Zone 4 is stacked

State’s tough­est re­gion will be hard to han­dle once again

Connecticut Post - - SPORTS - By Scott Eric­son

Zone 4 in Se­nior Amer­i­can Le­gion base­ball has been con­sid­ered one of the tough­est zones to play in for the last decade.

Each sea­son, teams bat­tle it out for the cov­eted No. 1 po­si­tion and a bye in the state tour­na­ment. Any team that makes states out of Zone 4 does so hav­ing been rou­tinely tested by top teams.

Un­til last sea­son, all the reg­u­larsea­son suc­cess did not trans­late into tro­phies at the state level.

When Stam­ford won the state cham­pi­onship last sum­mer, it marked the first state ti­tle for the zone since Nor­walk won it all in 2011.

Prior to that, Zone 4’s last state cham­pi­onship came in 1998 when Trumbull took the prize.

In fact, Bridge­port (9), Trumbull (6), Stam­ford (6) and Nor­walk (1) are the only teams from Zone 4 to ever win a state cham­pi­onship and ad­vance to the north­east Re­gion­als.

Bridge­port won nine straight ti­tles from 1929 to 1937 and Stam­ford’s last cham­pi­onship be­fore last sea­son came in 1957.

Stam­ford, Green­wich and Trumbull all reached the state Su­per Re­gional last sea­son, with Stam-

ford and Trumbull both be­ing among the fi­nal four teams left stand­ing.

This year, Stam­ford is back as a se­ri­ous con­tender for the state crown with sev­eral other Zone 4 teams ready to make some noise, as well.

STAM­FORD

Post 3 lost just three play­ers from its cham­pi­onship squad and has its eyes set on not just win­ning the states, but go­ing a step fur­ther and win­ning the North­east Re­gional and get­ting a shot to play for a na­tional cham­pi­onship in Shelby, N.C.

The lineup is stacked and should hit, but it is the depth of the pitch­ing staff that will carry Stam­ford.

An ar­se­nal of pitch­ers, in­clud­ing Aaron D’An­nolfo, John Mac­Don­ald, Adam Stone, Leo Socci, Grant Pur­pura, Blake New­comer, Bobby Crib­bins, Michael Newman, Chris Can­dito and Hunter Sem­mel will all see time on the mound this sea­son in start­ing and re­lief roles.

Stam­ford will be aim­ing to win the zone this sea­son af­ter fin­ish­ing third last year and hav­ing to fight through two sin­gle-elim­i­na­tion games prior to the Re­gion­als.

“Nor­walk has some re­ally good guys, Trumbull is go­ing to be there and will com­pete for the zone,” Stam­ford coach Kevin Mur­ray said. “Green­wich is young, but they are al­ways well coached. West­port picked up a few kids and Ridge­field is im­proved. We fin­ished third last year and had to play every round. That’s not the best way to do it.”

GREEN­WICH

De­spite hav­ing many high-qual­ity teams over the years, Green­wich has never won the Se­nior Le­gion state cham­pi­onship.

Green­wich put to­gether one of its best sea­sons in pro­gram his­tory last sea­son, go­ing 23-2 in the reg­u­lar sea­son and win­ning Zone 4.

That gave Green­wich a bye to the re­gion­als in a best 2-out-of-3 se­ries where it swept Mid­dle­town, ad­vanc­ing to the Su­per Re­gion­als.

There, Green­wich was bounced af­ter two games.

It was an abrupt halt to a suc­cess­ful sea­son.

They re­turn only three play­ers from last sea­son’s squad in C/1B Kyle Woodring; P/OF Mark Sunoo and 2B Hay­den Kistler, mean­ing there are ques­tions at some po­si­tions, in­clud­ing on the mound.

SS Aaron Schur and P Ian Co­lalucci are also ex­pected to help Green­wich this sea­son.

“Stam­ford, Trumbull and Nor­walk are all very strong teams. West­port has a good team, with sev­eral key re­turn­ing 19-year-olds,” Green­wich coach Mike Abate said. “When you win the zone, which we did last year, ev­ery­body is gun­ning for you. We are go­ing to get every­one’s best ef­fort each game, which is what we want.”

TRUMBULL

Had it not been for Stam­ford’s in­cred­i­ble run last sum­mer, it would have been Trumbull rep­re­sent­ing Zone 4 and play­ing for a state cham­pi­onship.

