Portland’s senior first baseman Ethan Krasniewski and East Hampton senior shortstop Gavin Santillo during the Bellringers 9-2 win on April 20.
Portland High School’s baseball team has dropped nine of their first ten games this spring.
But if last season is any indication, there is reason for optimism
One of the latest losses was a 9-2 defeat to the Bellringers in East Hampton on April 20, marking the team’s sixth straight loss.
The Shoreline Conference (SLC) rivals battled to a draw through the first three innings before the Bellringers pulled away with a five-run fifth inning.
“East Hampton got some big hits and we didn’t,” Portland head coach Rick Borg said following the seven-run defeat.
Returning all-conference senior Harrison Collins scored both of Portland’s runs in the loss, scoring once in the first and again in the third inning following a sacrifice fly from Allen Cohen to tie the score at 2-2.
Collins is captaining the team with Spencer Rosado and Austin Vess. The captains are three of the team’s five seniors that are helping Borg navigate the rocky start.
Borg said his field generals bring a lot of experience and are setting a standard for a lineup featuring several young players.
“We have needed them; they lead by example,” added Borg. “We’ll keep plugging away and see what happens.”
Borg and his boys only have to look back to last spring to find a silver lining.
A year ago, the Highlanders lost nine straight games to start the season before rebounding to win three games down the stretch.
The highlight of last season was a 2-0 upset victory over a tourney-bound East Hampton team at Dunkin’ Donuts Park late in the regular season. In the team’s earlier meeting last spring, the Bellringers won by 14 runs.
This year’s Highlanders are hoping for a similar turnaround and have also shown promise at times on the diamond, evidenced by an 8-4 win over Old Saybrook in the second game of the season.
In the home-opening win over the Rams of Old Saybrook, Collins and Ryan LaPila each had multiple hits and scored two runs apiece. Rosado, the team’s ace, earned the win on the mound, striking out six in five innings of work and also scored twice from the plate.
Freshman Aaron Ciarleglio also scored his first two high school runs in the early-season win.
Ciarleglio and fellow freshman Ethan Wells are two first-year players that are filling important roles for the Highlanders this spring.
Borg said his freshmen have played well under the circumstances, adding, “We’ve had some freshmen growing pains, but they will benefit from those growing pains down the road.”
Borg added that the team has the “ability to win more games” down the stretch and is hoping that April’s losses bring May victories.
“Our bats have been good, better than I expected,” Borg said of the team’s performance through the first 10 games. “We’re struggling defensively and we’re without pitching depth, but we’re getting a little better each day.”
Next is a home date with Cromwell this Fri., April 28 at Portland High School. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.
They will host the Bellringers later in the season, aiming for a similar result to last year, on Wed., May 17 at 4 p.m.
Here are the Rivereast Standouts of the Week for the week of April 17 - 23:
Fayz Baig - RHAM High School (Baseball): Baig hit a walk-off single, driving a shot to center to score Sam Senes as the Raptors edged Tolland 17-16 on April 19. Baig, a sophomore, was a beast from the plate, connecting on five hits. He drove in four runs and scored another to help the team hold off a rally from the visiting Eagles from Tolland, who scored nine runs in the sixth inning. Junior Sean Connolly added three hits, scoring three runs and driving in two more, while senior Ethan Polochanin also had three hits, driving in a run and scoring twice. All told, RHAM scattered 19 hits as the team improved to 5-2.
Joseph LaMalfa - Portland High School (Golf): LaMalfa shook off a rough opening hole to finish at the medalist, shooting a 37 as the Highlander defeated Old Saybrook at Portland Golf Course on April 19. LaMalfa, a senior, shot par on the fifth hole to edge junior teammate Luke Stennett (38) atop the leaderboard. Portland won the overall meet (159-178) over the conference rival Rams to remain undefeated on the season.
Maddox Burton - Bacon Academy (Lacrosse): Burton scored five goals and dished out five assists as the Bobcats defeated Killingly 17-10 on April 20. Burton’s five helpers were a season-high and her five goals equal the total she scored in a win over Woodstock Academy on April 15. Burton, a senior, was one of five Bobcats to score goals in the win over Killingly. Anna LeGault and Katie Graham each scored four, while Marissa Nudd tallied three and Megan Swanke found the back of the net once.
Anthony Miro - East Hampton High School (Tennis): Miro defeated Old Saybrook’s Brent Ling (6-0, 2-6, 6-2) to win the No. 1 singles match as the Bellringers defeated the Rams (4-1) at East Hampton High School, securing the team’s first victory of the season. Miro, a junior, was one of three Bellringers to win individual matches. No. 2 player Zach Selger defeated Drew Demers in straight sets and No. 3 player Landon Vaillancourt defeated Jason Lee in straight sets.
East Hampton pitcher James Quinn winds up during the Bellringers 9-2 victory over Portland last Thursday. Quinn, a junior, earned the win after throwing five scoreless innings.
East Hampton High School baseball used a five-run fifth inning to take control and cruise to a 9-2 victory over Portland High School on April 20.
First-year head coach Pat Sirois said the team’s offensive fireworks in the fifth inning were sparked by a more aggressive approach at the plate.
“We have been preaching to really focus on driving on fast balls when there are men on base. We want to make sure we don’t fall behind on count and attack fast balls early in counts,” stated Sirois, “I think just honing in on that approach helped us break the game open on that inning.”
After falling behind by a run in the first inning, Jason Johnson had a line-drive single that drove home Gavin Santillo to tie the score at 1-1. Andrew Wagner then singled, scoring David Johnson to give the Bellringers a 2-1 advantage in the bottom of the second inning.
The Shoreline Conference (SLC) rivals traded runs in the third and fourth innings before the Bellringers broke the game open in the fifth.
Facing two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Tyler Varni doubled on a hard ground ball into the right gap, scoring both Alex Zimmerman and James Quinn.
Santillo then doubled to center, sending home Andrew Bigelow, before Santillo crossed home plate thanks to a single from Jason Johnson.
East Hampton added an insurance run in the sixth when Quinn scored following a sacrifice fly from freshman Jaxson Hanson.
Quinn earned the win from the mound, pitching five scoreless innings and allowing only one hit while striking out six after relieving starting pitcher Blake Kapernaros.
“He’s been phenomenal whenever we’ve needed him,” Sirois said of his senior lefty. “He can come in and throw strikes, and doesn’t need a warm up. He’s been a great reliever in big situations.”
Quinn and Santillo each scored two runs, while Varni, Wagner, and Jason Johnson each drove in two runs.
Santillo, a shortstop, connected on all three attempts at the plate and is one of four seniors that have helped Sirois settle in during his first spring in the Bellringers’ dugout.
Sirois is former basketball and baseball standout at Cromwell High School, helping the Panthers baseball team win a state championship during his senior season in 2012.
After high school, he played baseball collegiately at Central Connecticut State University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Eastern Connecticut State University.
He most recently coached the Rocky Hill-Cromwell-Portland (RCP) 19U American Legion Baseball team in the summer before taking over an East Hampton program previously coached by Tom Seidl.
The win over Portland marked the team’s third win in nine games this spring and Sirois said the players are starting to get a feel for how he likes to operate.
“It took some time, but they’re buying in,” added Sirois. “All I’ve asked of the kids is to buy-in and give effort. We’re building a winning culture here.”
Among the team’s six losses are a pair of walk-off defeats and another two-run loss.
Sirois said the team is focused on finishing innings, both offensively and defensively in order to turn those close losses into wins.
“We are building that confidence and we are starting to believe in ourselves,” added Sirois. “The other team knows we’re going to give them a hard game and we expect to play with every team in the conference.”
The team has been impressive in the three wins, winning all three games by seven or more runs.
Along with the seven-run win over Portland, they also soundly defeated North Branford (11-4) on April 7 and a shellacked Westbrook (14-4) on April 14.
In the win over North Branford, the Bellringers scored nine runs in the second inning, getting four RBIs from Zimmerman.
Zimmerman also came up big again in the win over Westbrook, hitting a grand slam in the fifth inning, driving in six total runs as the team has their best offensive output of the season.
Next is an away game at Nathan Hale Ray High School in Moodus on Fri., April 28. The Bellringers then return home on Mon., May 1 to welcome Valley Regional to East Hampton High School. First pitch for both games is 4 p.m.
Cromwell/Portland’s Cole Brisson (top left) and Wethersfield’s Kaleb Garcia and Cam Righi (top right), along with Newington’s Paddy Brown (bottom left) and Rocky Hill’s Frankie Guerrera (bottom right) are the first five selections in the 2023 Rare Reminder Bizarro Draft.
The National Football League draft starts tonight! Here is what the first round of the draft would look like if we entered The Land of Make Believe, in which NFL teams selected from the pool of talented players from the five local public schools that starred on the gridiron. Welcome to the 8th annual Bizarro Draft. The Carolina Panthers are now on the clock…
1. Carolina Panthers: Cole Brisson (QB-Cromwell/Portland): Exceptional leader with a championship pedigree. Fierce competition with a smooth delivery and touch, and added ability to push the ball deep. Ideal fit in Carolina under new head coach and former quarterback Frank Reich.
2. Houston Texans: Kaleb Garcia (DE-Wethersfield): Dominant force that finished with an eye-popping 27 tackles for loss in 11 games this past fall. An alpha on defense that could potentially be the next J.J. Watt in H-Town for DeMeco Ryan’s attacking defense.
3. Arizona Cardinals: Frankie Guerrera (WR-Rocky Hill): A long, lean, and mean touchdown machine. Rare athlete with all the physical traits. A ball magnet that can play multiple positions and is a matchup nightmare regardless of where he lines up.
4. Indianapolis Colts: Paddy Brown (QB-Newington): Tough as nails competitor who will stand strong in the pocket and deliver the goods. Top-notch character and a sneaky good athlete with a lacrosse background and broad build for rigors of position. Makings of Colts next legendary signal caller.
