Thursday, April 28, 2016

HIGH 5 OF THE WEEK: Woodfield is Rookie of the Week again

Steven Woodfield

Albertus Magnus athletics
The former Kaynor Tech standout is at it again.
Woodfield earned his third Great Northeast Atlantic Conference Rookie of the Week honor. He went 2-2 in the final week of his freshman season, picking up victories in both singles and doubles in a non-conference match against Mitchell College. The doubles win came with playing partner Ahmed Abdulateef of Hamden.
Woodfield was his last three singles matches to close out the season in style. His overall singles record was 8-3, including 7-3 in his last 10 matches played. 
Woodfield and Abdulateef combined for a 6-3 doubles record. Woodfield also played with Gabriel Perez of New Haven. Woodfield and Perez combined for a 1-1 record.

Jake Martin
Gordon College athletics
The Sacred Heart High graduate finished out his Gordon College men's lacrosse career with a five-goal effort in a 23-14 loss to Western New England University on Tuesday.
The Fighting Scots struggled overall with a 1-14 record, but Martin had a tremendous season. He led the team in assists with 18 and finished second in goals scored with 24. His 42 points and 96 shot attempts were also second on the team.
His season high for goals as a senior was the five he put in against WNEU.
For his career, the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Martin finished with 123 goals, 61 assists and 184 points. Martin, who played the attack position, was named to the Commonwealth Coast Conference team as a sophomore in 2014.
Martin was a three-sport athlete for Sacred Heart, but he also played lacrosse for the Nonnewaug High School club team, according to this article from Joe Palladino of the Waterbury Republican-American, which was re-posted by Sacred Heart.

Cassie Ruscz
Tufts University athletics
The Wolcott native and former Taft standout has supplied the power in a big way for the Tufts softball team this spring.
Through 31 games, the junior leads her team with 12 home runs, 42 RBI and an .897 slugging percentage. Ruscz has six dingers in her last four games, including two apiece against Endicott on April 20 and Bates on April 22. Her season-high for RBI in a game is six, also against Bates on April 22.
Ruscz is also among the team leaders in hits (33), runs scored (23) and walks (10).
Ruscz has 12 of her team's 37 home runs. Tufts has a record of 23-8 with a pair of doubleheaders remaining in the regular season. The Jumbos host Hamilton on Saturday, then take on Wheaton at home next Tuesday. 

Sarah Beliveau
AIC athletics
The former Bristol Eastern pitcher was named to the Northeast-10 Conference All-Rookie Team after a good first year at American International College.
Beliveau tabulated a 3.50 ERA overall and posted a 4-5 record. She started eight games and struck out 57 batters in 69.1 innings. In Northeast-10 games, Beliveau had a 2.83 ERA and went 4-3 in 12 games (seven starts). She fired four complete games in NE-10 play and struck out 52 in 60.1 innings. Beliveau allowed just a single home run in conference play. Batters hit just .230 against the right-hander in the NE-10.
Beliveau redshirted in 2015. She is majoring in Occupational Therapy with a minor in Psychology.

Emily Cintorino
WCSU athletics
The senior and former Bristol Central standout was named Little East Conference Softball Pitcher of the Week after a strong effort in the circle for Western Connecticut State University.
Cintorino pitched in four separate games, two of them starts. Both of those starts ended as wins for Cintorino, including a complete game. All she did in the four games was go 2-0, pitch 18.1 innings and give up three runs on 12 hits for a sparkling 1.15 ERA. Not a bad week's work.
For the season, Cintorino is 9-9 with eight complete games, a solid 2.33 ERA and a save. She has actually hit more home runs this season (two) than she has given up (one). That's quite the statistic.
WCSU's final home games are Saturday in a doubleheader against UMass-Dartmouth. The Colonials close out the regular season on Sunday at Manhattanville.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

BASEBALL QUICK BITES: St. Paul stays hot

The St. Paul baseball team just keeps on winning. 
The Falcons improved to 10-1 on the season under first-year head coach Vic Rinaldi with a 4-0 victory at Derby on Monday. Andrew Owsianko fired a shutout, the first of the season for St. Paul. 
The Falcons are the top-ranked team in Class S. St. Paul has eight seniors listed on its CIAC roster: Mike Dombrowski, Wayne Sharp, Jarod Deegan, Ben Mazzone, Jackson Hines, Connor Crean, Joseph Ricciuti and Chadd Richardson.
The Falcons are scheduled to host Wilby tomorrow at 3:45 p.m. A showdown looms Friday at a hot Holy Cross team.