Trumbull has fin­ished sec­ond in Zone 4 the last two sea­sons go­ing 22-4 last year and 23-4 the sea­son prior.

Since 2005, Trumbull is the only team from the zone to fin­ish in the top 3 every sea­son

This sea­son, they bring back tal­ented play­ers and coach Jack McFar­land be­lieves the team will once again be in the mix for the zone and state cham­pi­onships.

SS Jack Lynch, 1B Vin DeRubeis, P An­drew Lo­jko P, 2B Dustin Siqueira and P Dan Ruchal­ski all re­turn for Trumbull.

Also tak­ing the mound for Trumbull this sum­mer is Trumbull High’s CHSCA Class LL All-State pitcher, Ben Fero, who gives the team a le­git­i­mate ace on the top of the ro­ta­tion.

NOR­WALK

The plan for the Nor­walk team is clear.

“We want to make the play­offs and kind of let ev­ery­body know Nor­walk Le­gion is back,” Post 12 coach Matt Har­bilas told Game­timeCT.

Nor­walk picked up some high­qual­ity pay­ers from the AAU cir­cuit, in­clud­ing catcher Marco Mon­teiro.

“It’s huge hav­ing them come back,” Har­bilas said. “I’m very lucky to have them. I think they’re re­ally ex­cited to play an en­tire sum­mer with the name Nor­walk across their chest again. A lot of them are play­ers who have a lot of pride.”

Isaac Keehn will an­chor a pitch­ing staff which can run seven deep.

Tommy Ben­in­caso, Max Pom­poni and Frankie Greco will com­prise the start­ing ro­ta­tion with Scott Whalen also slated to see im­por­tant in­nings on the mound.

WEST­PORT

West­port is an­other team ben­e­fit­ing from pay­ers re­turn­ing home to play af­ter mak­ing the rounds on other travel teams.

Catcher Matt Stone, who will be play­ing at Ge­orge­town, Bos­ton Col­lege-bound CF Chris Dr­bal, P/IF Harry Aza­dian, who will be one of Sta­ples’ cap­tains next sea­son, P Alex Cheema who is off to UMass and P Alec Burns (NYU) will form a solid core of the team.

The team is deep with pitch­ing and sports a stout de­fense but whether the team can hit enough will be the key to their suc­cess in Zone 4.

WIL­TON

Wil­ton has been in the mid­dle of the pack for a long time in Zone 4 and would love to move into the top three.

“Zone 4 is al­ways a good one to play in. It’s very com­pet­i­tive,” Wil­ton coach Ian Thoe­sen said.

Ryan Gabrielle will be the No. 1 pitcher and play RF; Collin Ka­hal, who plays at Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity, is play­ing SS; Mid­dle­bury’s Henry Strmecki will man CF while Cole Judel­son and Jack DiNanno share the catch­ing du­ties.

RIDGE­FIELD

Ridge­field was 1-25 last sea­son and 4-22 the year be­fore.

To say it has been a rough few years is an un­der­state­ment.

With the ad­di­tion of Ridge­field High ace Alex Price, ar­guably one of the top five pitch­ers in the state this past sea­son, Ridge­field should win a few more games this sea­son and may even com­pete for a play­off spot.

Along with Price, 1B Nick Cul­li­nan, C Ben Cohen and Thomas Giof­fre, all played in the Class LL state cham­pi­onship this past spring and should bring a win­ning at­ti­tude to a team that des­per­ately needs it.

FAIR­FIELD

Fair­field has strug­gled in re­cent years with the town’s top play­ers opt­ing for sum­mer base­ball other than Le­gion.

This sea­son, the team does have CHSCA LL All-State P/IF Ryan Donnelly on the squad.

Find­ing more pitch­ing and be­ing able to hit con­sis­tently against the top pitch­ers in the zone will be a chal­lenge.

BRIDGE­PORT

The over­all record for Bridge­port will likely be be­low .500, but the team should com­pete in every game and is ca­pa­ble of pulling an up­set or two.

Teams mak­ing play­off plans would be wise not to over­look Bridge­port later in the sea­son.

Cather­ine Aval­one / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Trumbull’s An­drew Lo­jko on the mound against Cheshire in the south­ern re­gion play­offs of the Amer­i­can Le­gion tour­na­ment on July 22.

Chris­tian Abra­ham / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Warde’s Ryan Donnelly will pitch for the Fair­field Se­nior Amer­i­can Le­gion team this sea­son.

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