5. Seattle Seahawks: Cam Righi (Athlete-Wethersfield): Pure playmaker that takes a licking and keeps on ticking. Taysom Hill-type athlete that will contribute in a multitude of ways and wants the ball in his hands in pressure situations. Division I baseball talent with sky-high ceiling on the gridiron.
6. Detroit Lions: Ryan Rozich (LB-Cromwell/Portland): A warrior who brings the juice on every play and is always around the ball. Exceptional sideline-to-sideline ability with a fantastic football IQ. Athletic ability to cover slot receivers and has receiver hands himself.
7. Las Vegas Raiders: Evan Christian (MLB/Edge-Wethersfield): Unique defensive standout that excelled on the edge and as a middle linebacker. Engulf ball carriers and explosive on contact. Position flexibility made him an every down player.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Zy’Kie Askew (RB-Middletown): Explosive first step with leg-churning power and incredible balance. Three-down back that has receiver type hands out of backfield and never gives up on a run. Will remind Falcons fans of Warrick Dunn.
9. Chicago Bears: Alex Peruta (LB-Rocky Hill): Has the heart of a lion and an A+ character. Suffered multiple knee injuries, but rehabbed and came back stronger and better than ever each time. Workout warrior with a positive, infectious attitude and energy.
10. Philadelphia Eagles: Jack Williams (OL-Cromwell/Portland): Reliable grinder that can play multiple positions along both sides of the line. Strong like an ox with a great center of gravity. Perennial Pro Bowler at the next level.
11. Tennessee Titans: Josiah Ross (WR-Newington): Lightning quick in-and-out of breaks with strong, tacky hands. Mature route runner who is quarterback-friendly and his baseball prowess could allow him to become the next Bo or Deion in the professional ranks.
12. Houston Texans: Eddie Strong (WR-Middletown): Wins off the line and plays bigger than his frame. Confident and makes contested catches look routine. A sleeper who will give defensive coordinators nightmares.
13. New York Jets: M.J. Torres (LB-Rocky Hill): Foundational player that is powerful at point of contact. Has the feet of a running back, balance of a wrestler, and mentality of a defensive captain. The total package.
14. New England Patriots: Amari Rosemond (OL-Newington): Unique prospect that can play both sides of the line. Imposing frame and a worker bee from the opening snap to the last. Position versatility will suit him well in Foxborough.
15. Green Bay Packers: Felipe Lozano (LB-Wethersfield): Pursues the ball like a puma and easily sheds blocks. A legit three-down linebacker that provides pop on contact and is a special teams' standout.
16. Washington Commanders: Christopher Adamczyk (OL-Rocky Hill): Mauler with ideal size and pure power from wrestling. Can play both sides of the ball and is willing to do whatever to get on the field.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Emeka Yearwood (EDGE-Cromwell/Portland): Physical game-changer that plays with a purpose and an edge. A special talent that is perfect fit in the Steel City and will do whatever it takes to win.
18. Detroit Lions: Elijah Smith (OT-Newington): Great feet with tremendous base. Always finishes blocks and is solid as a rock paving the way for the run and protecting the passer.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Colin Skene (QB-Middletown): Under the radar talent that throws a tight spiral and picturesque deep ball. Polished leader that can make any pass with both touch and accuracy.
20. Seattle Seahawks: Daryl Asante (LB-Rocky Hill): A thumper that plays every snap with effort and grit. Sure-tackler with a burst off snap and on contact. Reminds scouts of Nick Bolton.
21. Los Angeles Chargers: Luke Whitaker (DB-Wethersfield): Supreme recognition allows him to be near the action at all times. A heady ball-hawk with mentality of a linebacker in run support.
22. Baltimore Ravens: Chase Leonard (LB-Newington): Hard-nosed disruptive ball attacker that Baltimore craves. Quickly diagnoses play and eliminates runners. Charismatic with a great locker room demeanor.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Ethan Lemos (WR-Wethersfield): Precisely runs the entire route tree and is blessed with fantastic body control. Hands catcher with a vast radius and will compete for every ball.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars: Joey Yost (OL-Wethersfield): Stands ground and finishes blocks. Ideal size and physicality and will provide Jacksonville’s offense a much-needed edge.
25. New York Giants: Edward Kocaqi (C-Rocky Hill): Has all the tools and plays beyond his years. Just reaching his potential.
26. Dallas Cowboys: Alex Hair (DE-Cromwell/Portland): Powerful, explosive talent with leg-drive of a thoroughbred. Battled back from injury last season and didn’t miss a beat upon his return. Added value as a goal line back.
27. Buffalo Bills: Alexander Muniz (DL-Rocky Hill): People-mover that plays with incredible leverage. Wrestling background gives him added technique and allows him to push the pocket.
28. Cincinnati Bengals: Jaiquan Hill (OT-Middletown): Intriguing prospect with a long and strong frame. Light feet and fluid with exceptional arm pop. Day-one starter.
29. New Orleans Saints: Ben Fagan (WR-Cromwell/Portland): Polished receiver with smooth hips and deceptive speed. Finds the ball in flight and will move the chains.
30. Philadelphia Eagles: Vrisan Kuttin (CB-Rocky Hill): Natural athlete with good eye discipline. Supports the run support and tracks the ball well. A potential steal late in first round for NFC champs.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: Hayden Fish (LB-Newington): Underrated athlete that is a difference-maker on every down. Another championship attitude heads to KC.
23 Day-Two Prospects for 2023 (alphabetical by last name)
Yazdan Aftab (WR/CB-Rocky Hill): Great length and strong frame allow him to be a physical man-to-man corner or a red zone receiving threat at the next level.
Tamoor Ahmed (S-Rocky Hill): Can play near the line and cover slot receivers. Rangy and impactful at point of contact.
Ben Caulfield (CB-Wethersfield): Fundamentally sound corner with a knack for knocking down passes. Size and willingness to help defend the run.
Tyler Cipolla (Athlete-Cromwell/Portland): A star in the making. Dangerous in the return game and can be used all over the offensive formation. Sneaky speed and strength.
Allen Cohen (K/P-Cromwell/Portland): Strong, accurate leg and lives for the clutch kick. Unique athlete with added power from playing along both the offensive and defensive lines.
Luca Corvino (RB-Newington): Solid, long strider with low center of gravity. Always moving forward and has soft hands out of backfield.
David De’Leon (WR-Middletown): Electric with ball in his hands and makes defenders whiff on a consistent basis. Perfect gadget player with blazing speed and ability to change direction on a dime.
Matt Gish (LB/S-Cromwell/Portland): Blossoming talent with power to play linebacker and athletic ability to play in defensive backfield. Wrestling technique and mentality on tackles.
Nick Guglielmo (DE-Wethersfield): Feisty competitor and exceptional leader. Productive grinder who will find his way onto the field at the next level.
Jayzair Hall (DL-Rocky Hill): Budding star that lives in the opposing team’s backfield. A day-two steal.
Jova’n Hill (RB-Wethersfield): Dynamic and explosive. Shifty with exceptional breakaway speed from his first step.
Caden Huddleston (S-Rocky Hill): Developing dynamic athlete with a nose for the ball. Great hip movement allows him to easily play in all four directions.
Oleg Korotykk (WR-Rocky Hill): Imposing threat on the outside with sticky hands. Suffered knee injury early in the season last fall but is a healthy and is first round talent with tremendous upside.
Alex McKeirnan (LB-Cromwell/Portland): Stout, fierce tackler that drives through ball carriers. Confident in coverage and the physical traits to become a Pro-Bowler.
Joey Moats (QB-Rocky Hill): Maturing signal caller with a live arm. Good athlete with tremendous touch and naturally steps into throws.
Dhallas Morgan (RB-Wethersfield): A stud with sudden speed and elite burst. Potential is through the roof and added value as a returner.
Justin Nardella (CB-Wethersfield): Team-first player that is disciplined on the corner. Solid in run support and has tools to play both man and zone.
JD Nazario (MLB-Newington): Great pre-snap recognition and sacrifices body entire whistle. Effort player that has a natural knack for nullifying the run.
Alexander Pushkar (DT-Newington): Imposing backfield wrecker with a 6’6” powerful frame. Engulfs ball carriers. One scout glowingly referred to him as the next Michael Bankston.
Noah Pasquaretta (LB-Wethersfield): Emerging talent that plays with a never-give-up attitude. Displayed mature patience and play recognition for young prospect that is just coming into his own.
Brandon Rose (CB-Cromwell/Portland): Long corner with tremendous upside and ability to be a shutdown corner. Tracks the ball well and packs a punch on contact.
Akari Rosemond (WR-Newington): Supreme talent and an absolute steal in the second round, similar to Anquan Boldin. High-ball specialist that uses his body well. Long, productive career ahead.
Derek Wilson (DB-Cromwell/Portland): Exceptional in pursuit and sure-tackler upon contact. Sees the entire field and could play multiple positions on back-seven.
GHS senior John Desmarais is headed to Bowdoin College to play football. Demarais is pictured with his father, Mark, and mother, Cecile, signing his letter of intent on March 28.
Not even multiple broken bones over the last two years could stop John Desmarais from helping out his team on the football field.
The soon-to-be GHS graduate now eyes a healthier next four years on the gridiron where he has committed to play for Bowdoin College.
“Since day one on campus all the coaches made me feel like I was at home,” Desmarais said of the private college in Maine.
“They all knew my name, they knew where I was from, and there was a certain love and respect that the team felt for each other.”
Desmarais’ football career at GHS has been full of obstacles and he’s tackled every one of them.
His sophomore year was lost because of the Covid-19 cancellation and during his junior year he suffered a broken wrist. He was able to wrap the wrist and play through the injury, winning the Coaches Award after registering 38 tackles, five for loss, despite playing in only six games.
Then a broken leg early in his senior season threatened to put an end to his high school career.
Yet the resilient Desmarais again rehabbed in an effort to return to the field while also serving as a team captain.
Head coach Eric Hennessy said that trainers and doctors feared that Desmarais' season was over, but he defied the odds by returning in time to help the Guardians make the playoffs.
Hennessy called him an “unselfish leader.”
“He would do anything needed to help the team,” added Hennessy. “He really thrived on seeing his teammates be successful. That is a unique thing to see in a young man. I think he got more enjoyment seeing his teammates be successful and knowing he played a role in their success.”
Following losses to Hall and Southington midway through the season, the Guardians won their final three games of the regular season to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2015.
Desmarais referred to a win over top-ranked and undefeated Maloney in November as the “turning point” of the season.
“It lit a fire under our team and we realized that we could compete with any team in the state,” stated Desmarais, who had seven tackles and a sack in the win. “It was something special to all of us.”
Following an 8-2 regular season, the Guardians traveled to West Haven and upset the nine-win Blue Devils in the opening round of the Class LL playoffs.
Desmarais said the success of the team in the fall was because of a motivated team that set out to prove the doubters wrong after finishing with only two wins the previous season.
He added that the roller coaster ride in high school gave him a new perspective on the game of football and of life in general.
“Not everyone gets the opportunity to play; it’s just about giving my all every day,” stated Desmarais. “You never know when it’s going to be your last snap, so I’m not taking this opportunity for granted.”
Desmarais began playing football in kindergarten, joining a flag football team, and then started playing contact football in the second grade.
Ever since his first game, Desmarais said it was love at first hit.
At his next destination, Desmarais will be joining a Bear program in Brunswick, ME that competes in the New England Small College Athletic Conference and will be entering the fourth season under head coach B.J. Hammer.
Hennessy said that Desmarais’ size, strength, and determination will help him at the collegiate level.
“He’s a dynamic athlete,” added Hennessy “We’d be talking about him being an all-state player and other accolades if he played the whole year.”
Desmarais, who was born and raised in Glastonbury, added that he is ready to embrace a fresh and healthy start in the Pine Tree State.
“There is a certain freedom you have being away from home and I’ll be living outside of Connecticut for the first time,” added Desmarais, who will double major at Bowdoin with a focus on physics. “It is something that is truly different and something special that I’m looking forward to.”
GHS junior pitcher Cody Heselton winds up during the team’s 11-1 win over East Catholic last week. Heselton earned the win, striking out eight as the Guardians won their sixth game this spring.
Glastonbury High School baseball rode a methodical pitching performance from Cody Heselton and used a five-run fifth inning to pull away from East Catholic, winning 11-1 in six innings on April 19.
Heselton pitched into the sixth inning, striking out eight and allowing only four hits to earn his fourth win of the season.
“I knew they had some good hitters, so I knew I had to attack them,” said Heselton, who added he leaned on his fastball and slider, “They were both working. I had good movement and good location, and it all came together.”
GHS head coach Dennis Accomando called Heselton “super coachable” and said his junior ace has assumed the top spot after the team graduated three pitchers that are currently playing college baseball.
“He came in prepared and he understood what the expectations were,” added Accomando. “He’s doing great and I think he has yet to throw his best game.”
Heselton got support from a balanced lineup, led by Collin Martin. Martin, a junior, had three hits, driving in two runs and scoring two more.
Martin was awarded the ‘G-Chain’, a giant gold-plated chain with a G pendant given to a player that stands out through their play, effort, and leadership.
“Today he demonstrated how fierce he could be at the plate,” Accomando said of Martin. “We value the big things and the small things and he’s done both.”
Sophomore Anthony DuBaldo also tallied multiple hits, scoring a run and driving in two more.
In the bottom of the first inning, DuBaldo scored the game’s first run after being driven home by Matt Stephen.
Stephen scored later in the inning following a triple by Martin, who connected on a shot to right field.
Glastonbury made it 4-0 in the third inning thanks to runs from Drew Curto and Zack DiSette.
They broke the game open in the fifth inning on runs from Stephen, Martin, Kyle Stephens, C.J. Butera, and Anthony Alibrio.
Butera scored in the sixth and Stephens put the finishing touches on the victory after reaching home and sparking the 10-run mercy rule.
Curto, a senior who is coming off an all-state season last spring, is captaining the team along with junior Anthony Michaud.
The ten-run win was a complete team effort, showcasing both a strong defense and timely offense.
It was the team’s sixth win in seven games and Accomando said an emphasis on adding power in the offseason is paying dividends so far this spring.
“They worked incredibly hard in the weight room and this is the strongest and biggest team we’ve had in eight years,” explained Accomando. “We felt like our bats would be really strong top to bottom and [the players] make our job of making a lineup hard because we have so many guys contributing every day.”
