DeShaun Bradshaw won the 100 meters a season ago and is back for his junior year. Bradshaw will be joined by sprinters Nico Cavaliere, Justin McMillian, Garrett Dandridge, and Laurenzo Thompkins. DeAaron Lawrence is the Blue Dragons top leaper.
Newington sprinter Greston Walwyn and distant runner Shamar Murray are worth keeping an eye on this spring.
Girls Outdoor Track
Middletown girls have a chance to improve of their seventh-place showing at the Class L finals a season ago. The Blue Dragons return Brielle Wilborn, who won the state championship in the shotput, and have a deep cast of sprinters back. Relayers Chelsea Perrotta, Syleena Daniels, Jennifer Barbour, Mackenzie Dunn, and Nasharie Davis are all back.
Rocky Hill’s Zykeya Ford returns for her senior season, following a third place finish at the Class M finals as a junior. Ford will be joined by a gifted group of young runners, led by sophomore Lilah Devine. The Terriers are aiming to improve on their 15th place showing at the class finals last spring.
Wethersfield has dual-threat runner and jumper Bianca Tata returning for her senior season. Tata will be joined by the likes of Isabella Schroeder, Julia Chrostowski, Breanna Flores, and Jacqueline Samse.
Newington’s Claudia Padykula is primed for a breakout season, following a third place finish in the 100 meter and fourth place showing in the 200 meter as a sophomore last spring. She’ll be joined by Stephanie Akosa and Katelyn Andrews, as the Indians look to improve on last year’s 18th place showing at the Class L finals.
Newington returns the triple threat of Noah Hedberg, Max Turgeon, and Ben Weyman. The trio of seniors shined for the Indians at states a season ago. This could be a year to remember on the links in Newington.
Wethersfield has a solid lineup returning, headed by the Mike & Mike duo of Michael Donnelly and Michael Murphy. Alex Tawrel, Evan Setzko and Brian Kallajian also return for the Eagles on the links.
Rocky Hill’s Jake Walling returns for his senior season, following his fourth place showing at states a season ago.
Cromwell’s Jackson Mantel and Kyle Bucher are primed for breakout seasons.
Wethersfield keeps producing great golfers and had a strong showing at states last June. Sophomore Emily McKenna returns after her All-CCC selection and will be leading the team with Rachel Bahouth, the Eagles lone senior.
Newington also returns a deep team, led by Chloe Bilodeau and Jessica Pierzchalski.
Wethersfield will be paced by senior Jared Hill and junior Grant Anderson. Watch out for Michael Manousos, who could be ready to shine during his sophomore season.
Rocky Hill’s Arian Gokhale is back for his junior season after a winning an opening-round match at states a season ago.
Rocky Hill hopes to follow up on their solid performance a season ago and has a trio of All-CCC’ers returning in Nicole Chamberland, Melanie Holmes, and Reva Shah.
Wethersfield is also coming off a terrific season in which they advanced to the quarterfinals in Class M. Kendall Cathcart, Lynne Landers, Megan Lauzon and Chloe Troy are all back on the court following All-CCC seasons.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin