Sean Krofssik saw this coming.
A few months back, when we were picking our inaugural All-Record-Journal teams in basketball and hockey, Seanny looked ahead to the spring.
“We’re going to have a real hard time in baseball and softball,” said Sean. “We’ve got so many good teams, so many good players.”
If Sean Krofssik, the most upbeat and optimistic person I’ve had the pleasure to meet, betrays even a trace of pessimism, you know a challenge lies ahead.
A good challenge, though, because, of course, Sean was spot-on.
Here we are, on the other side of spring, and indeed we had so many good teams, so many good players. For the first time since at least 2008, we had all seven area baseball teams and all seven area softball teams qualify for the CIAC tournaments.
Five won division titles: Cheshire softball, Southington baseball and softball, Wilcox Tech baseball and softball.
Three won conference tournaments: Cheshire softball, Wilcox Tech baseball and softball. (There’s no CCC tournament, so it could have been more.)
And one, Cheshire softball, went all the way, going undefeated and winning its first state championship.
So many good teams, so many good players. How do you settle on just 10 for All-Record-Journal, especially when you can make an argument for the entire Cheshire softball lineup making the cut?
You get diplomatic. Every team made states, so every team gets at least one representative on the All-RJ.
Which, unfortunately, meant a lot of deserving players were left off. Sincere apologies, but, as they say in this game, “wait’ll next year.”
• Sheehan: OF Nolan Cloutier, SS Sal Gozzo, DH Paul Gozzo
Nolan Cloutier joins R-J Baseball Players of the Year Sal and Paul Gozzo as All-RJ reps from the Titans, the 2015 Class M state champs who seemed destined for a repeat title before getting knocked off by Northwestern in the semifinals.
Cloutier, like the Gozzos, was a four-year starter. The right-fielder batted .326, scored 18 runs and drove in 21 as a senior for the 16-9 Titans. He belted three home runs.
In the field, Cloutier tracked down 30 fly balls and threw out two runners.
“He’s got a cannon for an arm and runs like a deer,” remarked Sheehan coach Matt Altieri. “I expect him to fit in well at Southern.”
That’s Southern Connecticut State University, where Cloutier will continue his baseball career.
One other thing about Cloutier: He was a throw-back, an athlete for all seasons in an era of specialization. He also played football and basketball at Sheehan.
“I believe he is the only one in his class and the only one in the last five or six years,” said Altieri. “Not many kids can survive three seasons for four years.
• Southington: P Drew Farkas, SS John Mikosz
The Blue Knights rode the left arm of Farkas and the bat and glove of Mikosz to the CCC Central-Blue Division title. Southington’s season came to an end at 16-7 in the CIAC Class LL quarterfinals to Amity, which was on its way to a four-peat.
Farkas was 6-3 with a 1.83 ERA. In 57-plus innings, he struck out 67 and walked 22. Opponents batted .239 against him.
Farkas was selected for Tuesday’s CHSCA Senior All-Star Game. He’s heading to the University of Hartford, where he’ll study engineering and continue to pitch.
As for Mikosz, he’s got another year in blue. This spring, he led Southington regulars in a bat-rack of categories: average (.384), on-base percentage (.466), slugging (.589), hits (28) doubles (8) and total bases (43).
He made just five errors at shortstop with 51 assists and 22 putouts for a .936 fielding percentage.
Mikosz played in Wednesday night’s Junior Select game.
• Wilcox Tech: P/SS Jack Rich
The Indians made a statement in the Class L tournament when they knocked off Branford in the first round. Just a tech school, right? Wrong.
The Tribe put together another outstanding spring, going 20-5 and winning the Constitution State Conference tournament title.
Junior Jack Rich was one of a number of Indians given All-RJ consideration. Zack Golebiewski, Nick Petro, Jakob Thiede — they all had great seasons. We go with Rich, the nephew of former Platt star and pro player Billy Rich.
• Platt: SS Cameron Coon
Here’s a team that deserved a few more All-RJ selections as it made a solid 11-9 run into the Class L tournament, where a first-round win over Ellis Tech was followed by a second-round loss to state runner-up East Lyme.
Devyn McCarty, Jason Sullivan, Mikey Rojas, Jeff Morales, Carson Coon, Andrew Abrahante, Dylan Dudley, Owen O’Keefe — heck, just consider the whole roster, because on any given day a different player seemed to lead the Panther charge.
One truly stood out, and that was Cameron Coon. He turned in an All-Conference season and was chosen to play in the Junior Select game.
Coon batted .356, scored 15 runs and drove in 12. He was .920 in the field and even did a little relief pitching, earning two saves and compiling a 1.64 ERA.
His best attribute? Consistency.
“Every practice and game, I can expect that he will give nothing short of his best effort,” said coach Tim Redican.
• Maloney P/IF Mike Charest
Senior Mike Charest was the Spartans’ top hitter and top pitcher. He batted .350 with a team-high 44 hits and 11 RBIs in the regular season.
And he took the ball from coach Howie Hewitt when it mattered most, starting eight games and going the distance in four. Said Hewitt, “Mike pitched against every good team.”
Charest was 3-5, yet held opponents to a .209 batting average. He struck out 59 in 43-plus innings.
Charest had a flair for the dramatic. He threw a one-hitter against Manchester on April 11 and no-hit rival Platt in their first meeting on May 7.
Charest and the Spartans qualified for the postseason at 10-10. They fell in the Class L first round to eventual champ Notre Dame-West Haven.
• Cheshire P/IF Ben DeLaubell
Bill Mrowka has been coaching Cheshire baseball for 19 years. He knows college talent when he sees it. His own son, Cooper, is now at UMass.
Ben DeLaubell might not necessarily be the next Cheshire ballplayer to play Division I college baseball —he’s only a sophomore, after all — but he is most assuredly in the line.
“No question about it,” Mrowka said of DeLaubell. “He’ll be a Division I pitcher.”
DeLaubell and Gary Costello handled the lion’s share of the Rams’ starts this spring. DeLaubell went 4-5.
Don’t be misled. His ERA was 1.02. DeLaubell was simply the victim of Cheshire’s Achilles heel in 2016. A nine-game winning streak notwithstanding, the Rams (13-9) struggled to generate offense.
“He got no run support every game he pitched,” said Mrowka. “Hopefully, it won’t be that way next year.”
• Lyman Hall P Blake Battiste
Consider the ratio. Blake Battiste went for 4-2 and saved two games for a Lyman Hall team that went 9-11 to qualify for the CIAC tournament for the first time since 2008.
In other words, Battiste and his left arm had a direct hand in winning two-thirds of Lyman Hall’s games.
“Without him,” coach Chuck Burghardt said, “we’re not in.”
Battiste pitched to contact. The senior struck out just 22 in 44-plus innings. Yet he gave up just 32 hits and opponents batted .198 against him.
“He just won big games for us all year,” Burghardt said. “He would take the ball whenever we wanted him to. He’s a bulldog.”