Speaking of the Crusaders...
Holy Cross is 7-3 after a 7-4 come-from-behind home win over Woodland on Monday. The Crusaders have won four straight games since starting the season 3-3. Head coach Mike Phelan has a younger roster with just three seniors: Don Mangini, Dylan Pelletier and Tim Lynch. Holy Cross is a talented younger team though, and it is one win away from a state tournament berth.
In the win over Woodland, freshman Tim Zupkis had two doubles, one of which drove in two runs. Sophomore Fran Phelan had a big RBI triple in the sixth inning.
Trialing 4-1 entering the sixth, the Crusaders scored six times to storm back and take the win.
Holy Cross was scheduled to play Torrington today, but that game has been rained out and looks to be reset for Thursday. The Crusaders are slated to play at Northwestern, a perennial power in the Berkshire League, tomorrow at 4 p.m. After the Torrington game Thursday, Holy Cross has its home matchup against St. Paul.

Bristol Eastern doing well again
The Lancers sit at 6-1 with five straight wins to their credit.  
After losing 7-6 in nine innings at Tolland on April 11, Eastern hasn't lost since. The Lancers have claimed wins over Newington, New Britain, Middletown, Windsor and Plainville. Long-time head coach Mike Giovinazzo has seniors Nate Carney, Nate Hickey, Adrian James, Greg Lozier, Evan McGinley and Brian McPhee to lean on, according to its CIAC roster. 
In a tough road win over Windsor (4-3 on April 22), Hickey and Lozier paced the offense while Carney and junior Gary Gagnier pitched well.
Eastern is at Platt tomorrow and hosts Wethersfield Friday. A matchup with city rival Bristol Central looms next Monday at 7 p.m. at Muzzy Field. The Lancers are the second-ranked team in Class L. They were the No. 1 seed in Class L at the end of the regular season last year.

Speaking of the Rams...
Central is two wins away from yet another state tournament berth under head coach Bunty Ray. 
After a home loss to a good Newington team last Friday, the Rams rebounded with a 10-5 win at Middletown yesterday. Central also owns wins over Maloney, New Britain, Wethersfield, Farmington and Rocky Hill.
The Rams are paced by seniors Jalen Benoit, Jaeden Rasmus, Jordan Banks, Noah Cruz, Matt Heffernan, Brad Burney, Nick Sassu and A.J. Pahl. 
Central plays the first of three straight evening/night games tomorrow at Berlin. The Rams go to Southington Friday, then host Eastern next Monday at Muzzy. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Holy Cross softball hangs on against Woodland, remains undefeated

When going into Beacon Falls to play a softball game against a Loren Luddy-coached Woodland team, expect a battle.
Undefeated Holy Cross, ranked eighth in the state poll, almost got more than it bargained for on Monday afternoon. The Hawks trailed 6-2 entering the last of the seventh inning, but scored three runs to pull within one. Woodland still had the bases loaded with two outs, and anything to the outfield likely meant defeat for Holy Cross.
Lawton fires in a pitch.
For the 14th and final time in the game, junior pitcher Sarah Lawton fired away and picked up a strikeout. With that last punch-out, the Crusaders had escaped, and there's no other way to put it. Holy Cross escaped Beacon Falls with a win.
The Crusaders stayed undefeated at 10-0 in the first game of a difficult week. Holy Cross takes on St. Paul Friday in Bristol before hosting third-ranked Seymour on Saturday at 11 a.m. the Crusaders and Wildcats were supposed to play tomorrow, but the forecast of rain postponed the matchup for the third time this season.
Junior catcher Aubry DeFoe was 2-for-4 with 2 RBI to lead the Holy Cross offense Monday. Freshman Carley DeFoe drove in a run, as did fellow freshman Allie Brown. Valerie Nobrega had two runs scored.
Allie Brown hustles for an infield single.
In the circle, Lawton -- who pitched sparingly last week against lesser competition -- had four walks to go with the 14 strikeouts.
Woodland used a solid small-ball attack to challenge Holy Cross. The Hawks didn't use big hits to score, but instead manufactured their runs. It was a good test for the Crusaders, who are sure to see more of the same from other opponents, both in the regular season and in the postseason.
Woodland challenged Holy Cross from the start, loading the bases in the bottom of the first inning with one out. A bunt to Lawton went for a force out at the plate, then Lawton claimed the third out on strikes. The Crusaders had left two in scoring position in their half of the first.
After three zeroes for both sides, each team posted two runs in the fourth inning.
Holy Cross jumped ahead again with three runs in the sixth. 
Lawton then helped her own cause in the seventh by beating out an infield grounder. Lawton got caught off first by the Woodland catcher, but was able to take second base. She then scored on a throwing error to put the Crusaders ahead 6-2.
The Crusaders were able to breathe a sigh of relief after the game.
It turned out to be a huge run as the Hawks rallied in their final at bat. The game was a great tournament-style test for Holy Cross, and one it passed, even if only barely. There's plenty to work on for the Crusaders, but the good news is there isn't another game until Friday.
Next up for Holy Cross is a game Friday in Bristol against a 5-1 St. Paul team. The lone loss for the Falcons this season was last week in Naugatuck.
On Saturday, two of the state's top ten teams go at it at the sports complex off of Oronoke Road when Holy Cross hosts Seymour. That's weather permitting, of course. This is not a joke. Neither team is laughing anymore. Let's play this game!
But first, Holy Cross will need to get past St. Paul. The Crusaders absolutely cannot look ahead to Saturday's showdown with the Wildcats.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Sacred Heart baseball wins competitive matchup at Wilby