It marked the team’s third straight win and Heselton's fourth win overall from the mound, also earning the win in starts over Westhill and Southington, and in relief during a victory over Masuk.
After getting spot duty last season, the hard-throwing lefty has shown that he is more than capable of carrying a heavy load this spring.
“It was working hard in the offseason and always training, and getting that feel on the mound,” added Heselton, who said the connection between the coaching staff and players in rock solid “We’re all great friends and I we knew we could be good, and I think we are only going to get better.”
Glastonbury closed the week with an 8-7 loss to Berlin on Friday. The Guardians fell behind 7-2 before tying the game after scoring five runs in the fifth. A triple by Berlin’s Sebastian Mongillo, driving home Luke Wadstrup in the sixth inning, proved to be the difference.
Enter the week, the Guardians stands at 6-2 and Accomando said he likes the team’s mentality makeup on the field. .
“It’s a really coachable group. The attitudes have been great and there’s a lot of shared leadership,” the eighth year head coach added.
Next is a rematch with Berlin at GHS this Friday, April 28. First pitch is 3:45 p.m.
Anna Barry (right) and Eastern Connecticut State University women’s basketball coach Denise Bierly after Barry won the Bonnie J. Edmondson Female Sportsperson-of-the-Year. Barry, a 2018 graduate of RHAM High School, is a two-sport athlete at Eastern, excelling at both volleyball and basketball.
Anna Barry, a 2018 graduate of RHAM High School, was selected as Eastern Connecticut State University’s Bonnie J. Edmondson Female Sportsperson-of-the-Year.
Barry said the honor was a complete surprise and recalled her heart racing and hands shaking from the nerves of being named the recipient at the school’s athletic award ceremony on April 16.
“Conference awards are nice, but these are the people that I see every single day and they know me better as a person, so I think getting an award from Eastern means more to me,” Barry said of the recognition.
The annual award is named after Bonnie Edmondson, a former two-sport athlete that excelled in both track & field and
basketball at ECSU. Edmondson is a two-time All-American and a member of the school’s Hall of Fame.
Each year, a student-athlete at Eastern who reflects Edmondson’s qualities of sportsmanship, teamwork, spirit and fair play is honored.
Like Edmondson, Barry is a multi-sport standout at the university, playing both volleyball and basketball at the school since 2018.
ECSU’s women’s basketball coach Denise Bierly said Barry encompasses everything the award stands for, saying the recognition was “well-deserved.”
“It’s not just about how great you are as an athlete, but it’s about how you are as a student and as a leader,” stated Bierly, who has been coaching at Eastern for nearly three decades. “[Anna] has always been about the team first and how we could be successful. She didn’t care if she scored two points and we won or she scored 42 and we won, she just wanted the team to win.”
Following all-state selections in both volleyball and basketball during her senior season at RHAM, Barry had multiple collegiate offers before opting to stay in Connecticut and play both sports for the Warriors in Willimantic.
Barry called choosing Eastern “probably the greatest decision I’ve ever made.”
“The school is fantastic and I couldn't picture myself at any other school,” added Barry, who said the location of the campus has allowed family and friends to continue to watch her play. “It’s been a very rewarding experience for sure.”
At Eastern, Barry expanded her game in both sports, continuing to thrive on the volleyball courts in the fall and basketball courts in the winter.
In March, she wrapped up her athletic career at Eastern, playing out her final basketball season where she finished as the school’s all-time leader in both total blocks (260) and blocks per game (2.4). She also finished as the program’s fourth all-time leading scorer with 1,446 points while shooting a blistering 53.6 from the field. The 6’0” multi-faceted forward also tied for the fourth-most rebounds (964) in program history.
Bierly said that Barry matured into a terrific all-around player because of her work ethic and willingness to challenge herself.
“Every year she got more comfortable with her leadership role and her confidence grew,” added Bierly. “She is at her best when she is aggressive, offensively and defensively.”
This past winter she took to her game to another level, earning a spot on the 2022/2023 Women's Basketball Coaches' Association (WBCA) Division III All-America Team, along with being selected as the Little East Conference (LEC) Player of the Year for a second straight season after averaging career-highs in both points (16.7) and rebounds (12.2).
The individual accolades were great, yet it was the team’s conference title during the 2019-2020 season that Barry said was the most memorable.
Rhode Island College (RIC) had defeated ECSU twice in the regular season before the Warriors bested the RIC in the LEC championship game. Barry, a sophomore at the time, posted 12 points, eight rebounds, and a pair of blocks in the championship triumph in Willimantic.
Bierly called Barry an “extension of the coaching staff” and said while Barry is tremendously skilled; it’s her humility and basketball IQ that makes her the total package.
“You would never know judging by her interaction with her coaches or teammates that she is an All-American. She is just one of the kids on the team,” added Bierly. “We are going to miss that. We will miss her play, but even more so will miss her leadership, her locker room demeanor, and her knowledge.”
Barry was equally impressive on the volleyball courts, earning the LEC Player of the Year and All-America Honorable
Mention this past fall. She finished her career with 1,331 kills, joining a rare group of college athletes that surpassed the 1,000-career mark in both basketball points and volleyball kills.
Barry admitted that it took her some time to adjust to the collegiate level. She said balancing her time between two sports — that would overlap between the fall and winter seasons — was tough at first, but by the time she was a senior she described the process as a “piece of cake.”
She said that Kiely and ECSU volleyball head coach Megan Silver-Droesch helped transition into collegiate athletics a smooth one and were tremendously influential in her development as a player.
Barry also credited longtime RHAM head coach Tim Guernsey for a strong work ethic.
“In high school we had tough practices and he turned me into the play that I am,” Barry said of Guernsey “He definitely prepared me for what it was like here.”
During her time at RHAM, Barry lived in both Andover and Hebron, making a major impact on the local athletic courts.
She helped the volleyball team win state championships in 2016 and 2017 and was instrumental as the basketball program secured their first state championship, winning the Class L title in 2018.
Whether it was high school or college sports, Barry said that playing has always provided an oasis for her.
“I think the thing that sports did the most was give me a distraction from whatever was going on in my life,” she recalled. “For about two hours a day I was completely engrossed with what I was doing on the court. If I had a test the next day, I wouldn't think about it or any personal issue that was going on would just disappear.”
Barry is finishing up her undergraduate degree in psychology at Eastern and will next attend Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) where she will work on a master’s degree in Student Development in Higher Education.
The long term goal is to become an academic advisor in college, preferably for a sports team.
Barry added that being in the athletic arena has taught her so many valuable lesson that she will take with her off the court.
“I learned a lot about myself,” she stated. “I learned about getting through adversity and working with people who I wouldn’t necessarily see outside of sports. It was about working together with a group of people towards one goal and putting all of our differences aside.”
Here is a double dose of the Rivereast Standouts of the Week for the week of April 10-16:
Alex Zimmerman - East Hampton High School (Baseball): Zimmerman connected on a pair of hits, including a grand slam in the fifth inning, as he drove in six runs to carry the Bellringers to a 14-4 victory over Westbrook on April 14. Zimmerman, a junior, was one of five Bellringers to score multiple runs in the lopsided victory. Gavin Santillo, David Johnson, Jason Johnson, and Andrew Wagner also crossed home plate twice.
Chelsea Woods - East Hampton High School (Golf): Woods shot a tourney best (47) as the Bellringers opened the golf season by competing against Coginchaugh and Lyman Hall at Jones Golf Course in Middlefield. Woods, a junior, shot par on two holes (four and eight) to secure the best overall score at the multi-school competition.
Chris Lusignan - Bacon Academy (Baseball): Lusignan pitched a complete-game shutout, striking out six and allowing only one hit in a 10-0 win over Griswold on April 15. Lusignan, a junior, improved to 2-0 from the mound this season and also did damage from the plate in the win, driving in a run and scoring a run on a pair of hits.
Jake Martino - Bacon Academy (Track & Field): Martino won the javelin and finished second in the discus at the Hawks Invitational at Bloomfield High School. Martino, a senior, was one of the standout thrower among the two dozen teams that competed in the multi-school event which took place on April 14 and 15.
Hadley Marchand - RHAM High School (Softball): Marchand pitched a complete game, striking out a dozen batters, as the Raptors breezed by East Hartford 16-1 on April 12. Marchand, a senior, also smacked a home run and a double, driving in three runs as the Raptors improved to 4-0 on the season.
Joelle Goralnik - RHAM High School (Lacrosse): Goralnik scored four goals as the Raptors pulled away in the second half to defeat E.O. Smith, 8-3, at RHAM High School on April 15. Goralnik, a junior, scored half of the team’s goals and got help from sophomore Caitlin Rydel, who served up three assists and added a goal of her own.
Luke Stennett - Portland High School (Golf): Stennett continued to impress on the links, shooting a (-1) 34 to be the runaway medalist as the Highlanders defeated Coventry (152-181) in the team’s first home match of the season at Portland Golf Club. Stennett, a junior, shot birdies on the final two holes to complete his round, while teammates Quinn Lapinski (38), Ben Fecteau (39), Aiden Peterson (41), and Joseph Lamalfa (41) finished behind Stennett as the Highlanders finished in the top five spots on the leaderboard.
Natalie Przestrzelski - Portland High School (Tennis): Przestrzelski scored a pair of individual victories as the Highlanders defeated East Hampton (5-2) and North Branford (5-2). Przestrzelski, who is serving as the team’s No. 1 singles player, is one of three seniors on the roster — joining Amelia Hair and Isabelle McClelland, who are teaming up to serve as the Highlanders top doubles team.
To nominate someone as an Athlete of the Week or with sports-related comments/questions, email email@example.com
Glastonbury High School’s Connor O’Leary shoots over Hall’s Justin Hill at GHS. After leading the Guardians in scoring as a junior, O’Leary was named to the all-state team.
