SOUTHINGTON – The Southington Shock have become somewhat of a dynasty in the Connecticut Collegiate Baseball League.
One of the original five teams, along with Manchester, Glastonbury and Simsbury, the Shock won six championships in the league’s first eight years.
Their dominance included two three-peats, where the Shock won the CCBL’s first three titles and then won three more in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
“Both [championship] runs were kind of similar,” said Charlie Lembo, who guided the team to each of those titles. “The first three years we had a nucleus six to eight to 10 players that were on the team for all three. That second run of three years in a row it was kind of the same. We had kids who came and played for us after their freshman year in college and played for us the next three years.
“Both groups were similar. They were hard-nosed kids that loved to play ball.”
Now, as the CCBL enters its 10 season, Lembo, who is also the Southington High School head coach, has taken a step back this year.
Lembo has taken this summer to spend more time with his family, leaving the coaching up to longtime assistant Frank Naples.
“I told [Naples] last year, I knew he had both of his sons coming back so he would be there,” Lembo said. “I really believe in this league and what it stands for and I want to see the Southington Shock continue.”
Naples is the assistant coach at Berlin High School, and his sons Kyle and Nick have been staples on the Shock roster for the past few years.
“So far so good,” Naples said of the transition to taking over the coaching duties. “Over the past couple years I have been with him and a couple games here and there I had [coached the team myself]. So, it wasn’t like it was totally new to me. I kind of like it actually being able to call the shots.”
Currently at 6-8, the Shock sit in fourth place in the CCBL, three games back of the Glastonbury Arrows, the 2017 champions.
“The hardest part with this league is a lot of these kids work and it’s hard to get the same group of kids there consistently,” Naples said. “We have a pretty large roster, so we play a game every night but not always the exact lineup that you’re looking for. So, it’s kind of hard to get any kind of consistency, with pitching with hitting with defense, really with everything. But, when the tournament comes around it gets a little more intense at that point.”
The Shock return a few players from the 2016 championship team including 2017 CCBL All Star pitcher from Berlin, Dan Garafalo.
Garafalo, who attends UConn Avery Point, started in the 2016 championship game went 6 innings according to Lembo before handing the ball over to Kyle Naples to close the deal.
“[Garafalo] has had a couple good outings [this year],” Naples said. “Johnathan Mikosz has thrown very well. I probably highlight him more than anybody right now.”
Mikosz, from Southington, just finished up his freshman year at Wheaton College where he was the closer.
However, even with these two, Naples still feels that pitching is where his team needs to improve.
“It all comes down to pitching,” Naples said. “Our defense has been good enough. Our hitting has been OK. We seem to leave a lot of runners on base, but the hits are there, just no timely hitting.
“In my opinion pitching is the number one thing that we are lacking consistently right now. That’s something that were going to work on down the stretch.”
Coming into this week the Shock had allowed 62 runs on the year, while scoring just 54. Naples has been forced to use a few guys that aren’t necessarily pitchers by trade due to the team’s lack of depth at the position.
“I’ve got a couple kids that are predominantly another position but they pitched in Little League or in high school so I throw them in the fire sometimes,” Naples said. “That is partly my fault for not recruiting enough pitchers but it is what it is. Down the road I’m going to have enough arms available.”
Despite this, like the previous championship teams, Naples feels that this team is coming together at the right time.
“[The team camaraderie] has just started happening,” Naples said. “It’s been so sporadic as far as who is showing up when I felt like the last two games I’ve seen the kids kind of take to each other a little more. There’s been a little more joking, little more laughing which is a good thing, that’s what it’s all about.”
Lembo added: “It’s not just the baseball that’s going on in the summer. It’s the bonds and the friendships that these kids have made through the years.”
As the regular season winds down the Shock will look to make a push to put themselves in position to claim their seventh league title.
And with Naples and Lembo at the helm, this team is clearly in capable hands to do so.