The Sacred Heart and Wilby baseball teams hooked up for a competitive game on the hill at Wilby High School on Saturday afternoon.
Matt Mancini was solid in relief for Sacred Heart and took the win.
 For those who braved the consistently gusting winds, they were treated to a solid -- if not always cleanly played -- contest. Ben Gomes' sacrifice fly in the top of the seventh brought in Peyton Stephens with the eventual game-winning run in a 5-3 victory for the Hearts. Sacred Heart improved to 6-4 while Wilby dropped to 3-5.
The Wildcats have had some lopsided losses this season, but they have also competed well against others. There was a 6-5 win home over Derby in the season opener on April 9, and then a 3-2 win at Seymour on April 18.
For the Hearts, it's their fourth straight win since a 7-1 defeat to St. Paul in Bristol on April 16. Sacred Heart has defeated Woodland, Derby, Crosby and Wilby since.
Sacred Heart was paced by the quality relief pitching of Matt Mancini, who picked up the win.
Wilby's Jalen Monroe wasn't bad in relief for his team Saturday.

After David Colella started the game for Wilby, Jalen Monroe turned in a pretty good effort on the mound. If you have seen the Wildcats, you know they can hit a little bit, especially Nelson Merced, who launched a home run over the fence against Holy Cross on Thursday. Merced chased a Sacred Heart outfielder back to the right field fence for a long out on Saturday.
Sacred Heart will try to make it five straight wins on Tuesday when it travels to Naugatuck to face the Greyhounds in a 3:30 p.m. contest. Wilby, which has lost two straight games, heads down the hill to Bucks Hill Park to take on first-year varsity program Waterbury Career Academy at 3 p.m.

For photos from the game, check out this post on my new Facebook page: 

Here's video of Gomes' winning sac fly from my YouTube channel.

Friday, April 22, 2016

HIGH 5 OF THE WEEK: Cruz earns SportsCenter Top 10 nod with great catch

Manny Cruz
SNHU athletics
It's not often you end up on SportsCenter's Top 10.
Cruz, a former Wilby and Wolcott High standout, did. Cruz, a junior at Southern New Hampshire University. reached No. 2 with this spectacular diving catch in short left field on April 16 at home against Assumption College. 
Cruz may have gotten some fame for that snag, but he's been one of SNHU's most productive players all season. He paces the Penmen in batting average (.379) and on-base percentage (.487), is first in walks (25) and runs scored (40), second in hits (47) and second in doubles (9).
SNHU has been having a terrific season. The Penmen are ranked fifth in the most recent National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Division II Poll.
Cruz was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 39th round during his senior season at Wolcott. 