Glastonbury High School junior Connor O’Leary was selected to the Connecticut High School Coaches Association (CHSCA) All-State basketball team, joining 13 other players to be selected to the Division II squad.
O’Leary averaged over 18 points a game and was a force defensively for the Guardians this winter.
“First, I’d like to thank my coaches and teammates for all their support,” stated O’Leary, who added he was honored at the recognition. “It is a reflection of all the hard work I put in.”
O’Leary missed his sophomore season with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury as the Guardians won only four games without him on the court during the 2021-2022 season.
With O’Leary back in the lineup this winter, the team won 15 games.
Head coach Jim Vaughan said O’Leary worked tirelessly following the knee injury and returned as a captain, on an off the court, as a junior.
“It was great to see all of his hard work and rehab pay off,” added Vaughan, “He’s a kid who loves playing basketball [and] I know missing last year killed him, but he came back better than ever.”
Along with leading the team in scoring, the 6’4” O’Leary also averaged five rebounds, three assists, and two blocks per game.
“I’m really proud of him and [the all-state recognition] was deserved,” added Vaughan. “He’s a great example for all players both healthy and injured. I’m looking g forward to seeing how much better he is next year.
O’Leary, along with all-conference sophomore David Smith, will head a talented group coming back next year.
The returning team captain added that the all-state selection was an honor, yet he noted that he and the team have unfinished business on the courts, adding, “I look forward to keeping this momentum going forward.”
Zander Hernandez, a senior at Glastonbury High School, signed his letter of intent to play college football at Endicott College. He is pictured with his father, Rene Hernandez, and mother, Elke Hernandez, at the team’s college signing ceremony on March 28.
For Zander Hernandez, the journey to college football has been swift.
Hernandez, a senior at Glastonbury High School, was a soccer player prior to being cut from the high school team as a junior.
That’s when he decided to trade his soccer cleats for football cleats and less than two years later he’ll be kicking it on the gridiron at next level.
“I’m excited to announce that I will be continuing my academic and athletic career at Endicott College,” Hernandez stated on social media in March. “Thank you to my family and coaches who helped me get here.”
Hernandez admitted that up until recently he hadn’t heard of Endicott, a private school in Beverly, Massachusetts.
But upon applying, he got an academic scholarship and then after meeting with the football coach, he realized it was a match in athletics as well.
“I went for a visit and it was amazing,” Hernandez recalled. “I loved the coach, I loved the vibe, I loved everything about it.”
GHS head coach Eric Hennessy said that Hernandez possesses a strong leg and the right mindset, two qualities that kickers need to be successful.
“Nothing bothers him, he’s easy-going,” added Hennessy. “Kicking is such a mental game and he doesn’t let obstacles get in his way. He approaches it in such a positive manner and that allows him to make those clutch kicks.”
Hernandez is the third straight GHS placekicker to continue in college, prompting Hennessy to jokingly refer to the program as “Kicker U” at the team’s college commitment ceremony in late March.
2022-graduate Jack Niland recently wrapped up his freshman season at the University of New England in Maine, and 2020-graduate Ryan Smith is entering his senior season at Endicott, serving as the team’s starting kicker the past two seasons.
After Niland graduated last year, Hernandez took over as the starting varsity kicker for the Guardians after spending his junior season kicking for the junior varsity team.
Hennessy said Hernandez has always possessed a powerful kicking leg and then improved both his accuracy and consistency after working diligently in the offseason.
“He became an elite kicker,” added Hennessy.
Hernandez was both consistent and clutch this past fall, earning all-state as the Guardians won nine games and upset West Haven in the first round of the playoffs.
It was a win over Maloney on Nov. 10 that Hernandez said was the most memorable moment from his senior season.
Going into the week-nine matchup, Maloney was undefeated and the top-ranked team in the state before the Guardians dealt the Spartans their first loss, a 28-21 overtime triumph in Meriden.
“We weren’t supposed to win, it was amazing,” stated Hernandez, who made two field goals and a pair of extra points in the win.
Off the field, Hernandez is currently on the volleyball team and is also part of National Honor Society and Spanish National Honor Society at GHS.
At Endicott, he will study bioengineering as he joins Gulls football program that is coming off a Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) title under head coach Paul McGonagle, who has been leading the program since 2018.
For Hernandez, kicking at the college level is something he could have never have imaged at this point last year.
“I’m not going to lie. I wasn’t very good last year,” recalled the college-bound student athlete. “But coach put a lot of trust in me and the guys trusted me this year.”
Hernandez said the biggest difference between his junior and senior season in high school were the added muscle from strength training and improved technique, which he said makes all the difference.
“You can get a guy that can squat 600 pounds, but without the right technique the ball isn’t going anywhere,” added Hernandez, who added kicking a football is vastly different than kicking a soccer ball
“Soccer you try and keep it low and in football you are shooting for the stars,” he said.
Along with aiming for the stars with the Gulls, Hernandez said he is excited to becoming more independent and looks forward to living just outside of Boston.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin