The 2017 baseball season was remarkably unremarkable in terms of most local teams.
Certainly Wilcox Tech (18-6) was several notches above standard as undisputed champion of the Constitution State Conference and a third seed in Class L that presented coach Dave Cronin with his 200th victory.
Perhaps senior-laden Southington (16-6) fell a bit below its lofty historical benchmarks, but the Blue Knights did go undefeated in the CCC Central Division.
The other five teams went either 11-10 or 10-11 and were jettisoned from their respective postseason parties in the first round. Mediocrity, perhaps, but there’s nothing mediocre about the baseball players who have been selected to the second annual All-Record-Journal baseball team and invited to Best of the Bunch on June 25 at the Aqua Turf Club.
P Carson Coon, Platt: Coon anchored the staff for the youthful Panthers by turning in a premium season.
He won his first five games before leveling out at 5-3, but logged a 1.57 ERA with 73 strikeouts, just 21 walks and 39 hits in 53 2/3 innings. He also contributed offensively with six doubles and 14 RBI.
“He’s a great competitor. He always wants the ball in his hands,” Platt coach Tim Redican said. “He throws the ball hard, his change-up is solid and, if he’s hitting his spots with the fastball, he’s effective.”
Coon saved perhaps his best outing for Maloney on May 1, striking out 12, yielding three infield singles and walking none in 6 2/3 innings. Another landmark win came May 8 against Farmington when he yielded just one unearned run on two hits and struck out 11.
P/3B Jeff Massicotte, Maloney: His starts against Platt were a microcosm of a season that saw him evolve into a leader. In Platt’s 8-1 win on April 1, he didn’t make it through the fourth inning. In the April 23 rematch, he tossed a route-going six-hitter, yielded just three singles through five frames and the Spartans won 4-3.
“It was night and day from the first time we played Platt, which is the idea,” Spartans coach Howie Hewitt said. “You should get better as the season goes on. He’s been pretty consistent [offensively] all the way through.”
Massicotte was 5-4 with a 2.55 ERA in nine appearances, all starts. He twirled six complete games and permitted just 39 hits in 57 2/3 innings while striking out 45
On offense, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound All-CCC South senior led the team in batting (.380), extra-base hits (9), runs (13), RBI (12), on-base percentage (.450). slugging (.563), triples (2), and shared the lead in hits (27). In the tournament loss at Bethel, he homered, went 2-for-4 and pitched a three-hitter.
Massicotte also played three seasons of varsity basketball.
SS Sebby Grignano, Maloney: The two-time All-CCC South infielder is the essence of leadership, grit and determination, which is part of why he’s been such a key player for the Spartans for three seasons. He possesses the soft hands reminiscent of great middle infielders and has worked incessantly to build up his offensive skills.
The 5-foot-8, 150-pounder played four years of varsity ball, lifting his sub-.200 average as a sophomore up to .296 last year. This season, he batted .254, scored 12 runs, stole five bases in five tries and struck out just five times in 82 plate appearances.
The 2-1 win at Farmington on April 24 was vintage Grignano. He has two of Maloney’s four hits and had a hand in both runs. He doubled and scored in his first at-bat and sent the game-winner home with a single in the fifth inning.
He made just seven errors in 90 fielding chances, garnered 62 assists and helped turn three double plays.
1B/P Kyle Brennan, Sheehan: The elegant mechanics of the consummate left-handed hitter are what divides the Endicott College-bound first baseman from the masses.
At times, Brennan looked like he was toying with pitchers on the way to a .500 batting average, 10 extra-base hits, 10 RBI, 20 runs, a .635 on-base percentage and a slugging norm of .694 over 21 games.
While pitching is a secondary task for him, he logged a 3-2 record with a 1.68 ERA in 25 innings over eight appearances. He came out of the bullpen in the 5-4 win over Lyman Hall on May 4 and retired all 13 batters he faced.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder, who also scored a team-best 12.2 points per game for the Titans’ basketball team, was a starter for coach Matt Altieri’s 2015 Class M championship baseball team.
C Mike Caruso, Lyman Hall: Fairfield University and Division I competition is the next step for Mike Caruso, a player as team-oriented as he is talented.
“He was the ultimate catcher defensively,” Lyman Hall coach Chuck Burghardt said. “He threw out 60 percent on steal attempts and handled pitchers very well. He’s an outstanding leader and a good clutch player.”
Caruso hit .333 this season with eight extra-base hits, including two home runs. He scored 17 runs and drove in 12 RBI, walked 20 times compared to just nine strikeouts.
He transferred to Lyman Hall after gaining All-State status as a sophomore at Career and a solid reputation in AAU circles with the Connecticut Bombers. In 30 games at Lyman Hall, Caruso walked 30 times, scored 28 runs and had 32 hits.
OF/3B/P Jack Rich, Wilcox Tech: Talk about tearing up a league. This 5-foot-11, 180-pound left-handed hitter punished his foes to the tune of a .580 batting average with 47 hits, six homers, six triples, five doubles and 27 RBI.
Rich also held down a key spot in coach Dave Cronin’s pitching rotation. He’ll be playing for long-standing Division III power Eastern Connecticut State University after starting four seasons for Wilcox. (He batted .385 as a freshman and .452 as a sophomore.)
Rich joins Cheshire’s Ben DeLaubell as the only returnee on the second edition of the All-Record-Journal team. He’s the nephew of former Platt, UConn and professional player Billy Rich.
C Jakob Thiede, Wilcox Tech: With Rich putting up huge numbers in the 2-slot, Thiede followed through with thunder in the third. No wonder the Tribe averaged over 10 runs per game!
Thiede batted .527, lashed 39 hits, drove in 23 runs and poled out a team-high seven doubles along with five triples.
“[Thiede and Rich are] both four-year starters who just love to play the game of baseball,” coach Dave Cronin said. “They were fun to watch and it will be very difficult to replace them. They’re great players, great teammates and great young men.”
The 5-foot-9, 150-pound powder keg helped fuel a sweep of Vinal Tech and Bullard-Havens early in the year when he went a combined 6-for-9 with five RBI, a triple and three stolen bases.
P/SS John Mikosz, Southington: The rangy 6-foot-4, 187-pounder pitched only three innings as a junior, but blossomed into one of the state’s top right-handers this spring.
In eight games (7 starts), Mikosz went 7-0 with an 0.50 ERA that held fast at 0.00 for most of the season. Foes hit .203 against him.
He threw no-hit ball at Notre Dame-West Haven until yielding a fifth-inning double in the Blue Knights’ 1-0 win April 15. He quieted Hall on two hits and struck out six in a 10-1 win a week later.
Mikosz played shortstop when he didn’t have mound duty and batted .288 with 14 RBI and three home runs. As a junior, he hit .384 with 19 RBI and was named to the Class LL CHSCA All-Star Team.
Mikosz will attend Division III Wheaton College in Norton, Mass. The two-time All-CCC Central honoree also played varsity basketball up until his senior season.
2B Jon Gray, Southington: The All-CCC Central performer fulfilled his role as a reliable middle infielder and leadoff batter. Second base was his primary slot, but he slid over to short when Mikosz pitched.
Gray batted .403, and had team-high numbers in hits (27) and runs (22) as well as stolen bases (10-for-11) and doubles (8). He tied Jake Babon for the best table-setter with a .506 on-base average.
Gray went 4-for-4 (double, 3 singles) and scored three runs to lead Southington to a 7-5 win over West Haven on June 3 in the first round of the Class tournament. He was perfect in three at-bats at Conard on May 4 and, four days later, went 3-for-5, scored twice and drove in two runs in a rout of Bristol Eastern.
P/3B Ben DeLaubell, Cheshire: The marksmanship displayed by this 6-foot-2, 205-pound junior is only a small part of the reason why he is an early admission to the United States Military Academy at West Point.
DeLaubell does it with the arm and the bat. He was ace of coach Bill Mrowka’s deep and talented staff at 4-1 with a 3.30 ERA this season.
In seven games (5 starts), he allowed 24 hits and nine walks in 29 2/3 innings while striking out 28. A high point came on May 1 when he pitched the Rams to their fourth straight win, a 4-1 conquest of Fairfield Prep in which he spread seven hits over six innings.
At the plate, DeLaubell batted .297 with eight extra-base hits and 17 RBI.
He’ll be the first player to have a chance for three straight All-R-J citations come next season.
Faced with choosing just 10 players and trying to make a fair division among our seven schools, it becomes inevitable that some end up south of the line we’ve drawn.
Thus, the honorable mention status that goes to the following (in no particular order) must not be taken lightly:
Wilcox Tech: Jacob Conte.
Maloney: Elliot Good (.342, 11 RBI); Kyle Carlson (.323) and Nick Palumbo (4-3, 2.26 ERA, .283 batting).
Platt: Devyn McCarty (.290, 14 RBI, 2.91 ERA in 33 2/3 innings); Mannash Carlson (.381, 8 doubles); Jake Baker (.343, 6 doubles, 8 steals and Cameron Coon (team-high 20 runs, .309).
Sheehan: Sam DeMaio (.408, team-high 20 RBI) and Steve Mirra (.373).
Lyman Hall: Jack McDonald (.338, 15 RBI).
Cheshire: Ryan Strollo (.356, 11 RBI, .427 OBP) and Mike Hickey (2-3, 1.70).
Southington: Jake Babon (team-best BA .413, team-best .635 slugging, team-high 19 RBI) and Matt Sciota (.390, 8 doubles).