Matt Blandino
Felician Univerity athletics
The former Bristol Central standout has found his footing at Felician University (Rutherford, N.J.) after leaving Central Connecticut State and spending time at Tunxis Community College. Blandino earned an Associate Degree while at Tunxis.
Blandino, a junior, was named Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference Co-Pitcher of the Week on April 5. It was the second time this season that Blandino received the honor.
Since gaining that award, Blandino has continued to pitch well. Blandino has started 10 of the 11 games he has pitched in, and he boasts a 6-2 record with a 2.28 ERA. The right-hander has struck out 68 batters in 67 innings, an average of 9.13 per nine innings of work. He has surrendered just 14 walks and 54 hits in those 67 innings.
Blandino leads the team in starts, wins, complete games (2) and innings pitched. And oh yeah, he has yet to give up a home run this season.
For a little background, Blandino was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 33rd round while in his senior season at Bristol Central. He was one of the state's most heralded pitchers.
It's good to see Blandino doing well at Felician.

Lauren Vallee
Bay Path University athletics
Speaking of former Bristol Central standouts, this one is lighting it up at Bay Path University (Longmeadow, Mass.).
Vallee, a sophomore shortstop, was named New England Collegiate Conference Player of the Week after her team went 5-1. In a game against Elms College, Vallee launched a game-winning three-run homer. She hit a ridiculous .586 and slugged 1.105 during those six games.
As far as the season goes, Vallee is hitting a "pedestrian" (hahaha) .446 with a .494 on-base percentage and .743 slugging percentage. The batting average and slugging percentage both lead the team. Vallee also leads the team in home runs (4), RBI (33), doubles (6), triples (2) and runs scored (25). And oh yeah, she's also the team leader in stolen bases (8 for 9) and has struck out once in 74 at bats.
Vallee was always a threat in Bristol Central's lineup, but what she's doing at Bay Path is off the charts. She ranks among the NECC's best in average, homers and RBI. 

Connor Fitzsimons
CCSU athletics
When looking at CCSU's best hitters, this former Bristol Eastern star is among them.
Fitzsimons, a senior catcher, is third on the Blue Devils with a .347 batting average. His 18 RBI rank him second, and his five doubles put him in a tie for second. He's also tied for the team lead in triples (1). As far as getting on base goes, Fitzsimons is the second-most reliable at .427. He's also tied for second in hits with 35.
On March 23, Fitzsimons helped CCSU upend UConn 8-4 at J.O. Christian Field by driving in three runs. It was the first win for the Blue Devils at UConn since 2010.
Fitzsimons has a 10-game hitting streak going.

Jake Kawiecki
Western New England
University athletics

The former St. Paul star has has been effective when he has been on the mound for Western New England University this season.
Kawiecki, a sophomore right-hander, is 2-0 in four games (17 innings) with a 2.65 ERA. While Kawiecki has given up more than a hit per inning, he has been able to limit the damage.
Kawiecki's best effort of the season came in a April 13 win over Westfield State. He threw four innings and gave up a single run on two hits. Kawiecki struck out three and walked one.
Western New England is a solid 21-6 on the season. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

EIGHT IS GREAT: Area teams clinch postseason berths on the diamond

Raise your hand if you had the Waterbury Career Academy softball team at 8-0 and already qualified for the state tournament.
OK, now put those hands down.
Seriously, who could have seen this first-year varsity team going 8-0 to start the season? Regardless of competition, what WCA has done under John O'Toole is incredible. The Spartans punched their ticket to the Class S state tournament Wednesday with a 17-1 mercy rule win over Med-Ed Prep at Huntingdon Park.
O'Toole had this to say to the Waterbury Republican-American's Roger Cleaveland afterward:

"I knew stepping in day one that our goal was going to be making ourselves state tournament-bound with eight wins. I couldn’t imagine it would be in the first eight games.”
No one saw 8-0 coming, and it's a great achievement. Vanessa Santiago had a huge day against Med-Ed with 5 RBI, including a three-run home run. Read Roger's full story here.

WCA owns wins over Crosby and Kennedy so far this season, and it sees another future NVL opponent (and city foe) on Monday when it plays Sacred Heart at 3:30 at Joan Joyce Field (Municipal Stadium).

Holy Cross also 8-0
The defending Class S state champion reached the eight-win plateau with a 17-0 shellacking of Crosby at Crosby High School Wednesday. 
Alexandra Lombardo, Valerie Nobrega and Aubry DeFoe continued their hot hitting for Holy Cross. Lombardo had two triples and a double, Nobrega smacked a three-run homer, and Defoe had two doubles. Nicole Strielkauskas pitched four solid inning with nine strikeouts as she continues to gain experience in the circle. Junior standout Sarah Lawton struck out the side in her one inning of work.
The Crusaders continue their week of city games with one against Wilby on Friday.

SIDE NOTE: Holy Cross and WCA are the top two teams in Class as of this morning.

St. Paul baseball gets to eight
Speaking of top teams in Class S, the No. 1 Falcons punched their postseason ticket with a 6-2 victory at Woodland on Wednesday.
Wes Lahey fired a complete game with 11 strikeouts for St. Paul, which has won three straight games since a humbling 11-5 loss to Seymour. On offense, Chadd Richardson had 4 hits and 2 RBI while Ben Mazzone collected 3 hits and a RBI. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Defending softball state champion Holy Cross young but motivated

In 2015, Holy Cross softball got hot at the right time, peaked at the right time, and won the Class S state championship.
It was a coming out party for then sophomore pitcher Sarah Lawton, who proved why she's not only one of the NVL's best in the circle, but one of the best in the state as well.
The Crusaders graduated six seniors from that title team: Liz Lombardo, Paige Hine, Casey DiZinno, Sydney McIldowie, Gianna Lagasse and Kristina Razza. All Holy Cross lost was an All-State shortstop, catcher, center fielder, right fielder and two reserves.
Yeah, that's all they lost.
One might think the Crusaders would come back to Earth a little bit.
Not a chance.
Holy Cross is 7-0 entering today's road game at Crosby (3:30 start). The Crusaders have beaten up on teams they should handle, but they have also been tested, and passed those exams. Holy Cross' first three wins of the season were against Oxford, Torrington and Watertown. The Crusaders began a four-game week Monday with a 3-0 road win over Naugatuck, which has been a solid program.
Holy Cross is young, but don't let that fool you. This team is talented, and tough.
"These girls have stepped up," second-year head coach Megan Dwyer said after her team's 15-0 mercy rule win at home over Kennedy on Tuesday.
It can be tough to stay focused when you're supposed to win. Holy Cross quickly took care of Kennedy on Tuesday though, scoring nine times in the first two innings. In the circle, Lawton was her usual shutdown self.
Everyone knows about Holy Cross
junior standout Sarah Lawton, but sophomore
Nicole Strielkauskas is also solid in the circle.
After two innings, Dwyer gave the ball to sophomore Nicole Strielkauskas, and all she did was put three more zeros in the scorebook. Each pitcher gave up one hit.
"They're both very good pitchers," Dwyer said.
There are four seniors to lead the way -- Lindsay Barton, Mackenzie Dolishny, Becca Anderson and Lauren Dwyer. Barton, Dolishny and Anderson are all captains.
There are also experienced juniors like Lawton and Aubry DeFoe.
"They're playing well, they're a team that works really hard," Megan Dwyer said.
Freshman Hannah Brown singled twice, tripled and scored a run. Sophomore Alexandra Lombardo had a double and triple and freshman Valerie Nobrega added a single and double. Three young players, four extra-base hits. Not a bad early day at the office (the game started at 11 a.m.).
"They're committed to making each other better every day," Dwyer said.
Junior Aubry DeFoe brings experience
to a young Holy Cross team.

That's a good thing, because there are still two games left to play in a busy week. Holy Cross is at Crosby today and hosts Wilby on Friday. The games may not be the same as a Torrington, Seymour, Oxford, Watertown or Woodland, but Dwyer wants her team ready.
"The biggest thing this week is to stay focused," Dwyer said.
Next week brings back-to-back big games on Monday and Tuesday against Woodland on the road and Seymour at home. First, the Crusaders need to get through this week. That shouldn't be a problem, given this team has been ready to play.
Holy Cross, ranked fourth in the most recent New Haven Register/GameTimeCT Top 10 poll, will find out just how good it is next week. The Crusaders can't overlook Woodland, but Seymour is ranked third in that Top 10 poll. Holy Cross ends another busy week next Friday on the road at St. Paul. It will be a tough week, but one that will only make this young team better. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Photos from Holy Cross-Kennedy softball

Holy Cross softball, ranked in the Top 10 in the New Haven Register/GameTimeCT poll, stayed undefeated Tuesday with a 15-0, five-inning romp of Kennedy at Holy Cross High School. Here are photos from the game.