Justin Fraleigh and Ryan Robb (center) are flanked by Ryan Boyle and Matt Sevigny. The four 2020 Rocky Hill graduates won a summer baseball title with RCP on Aug 9
2020 has been relentless.
It seems like each month delivers another Mike Tyson uppercut.
But the last couple of months have been free of uppercuts and full of upper-deck blasts for recent Rocky Hill graduates Justin Fraleigh and Ryan Robb, who helped lead the Rocky Hill/Cromwell/Portland summer baseball team to another title.
For competitive high school baseball in Connecticut, this summer marked the first action in a year.
“At that point I didn’t care how many games we were going to play,” Fraleigh said about finding out that summer baseball was a go, “As long as we got to play baseball, we were ready. Especially the way that the high school season got cancelled, the fact that we were able to play at all was a great thing.”
Normally referred to as American Legion Baseball, CT Elite Baseball Association was established in June of this year to allow American Legion teams to play non-CT sanctioned games in 2020.
RCP, who won U19 Legion titles in 2015 and 2016, took home another trophy last Sunday by defeating Northern Connecticut 3-2.
Robb drove in a run on two hits and Fraleigh pitched the final out to close out the championship game, sealing the win for starting pitcher Tyler Baldwin from Cromwell.
“I was super excited from the first practice to the last game. There was not a doubt in my mind that we would win the championship,” recalled Robb.
The summer season, which culminated with the championship, eased months of frustration after COVID-19 cancelled the entire 2020 high school baseball season.
“It was honestly devastating,” Fraleigh recalled about the lost senior season, “Growing up and playing with these guys for 12 years, this was supposed to be the year.”
After finishing 0-20 in 2017 (when Fraleigh and Robb were freshmen), the Terriers clawed back into the tournament picture in 2018 and 2019, which included major tournament upset victories in each of those seasons.
Entering year two under head coach Bill Eller, the expectations were high in Rocky Hill this spring.
“Coach Eller brought a winning culture to us, he changed us and made us a dangerous threat in the tournament. The program is in great hands with him” said Ryan, who pitched and played third.
“He’s one of those coaches that is all about family. The more chemistry that the team has together, the better you’re going to play,” added Fraleigh, who specialized in playing the left side of the infield at RHHS.
Both had lofty personal and team aspirations entering 2020. Fraleigh was coming off an all-conference selection in 2019 and Robb was fresh off an incredible offseason in which he gained six miles per hour on his fastball.
Spring’s high school season never came to fruition, yet summer league went off without a hitch.
After shaking off the rust, RCP’s talented roster jelled into an eventual champion.
“Once we were on the field, we could focus. You’re just playing the game that you love,” said Robb.
It was Robb’s first season playing Legion ball and he wasted little time making an impression. He was dominant from the mound, not allowing a run the entire summer and ultimately earning MVP honors.
“I had so much confidence going into this year. I just wanted to go out and give my team a chance every time I stepped on the field and help out the best way that I could,” said Robb, who also played shortstop.
Everything started to click for RCP midway through the season and the team won six straight games to finish the regular season.
“We just came together. We felt like this was our season. We knew we could be dangerous this year and we even started hanging out more outside of baseball and became really close, kind of like a brotherhood,” recalled Fraleigh, “Every time we got into a tough situation we knew we had been there before and we trusted each other.”
Once the tourney stated, the streaking co-op team continued to surge with a convincing victory (7-3) over Berlin.
“We felt that Berlin was going to be one of the toughest teams that we faced in the tourney. Once we knocked them off, we had so much confidence going forward,” said Robb, who took the hill in the first-round win.
The team would go on to defeat Orange (4-1) in the semifinals before wrapping up the title on August 9.
Cromwell’s Nick Polizonis was recognized as the most valuable hitter of the tournament, slapping three hits including a two-run double to give RCP the lead in the championship game.
Fellow Rocky Hill graduates Matt Sevigny and Ryan Boyle joined Fraleigh and Robb, securing a piece of a baseball title for the Class of 2020 at RHHS.
Fraleigh reflected on what might have been had the four been able to play in the spring, “We thought with the four of us, we had great leadership and we could make a run in the state tournament. It showed in Legion ball. We saw how we could help the team and if we could do that at Legion, we could do that in high school.”
“We just wanted to go out on the right note and on top before leaving Connecticut,” added Robb.
The four are leaving Connecticut as champions, now heading to colleges across the Eastern Seaboard.
Sevigny is headed to St. Michael’s College in Vermont and Boyle is off to the University of Albany in upstate New York
Fraleigh will be playing ball for Roger Williams University after having an impressive workout at the Rhode Island-based school, “Everything about the culture there felt like family and what I wanted a college to be.”
Robb will be playing for Husson University in Maine, the home of the New England School of Communication, where he’ll study sports journalism with the hopes of becoming a broadcaster, “It was a perfect fit and the campus felt right at home. The coach was so genuine to me, I got to meet some of the guys on the team and they were all awesome. I loved every second of it.”
The Rocky Hill natives, who grew up playing tee-ball together, are both amped for the next challenge yet will miss the bonds they have formed at RHHS.
“I’ll miss all the friendships that I’ve made, especially with these guys. I’m going to miss playing with these guys. They’ve been my brothers and it will be completely different without them,” said Robb.
Fraleigh added, “We’ve created friendships that will last forever.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin