Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Ta'Quan Zimmerman looking to help Hurricane Harvey victims with #HundredForHouston

The devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey has brought out the best in humanity.
Ta'Quan Zimmerman has decided to be part of the outpouring of support, and he has issued a challenge to friends and family, and it's for a great cause.
Through the Ta'Quan Zimmerman Foundation, the former Holy Cross standout started the "#HundredForHouston" Challenge, a push to donate $100 to the victims of Hurricane Harvey. After donating, you challenge friends and family to do the same.
"Watching news, watching TV, watching the internet, it's a very sad thing that happened in the state of Texas," Zimmerman said in a video announcing his challenge.
Zimmerman added: "They lost a lot of belongings due to Mother Nature, something they couldn't control."
If you want to donate, click here to see where you can do so.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Marchi could start at QB for Temple against Notre Dame

Marchi (Temple athletics)
There's no depth chart for Temple football.
First-year head coach Geoff Collins doesn't believe in them, and instead uses "above the line" and "below the line." The former means that players are ready and could see game action, according to a story from Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Four quarterbacks are listed as "above the line," and one is former St. Paul star Logan Marchi, a redshirt sophomore. Marchi is a frontrunner for the starting nod on Saturday in the season opener at Notre Dame. Junior Frank Nutile is also a frontrunner, and Collins hasn't named a starter.
Wright (Temple athletics)
Marchi threw just six passes last season -- standout senior Philip Walker was the man -- but has been in competition for the main job this year. Marchi is also listed as "above the line" for the holder position on special teams, along with redshirt freshman Anthony Russo.
Also making an appearance "above the line" is sophomore Isaiah Wright, who was born in Waterbury and played at Holy Cross High School before moving on to Kingswood-Oxford in West Hartford. Wright is listed at both wide receiver and kick returner.
Wright played in all 12 games and rushed 42 times for 250 yards and a touchdown. He caught eight passes for 74 yards, and he returned two kicks for 17 yards.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Busy day of scrimmages in Bristol

Bristol Eastern (white) and St. Paul (blue) battled in a girls soccer scrimmage
at Bristol Eastern High School on Monday. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
Preparation for the fall sports season is underway at area schools, and I visited two of them in Bristol on Monday.
Bristol Eastern girls soccer hosted St. Paul in a city matchup at Bristol Eastern High School. The Lancers and Falcons played on the front grass field on campus. Eastern football was practicing on the turf. The Lancer boys soccer team headed off to Wolcott.
At Bristol Central, the football team hosted Farmington and Torrington in a scrimmage that had an awful lot of maroon in it. Here are my observations on each scrimmage:
Bristol Central (maroon top, white pants) took on Farmington (white top, maroon pants)
and Torrington (not pictured) in a football scrimmage at Bristol Central High School on Monday.
(Copyright, Sports on CT-69)

BRISTOL EASTERN-ST. PAUL
The Lancers were able to put home a couple goals in the amount of time I spent at the scrimmage. Eastern returns a bunch of players from last season, and it seems to be the same feisty, hard-fighting bunch that head coach Scott Redman demands. The senior captains are Megan Perry and Brooke Dauphinee, and junior Myah Croze is a big threat to put the ball in the goal.
St. Paul has speed up front in senior Kendall Davis and junior Julia Dess. Davis and Dess will put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses this season. Davis can also be seen hustling all over the pitch, along with junior sister Addison Davis. Falcon freshman keeper Nina Zwolinski impressed at times in the Eastern scrimmage. Zwolinski played with Croze, Dess, the Davis sisters, and other Bristol soccer players on an 18U team that took the silver medal at the Nutmeg State Games.

BRISTOL CENTRAL FOOTBALL
The Rams have a nasty trio of players who can run the ball. There's senior standout Dathan Hickey, junior Darrell Payton and junior Justus Fitzpatrick to deal with in the ground game. None are particularly fun to tackle, especially Hickey. Hickey made some amazing moves, including a dazzling touchdown run that was called back on a penalty. Payton is built low to the ground and is tough to tackle. Fitzpatrick sweeps in from the outside and gives Central another perimeter threat.
The offensive line had assistant varsity coach David Talmadge doling out congratulations after a particularly impressive drive against Farmington. The Rams appear to be solid up front.
On defense, Central was mostly defending the ground against run-first Farmington and Torrington. The Indians do throw the ball, but seem to run first. The Red Raiders are in the veer and keep attacking on the ground.
Central fared pretty well defensively from what I saw.

CONCLUSION
It's just one day of scrimmages, but the three Bristol teams I saw had something positive to take away from their performances.

PHOTOS
Click here for Bristol Eastern-St. Paul girls soccer scrimmage images.
Click here for Bristol Central football scrimmage images.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Dionne Parker named to college coaching staff in Michigan

Parker (Lake Superior State athletics)
Dionne Parker made her name as a high school basketball player at Sacred Heart.
She is doing so in another way now, as a coach. She was named assistant varsity coach and head junior varsity coach for the Lake Superior State University women's basketball program, according to a press release posted today on the team website.
Parker has coached before at the middle school level and AAU. This is her first college coaching job.
Coaching basketball runs in the Parker family. Dionne's father Darryl serves as an assistant coach to Jon Carroll for boys basketball at Sacred Heart.
Lake Superior State interim head coach Brandon Lokken had great things to say about Dionne Parker.
"Dionne is going to bring great energy to our program," Lokken said in the release. "Being a young coach not to far removed from playing, Dionne is going to be able to connect well with our players. Building relationships is so important in a program and Dionne has a personality the girls are going to love."
Lake Superior State is located in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. The Lakers play at the NCAA Division II level.
Parker played collegiately at Coastal Carolina after walking onto the program for her sophomore year. She was a team manager as a freshman. Parker started 14 of 27 games in her junior season at Coastal Carolina. 
Parker was a four-year captain of the Sacred Heart High School basketball team. Parker also did cross country, softball and track with the Hearts.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

"Every Dog Has its Day": Naugatuck wins first Tri-State title

The Naugatuck Dogs celebrate their first Tri-State championship. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
The Naugatuck Dogs know what it means to come up just short of the ultimate goal.
Twice before, Naugatuck had a chance to win the Connecticut Tri-State Baseball League's World Series, only to lose its grip on the trophy.
There would not be a third time, because as Dogs veteran Devin Murphy put it: "Every dog has its day."
Naugatuck's day was Wednesday. The Dogs got to Tri-Town Trojans knuckle-baller Jordie Scheiner and pulled away for an 8-4 win in Game 2 of the World Series under the lights of Waterbury's Municipal Stadium.
The Tri-State champion Naugatuck Dogs. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
When a harmless fly ball settled into the glove of left fielder Ryan Plourde for the final out, the Dogs celebrated their first Tri-State championship. 
Lance Stevens, a long-time Naugatuck player who has been through the heartaches of the past, pitched his team to the title with a complete-game effort. The Dogs celebrated when the final out was made, but it was also sort of a big sigh of relief.
"We’ve won state championships, but this was something we needed to X off our list," Kyle Murphy said.
"This is our third time here, we lost two series in the final game," Naugatuck coach Jay Harlaman said.
A huge key was pitching, and hurlers such as Stevens, Jeff Sturm, Kevin Murray Bryan Wyrebek and Mack Cianciolo helped the Dogs get over the top.
"We really needed the pitching, and we put it all together," Harlaman said.
Stevens, a long-time Naugatuck veteran, battled his way through a tough first few innings and settled in.
"We were warming somebody up there for a little while," Harlaman said. "Lance was getting a little upset, he was like 'shut him down, shut him down.' We were warming up Sturm, but we knew [Stevens] was going to finish, he wanted to finish the game."
Stevens said the first four innings felt like midnight with different things not going the way of the Dogs. Things changed when Naugatuck's offense began to light it up, and Stevens appreciated the help.
"When they hit, it takes off a ton of pressure," Stevens said. "I get to rest, I can relax and watch them run the bases. I can make adjustments myself mentally, so it helps out tremendously."
Kyle Murphy's two-run double in the top of the third inning put Naugatuck ahead to stay, 3-2. In the fourth, the Dogs added four more runs to widen their lead to 7-2. Jeff Rustico had his second RBI single of the game after Mack Cianciolo's leadoff double. Ryan Russell singled, then an error on a fielder's choice off the bat of Sean Miller-Jones with one out allowed Rustico to score. Ryan Plourde's sacrifice fly scored Russell to make it 6-2, then a passed ball brought Miller-Jones in for a 7-2 score.
"The offense, 1 through 9, we’re putting runners on and getting big hits," Jay Harlaman said.
Devin Murphy drove in the final Naugatuck run -- Miller-Jones -- with a sacrifice fly in the sixth.
Tri-Town scored twice in the bottom of the sixth to get to 8-4, but Stevens slammed the door shut after that.
"We put up some runs, and I kind of caught a second wind at the end," Stevens said.
Kyle Murphy gave credit to his pitchers.
"Yeah, we did put up a lot of runs in this league tournament, but I don’t think we can win a game without our pitching performances," Kyle Murphy said.
Add some good defense, and all the ingredients were there for a Tri-State championship recipe. This one will taste the sweetest because it's the first for the Dogs.
"It’s really a pleasure to coach these guys," Jay Harlaman said. "They make it a lot of fun, a lot of fun. A lot of very good chemistry on this team."
A long summer came to an end on Wednesday for Naugatuck, but it did so with the ultimate prize, a Tri-State championship.

PHOTOS: Click here to see images from Wednesday night's game. You can also click here for celebration images.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Bonicki, Curtin named to All-FCBL First Team; three Blues to Second Team

Waterbury's Kyle Bonicki and Bristol's Tommy Curtin both had solid seasons, and each player was rewarded for his effort.
Bonicki (Chase Collegiate), who played for the champion Nashua Silver Knights, was named to the Futures Collegiate Baseball League of New England's First Team as its shortstop. Curtin (Bristol Eastern) closed for the Bristol Blues and earned a First Team nod.
Three Bristol Blues earned Second Team honors. They are Jake Frasca (Sacred Heart University), Chris Davis (Princeton University) and Jacob Wallace (University of Connecticut). Frasca was chosen as a utility player, Davis an outfielder and Wallace a pitch.

Pro hoopers give out backpacks to kids at Waterbury Youth Services Back to School Rally

Treveon Graham, left, and Ta'Quan Zimmerman, right, put plenty of smiles on the faces
of Waterbury kids Wednesday during a backpack giveaway at the 20th Annual
Waterbury Youth Services Back to School Rally in Library Park. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
Basketball brought a man from Waterbury and one from Washington, D.C., together to help out kids in the Brass City on Wednesday afternoon.
Ta'Quan Zimmerman, a Waterbury native graduate of Holy Cross High School, and Treveon Graham, an alum of Virginia Commonwealth University, signed and helped hand out backpacks to kids at the 20th Annual Waterbury Youth Services Back to School Rally at Library Park.
So how are Zimmerman and Graham connected? 
They were teammates on the Idaho Stampede, an NBA Development League team.
"We went our separate ways, but we still stayed in touch, and that's why I'm here today," Graham said.
Separate ways have put Zimmerman in Canada with the Halifax Hurricanes, and Graham with the Charlotte Hornets of the NBA. They came together again in Library Park.
To Zimmerman, Graham is more like family than a friend.
"He's very close to me," Zimmerman said. "I don't even call him a friend. He's more like a brother."
"That's what basketball does, it brings a lot of people together," Graham said.
Zimmerman said he and Graham are always there for each other. They joined forces Wednesday to help out the youth of Waterbury.
"You look around, we live in Waterbury, where there's a lot of kids that are unfortunate or underprivileged," said Zimmerman. "It's very important to give these kids the opportunity to go to school the same as someone who is fortunate enough to have a backpack, school supplies and clothes like that. I think it's definitely an honor and a blessing to be able to give back."
Zimmerman has the Ta'Quan Zimmerman Foundation, which looks to help disadvantaged children and young adults. Graham has his own foundation and hopes to do something similar for kids in Washington, D.C. 
Zimmerman also had major support from his family Wednesday. Brother Duval Zimmerman Jr. was there, along with mother Tina. Duval owns Transition Marketing and Management Agency and the True to Yourself clothing line.
"It’s very important, and it’s huge to have my family supporting me, behind me, helping me push what I’m trying to do," Ta'Quan Zimmerman said.
Duval said set up for the backpacks began around 9 a.m. 
The backpack giveaway is in its third year. Two hundred backpacks of different colors and sizes for multiple age levels were given away.
"It's very important to do this," Duval said.
Important enough for Graham to come back and support his friend. Important enough for the Zimmerman family and friends to come together and support the youth of Waterbury.
"Anywhere where we can give back and help out the kids, that’s what we want to do," Tommy Jannetty said. "Give them a head start on the school year."
Jannetty went to school with Ta'Quan at Holy Cross for a year before transferring to Wolcott, and he wanted to give back to local youth.
"Just shot him a text, and said I wanted to be involved," Jannetty said.
In June, it was the first "Be a Buddy, Not a Bully" softball game, held at Bucks Hill Park. The game was sponsored by the Ta'Quan Zimmerman Foundation and True to Yourself. Ta'Quan and Duval were there, along with Graham, Jannetty and Tennessee Titan Jerome Cunningham, a graduate of Crosby High School.
They were all there for the kids, because that's what matters most. Wednesday's Back to School Rally was just another way of helping out.
"It's a nice, positive environment for them to be in," Jannetty said.
And if the kids of Waterbury get off to a good start in the upcoming school year because of the rally, then it is a rousing success. It may even inspire some of the youngsters in attendance to be like Ta'Quan Zimmerman, or Treveon Graham, or any other community role model. That can only be a good thing.

PHOTOS: Click here to see images from Wednesday's event.

TRI-STATE WORLD SERIES: Naugy's early power display leads to Game 1 rout of Tri-Town

Naugatuck leadoff batter Sean Miller-Jones. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69, file)
Crack, crack, crack.
Those were the sounds reverberating around Torrington's Fuessenich Park in Game 1 of the Tri-State World Series on Tuesday night.
It wasn't thunder from a late August storm. Those noises came from the bats of the Naugatuck Dogs' No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4 batters.
Naugatuck No. 3 batter Kyle Murphy. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69, file)
Sean Miller-Jones, Kyle Murphy and Devin Murphy all homered in the first inning as Naugatuck jumped on Tri-Town ace Miles Scribner for four runs in the bottom of the first inning, then piled on three more in the second. The Dogs never looked back and coasted to a 13-2 victory over the Trojans. Here's the full story from Peter Wallace, a correspondent for The Register Citizen and my buddy from my early newspaper days.
There was a distinct Holy Cross High School influence in Naugatuck's Game 1 win. Kyle Murphy had the homer along with two doubles, three RBI and three runs scored. Devin Murphy had a homer, double, single and four RBI. Ryan Plourde, the No. 2 hitter, drove in two runs and scored three more. Ryan Russell added a home run in the sixth inning.
Naugatuck No. 4 hitter Devin Murphy. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69, file)
Combine those four guys with the red-hot Miller-Jones (three hits, RBI, 3 runs scored), plus Mack Cianciolo (three hits, two RBI), and you have the recipe for a Game 1 shellacking.
Naugatuck even excelled on the mound after some early adversity. Bryan Wyrebek, a former Bristol Eastern player, pitched the first inning but left due to injury. In came Kevin Murray, who continued the strong pitching he displayed in a semifinal win over the Bethlehem Plowboys.
Tri-Town is a proud baseball team, and it come ready to play and try to even the series tonight at 7 at Waterbury's Municipal Stadium. If no one can quiet the Naugatuck bats, the Dogs could be celebrating their first Tri-State championship.

NOTE: I will be at tonight's Game 2 at Municipal. Look for in-game photos and video on Instagram, along with updates on Twitter. There will be photos and a story from the game up on this website at a later time.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

TRI-STATE WORLD SERIES: Naugatuck Dogs, Tri-Town Trojans play Game 1 tonight at 7

Devin Murphy (30) and brother Kyle (throwing from third base) look to help the Naugatuck Dogs
win their first Tri-State World Series championship. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69, file)
For the second time in five years, the Naugatuck Dogs and Tri-Town Trojans will meet in the Connecticut Tri-State Baseball League's World Series.
Naugatuck, the runner-up to the Watertown Blaze last year, hope to finish the job against Tri-Town this time around. The Trojans beat the Dogs for the 2013 championship.
Naugatuck and Tri-Town play tonight at 7 o'clock at Torrington's Fuessenich Park. Game 2 is slated for 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Waterbury's Municipal Stadium. Game 3, if necessary, is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday back at Fuessenich.
This is Naugatuck's third appearance overall in the championship, and all have come in the past five years. Tri-Town is in the World Series for the sixth time. The Trojans made the series in three straight years from 2013 to 2015, claiming the title in 2013 over the Dogs. Tri-Town also played for all the marbles in 2010 and 2011, but lost both.
Look at the champions of the last seven Stan Musial state tournaments, and you will see Naugatuck and Tri-Town a combined five times. The Dogs won the Stan Musial in 2011, 2012 and 2015 while the Trojans claimed the title in 2013 and 2014.
Naugatuck and Tri-Town have already met this postseason, with the Trojans defeating the Dogs 3-1 on Saturday, Aug. 12. Tri-Town knocked off the Bethlehem Plowboys to claim a spot in the World Series. Naugatuck had to win out, and did so, beating the Terryville Black Sox, Watertown Blaze and Bethlehem.

Greater Hartford rallies in ninth, beats Connecticut 4-1 in Twilight all-star game

Connecticut Twilight League President Chris Barsa (24) at bat during the all-star game.
The game was the last for Barsa, who retired. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
Monday night's annual all-star game between the Connecticut Twilight League and Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League turned into quite the pitchers' duel.
That was the theme until the top of the ninth, when the GHTBL scored three times to claim a 4-1 victory over the host CTL. The game was the last for CTL President Chris Barsa, who retired. 
Barsa managed the CTL all-stars, a position he was accustomed to being in as skipper of the Brickhouse Indians for 10 years. Barsa also played for the Indians. Scott Dickens, who is also done playing, will be behind the scenes for the Bristol Knights and will assume some of the duties of the interim league president.
After a single run from the GHTBL in the top of the second, the CTL evened the game with a run in the third. From there, pitchers from both sides matched each other zero for zero until the top of the ninth.
The Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League all-stars congratulate each other at the end
of an inning during Monday night's game. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
Ironically, it was Bristol Knight and People's United Bank player Tyler Pina who started the rally for the GHTBL. Pina was hit by a pitch leading off, then stole second base. He moved up to third base on a slow grounder to shortstop, then scored on a single up the middle to put the GHTBL ahead 2-1. The visitors scored twice more in the ninth and took a 4-1 victory.
The Bristol Knights had several players in the all-star game. They were Chris McGrath, Marco Ross, Kyle Lentini, Earl Oakes and Mike Castellani.

NOTES 

  • In a bit of irony, both league tournament champions were named the Orioles. Chicago Sam's won in the CTL while the Vernon Orioles repeated in the GHTBL.
  • There was a Bristol native on the GHTBL all-star roster. It was Eric Therrien, a graduate of Bristol Eastern. Therrien played for the Middletown Outlaws.


PHOTOS: Click here for images from Monday night's CTL-GHTBL all-star game.

Monday, August 21, 2017

MINOR LEAGUE MENTIONS: Cruz joins Fargo-Moorhead in the American Association

Cruz (Billings Mustangs)
Former Wolcott and Wilby standout Manny Cruz made his name known in the Empire Professional Baseball League as a member of the Puerto Rico Islanders.
Cruz now has a chance to make an impact in a different independent pro league, the American Association. He was signed on Saturday by the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks.
In his time in the Empire League, Cruz hit .367 (40-for-109) with two home runs and 33 RBI.
Fargo-Moorhead plays its home games at Newman Outdoor Field in Fargo, N.D.
This is the third team Cruz has been on this season. He started the year with the Billings Mustangs, an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.

Connor Fitzsimons, Arizona League Angels
Fitzsimons (CCSU baseball)

The former Bristol Eastern standout was a thorn in the side of the Arizona League Diamondbacks on Sunday.
Fitzsimons drove in three runs and scored four more in a 19-1 blowout victory for the Angels. He was 2-for-2 with a double, single and sacrifice fly. Fitzsimons was also hit by a pitch two different times.
Fitzsimons was hit by a pitch and came around to score in the bottom of the second inning. He doubled in two runs in the third, then scored his own run. Fitzsimons was again hit by a pitch in the fourth inning, and he also scored. He singled and scored in the sixth, then drove in a run in the seventh with a sacrifice fly.
The game against the Diamondbacks was also the first at first base for Fitzsimons.
Blandino (Dayton Dragons)
He has been a catcher othwerise this season.

For the season, Fitzsimons is batting .266.

Matt Blandino, Dayton Dragons

The former Bristol Central standout had a stat sheet-filling game in ways both good and bad on Saturday against the Lake County Captains.
Blandino fanned six batters in his five innings of work. He also allowed five doubles and five earned runs in a game Dayton wound up winning 8-7 in 10 innings. Blandino had a no decision.

Friday, August 18, 2017

TRI-STATE: Naugy Dogs beat Bethlehem Plowboys, clinch berth in championship series

The Naugatuck Dogs clinched their spot in the Connecticut Tri-State Baseball League
World Series with a 6-2 win over the Bethlehem Plowboys on Thursday night.
(Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
The Naugatuck Dogs had the leadoff man on base in each of the first two innings against Tyler Erickson and the Bethlehem Plowboys in Thursday night's Connecticut Tri-State Baseball League semifinal game.
Both times, Bethlehem used a double play to escape danger. The Plowboys weren't so lucky in the third inning.
The Dogs scored four times in the bottom of the third and rode the momentum to a 6-2 victory and a berth in the Tri-State World Series. Naugatuck will play the Tri-Town Trojans in a best-of-three beginning next Tuesday at Torrington's Fuessenich Park. Wednesday's game is at Waterbury's Municipal Stadium, with Thursday's contest (if necessary) back at Fuessenich. All games are scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
Thursday's game, which was also played at Fuessenich, threatened to be a Naugatuck runaway early. Sean Miller-Jones, Ryan Plourde and Kyle Murphy all reached to start the game. With the bases loaded and no outs, Erickson escaped with a strikeout and a double play.
In the second inning, Mack Cianciolo got on leading off but was erased on a double play. Ryan Russell reached with two outs, but a fly out ended the inning.
Naugatuck's Sean Miller-Jones was a thorn in Bethlehem's side on Thursday night.
(Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
In the third, Miller-Jones again reached base leading off. This time, Miller-Jones came around to score. Kyle Murphy, Brendan Slattery and Cianciolo also touched home as the Dogs tallied four runs. 
Miller-Jones had three singles and scored twice to lead the Naugatuck attack. Plourde added two singles and a run scored. Kyle Murphy reached three times (two singles, hit by pitch) and scored a run. Slattery doubled, singled and scored a run. Cianciolo had a single, walk and run scored.
On the mound, Kevin Murray worked his way through eight innings of two-run ball for the win. Cianciolo fired a 1-2-3 ninth to end the game.
For Bethlehem, Kevin McDonnell had a two-run home run off the property fence beyond the left field wall in the top of the seventh inning. McDonnell's dinger drove in Joe Fainer, who walked with one out. Fainer (single) reached twice, as did Nick Chiovitti (walk, single). Tyler Erickson took the loss on the mound.
For the Plowboys, there were what-ifs early and a controversial call late. Bethlehem had the leadoff man on in the first two innings, but couldn't score. A line-drive double play -- third baseman Kyle Murphy to first baseman Devin Murphy -- snuffed out the second inning chance.
In the eighth, Chiovitti had a one-out single. Matt Mancini followed with a single to right field, and Chiovitti attempted to go from first to third. Jeff Sturm came up firing, and Chiovitti was called out after a delay on a bang-bang play. Bethlehem players, coaches and fans were incensed about the call, which they felt killed their building momentum. Naugatuck was happy to get the out. A fly out ended the eighth, then a 1-2-3 ninth from Cianciolo put the Dogs in the World Series.

PHOTOS: A whole bunch of local high school alumni played in Thursday night's game. Click here to see photos of them. Here's the list of local alumni who played in Thursday's game:

NAUGATUCK -- Plourde, Kyle Murphy, Devin Murphy and Ryan Russell (Holy Cross)
BETHLEHEM -- Chiovitti and Erickson (Holy Cross); Mancini (Sacred Heart); McDonnell (Bristol -- Avon Old Farms), Tony Geraci (Wilby)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Wolcott High to host Midnight Madness on Aug. 24

If you know college basketball, you've heard of Midnight Madness, where teams show off for their fans and practice for the first time.
Well, Wolcott High School has its own kind of Midnight Madness, and it takes place on Wednesday, Aug. 24. The girls soccer, boys soccer and girls volleyball teams will all practice from 12 a.m. to 2 p.m. Girls soccer practices again from 4-6 p.m., the boys go from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., and volleyball is 2-4 p.m.
Aug. 24 marks the first day that soccer and volleyball teams can practice, but Wolcott does it in a unique way. The idea was conceived by girls soccer head coach Chris Riviezzo.
Boys soccer is coached by Bryan Plona and girls volleyball is led by Briana Daniele.

Heron and Tigers bond, play some good ball on Italy trip

Heron (Auburn athletics)
The Auburn men's basketball team is scheduled to return from its trip to Italy today.
The excursion was a productive one for the Tigers, who won all four of their exhibition games. It was also good for sophomore Mustapha Heron, the former Sacred Heart superstar.
"We are just trying to build and get better every day," Heron said in an article posted on the team website after Auburn's 87-29 shellacking of Stella Azzurra on Aug. 9. "This is a great bonding trip, and we are trying to get close.
Heron scored 13 points in that first game, and he was just one of five Tigers to reach double figures.
"It was fun. I'm looking forward to an exciting season," Heron said. "We have a lot of different weapons."
Heron had nine points and nine rebounds in a 103-87 win over BC Silute of Lithuania on Aug. 11. This past Sunday, Auburn smacked Veneto Select 109-54.
The final game of the tour came on Monday against the Italy All-Stars, and the Tigers ran away with a 104-58 victory in that game to finish 4-0. Heron tied for the team-high in points with 21 and added five rebounds. He scored the last 10 Auburn points to end the third quarter as the Tigers ran away with the game.
While in Italy, Auburn took in many famous sites, including the Colosseum in Rome, Vatican City, and the canals of Venice.
It wasn't the first time Heron has been to Italy, according to an Aug. 4 article by Auburn's Jeff Shearer. Heron was part of a U18 U.S. Select Team that went 3-0 in Treviso, Italy. He was a junior at Sacred Heart at the time.
Heron averaged 14.3 points on his second Italy trip.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Kyle Bonicki part of FCBL championship team

Former Chase Collegiate standout Kyle Bonicki hit .429 in five playoff games for the Nashua
Silver Knights, who captured their second straight FCBL championship.
(Copyright, Sports on CT-69, 2017 file photo)
The Nashua Silver Knights entered the Futures Collegiate Baseball League Playoffs as the defending champion.
They also entered as the No. 5 seed out of six teams, meaning it would be a longer road to a repeat. Nashua pulled it off, and Kyle Bonicki got to bask in championship glory after the Silver Knights defeated the Worcester Bravehearts 2-0 Saturday at Holman Stadium in Nashua, N.H., to sweep the best-of-three series.
Nashua began its run with a 5-2 road win over the No. 4 Pittsfield Suns at Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, Mass. Next up were the No. 2 Bristol Blues, who had a first round bye.
Enter Bonicki.
Bonicki went 4-for-5, including a double and triple, drove in three runs and scored three more in a wild 10-9 victory over the Blues at Holman. In the decisive eighth inning, Bonicki singled and later scored the go-ahead run behind Cam Cook on a single from Anthony Meduri.
Game 2 was at Bristol's Muzzy Field, not far from where Bonicki played his high school baseball, Chase Collegiate in Waterbury. Bonicki singled and scored in the top of the third inning as the Silver Knights opened up a 3-0 lead. Bonicki reached base twice in the game. Nashua scored a single run in the seventh inning to break a 3-3 tie and sweep the series.
Game 1 of the championship series was played at Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field in Worcester, Mass. Nashua and Worcester were deadlocked at 1-1 entering the top of the sixth inning. Bonicki singled with one out, then Ryan Sullivan blasted a two-run home run to put the Silver Knights ahead 3-1. Nashua tacked on another run in the ninth for a 4-1 victory.
The Silver Knights returned home to the raucous Holman Stadium, and they captured a second straight league championship for the 2,469 in attendance with a 2-0 victory.
Nashua was up 1-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning when Bonicki stepped to the plate with Ted Williams on second base. Bonicki's single scored Williams and gave the Silver Knights a 2-0 cushion. Four Nashua pitchers made the lead stand up, and the home side celebrated a championship with its fans.
Bonicki hit .429 in the championship and semifinal series, and that wound up being his average for the entire postseason (9-for-21). He drove in four runs and scored five more.

Friday, August 11, 2017

TRI-STATE PLAYOFFS: Matt Mancini's homer lifts Bethlehem Plowboys past Wolcott Scrappers

Bethlehem's Matt Mancini launches his go-ahead home run Friday evening at Gallop Field.
(Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
The Wolcott Scrappers snuffed out a Bethlehem Plowboy rally in the bottom of the fifth inning Friday evening when catcher Mike Grasso threw out Mike Milius trying to steal second base.
All that did was set the stage for some heroics from former Sacred Heart first baseman Matt Mancini.
Leading off the bottom of the sixth inning of a tied Tri-State playoff game, Mancini blasted a Justin Koutros pitch over the fence in right center field at Gallop Field to put Bethlehem ahead 2-1. Pitcher Tyler Erickson, a former Holy Cross hurler, made the run stand up for the Plowboys in the top of the seventh as they finished off the 2-1 victory.
Wolcott's Israel Lugo touches home after his first inning home run.
Looking on is teammate Elvis Martinez. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
It was the first game back in the Connecticut Tri-State Baseball League Playoffs for both teams after a layoff for the Stan Musial State Tournament and the AABC East Coast World Series. Bethlehem plays in the winner's game Saturday while Wolcott must win its elimination game, also Saturday, to stay alive.
All three runs in Friday's game came via the home run. Israel Lugo got the rare fireworks started when he somehow muscled an inside offering from Erickson over the fence in left center field to put Wolcott ahead 1-0.
In the bottom of the first, former Holy Cross standout Mike Chiovitti answered for Bethlehem with a solo shot over the right field fence to even the game at 1-1.
Bethlehem's Mike Chiovitti points to the sky as he touches home after
his first inning home run. Looking on is Mancini. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
Pitchers Koutros and Erickson combined for four and a half scoreless innings between them before Mancini's home run in the bottom of the sixth. Koutros found himself in more trouble than Erickson, but his defense bailed him out with a couple terrific plays.
In the first, Bethlehem catcher Tony Geraci made a bid for a home run just to the right of center field, but Wolcott centerfielder Clete LoRusso reached over the fence and robbed the veteran backstop. Right fielder Matt Cyr later took away an extra base hit by Geraci with a running catch.
Erickson went after the Scrapper hitters and had great results. Wolcott managed just two baserunners after the first inning, a single by Matt Cyr and hit by pitch for Eric Soucy. Erickson struck out 12, walked none, and had the one hit batter.
After the Chiovitti homer in the Bethlehem half of the first inning, Mancini singled but Koutros escaped with the great catch by LoRusso. 
Koutros worked around a one-out walk in the second, then evaded a big inning in the fourth. A walk and single put runners on first and second to start the frame, but Koutros got two fly outs and a running catch in foul ground by Grasso to end the threat.
Koutros worked his way out of jams, but two mistakes to left-handed batters burned him, and the Wolcott offense couldn't make up the difference. The Scrappers will need to turn up the offense to win Saturday and avoid elimination.

Anthony Ireland to take next step in pro hoop career in Lithuania

Ireland (Trefl Sopot, Poland)
Anthony Ireland is headed further to the north and east on the world map for his next professional basketball adventure.
The former Crosby and Loyola Marymount star signed with Utenos Juventus, a professional squad in Lithuania, according to an announcement from the team. The signing was reported by media websites Eurobasket and Sportando. Ireland averaged 17.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game with Trefl Sopot in Poland this past season. 
Utenos Juventus plays in the Triobet Baltic Basketball League. Home games are played in Utena, Lithuania, about an hour and 20 minutes north of the capital of Vilnius. 
Lithuania borders Poland on its northeastern side between Kalininigrad (Russia) and Belarus. Ireland will be switching not only countries, but time zones as well. Ireland will now play in a time zone that is seven hours ahead of our Eastern Standard Time, as opposed to six hours when he was in Poland.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Bonicki and Silver Knights eliminate Blues in FCBL Playoffs

The Bristol Blues saw their season end Thursday night in a 4-3 loss to the Nashua Silver
Knights in Game 2 of their FCBL semifinal series at Muzzy Field. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
The Bristol Blues saw their season come to an end in a frustrating 4-3 loss to the Nashua Silver Knights in Game 2 of their FCBL semifinal series on Thursday night at Muzzy Field.
Former Chase Collegiate standout Kyle Bonicki went 1-for-4 with a single and a run scored in the victory. Bonicki did make an error in the field. 
Nashua advances to its fifth championship series, where it has won three times. The Silver Knights play the Worcester Bravehearts, who continued their mastery of the top-seeded Brockton Rox. Worcester never lost to Brockton this season.
Mitch Guilmette, a former Bristol Central standout, pinch hit in the bottom of the ninth innings for Bristol. He grounded back to the pitcher to end the game. The Blues end their season with a West Division title and the most runs scored in a single game in league history. Bristol also had the league leaders in stolen bases (Chris Davis), wins (Anthony Morrone) and saves (Tommy Curtin). Curtin was a former standout at Bristol Eastern.
Nashua's Ryan Sullivan jogs around the bases after smashing a solo home run.
(Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
Nashua struck first when Ryan Sullivan launched a solo homer to left field leading off the top of the second inning. Cleanup batter Anthony Meduri tripled home Ted Williams and Bonicki in the third to put the Silver Knights up 3-0.
Bristol got one back in the bottom of the fourth inning on a Josh Zbierski single, but couldn't score again even with the bases loaded and two outs. The Silver Knights gave the Blues an extra out via a wild pitch on a third strike, but a strikeout with the bases loaded ended the threat.
Leaving runners on was a major problem for Bristol, which had 11 for the game.
In the sixth, the Blues caught up at 3-3 on Logan Greene's two-run single. Greene's hit didn't leave the infield, but he beat the throw to first. Zbierski, who had been running hard from second base, scored behind Alex Loparco to tie the game.
Former Chase Collegiate standout Kyle Bonicki at bat. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
Nashua immediately took the lead back in the seventh. Luke Tyree doubled with one out, then Williams came up with the key two-out single to bring him home.
Bristol loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the eighth on back-to-back walks. A grounder to second base allowed the Silver Knights to escape, and the Blues went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth to end the game.
Collin Duffley took the win in relief for Nashua while Jason Johndrow recorded the save. John Natoli was the losing pitcher for Bristol.

PHOTOS: Click here for images from Thursday night's Blues-Silver Knights game.

MINOR LEAGUE MENTIONS: Fitzsimons posts two-hit game

Fitzsimons (CCSU athletics)
After three straight hitless games, former Bristol Eastern standout went 2-for-3 with a double in a 4-2 loss for the Arizona League (Rookie) Angels against the Padres on Wednesday.
Fitzsimons was hit by a pitch in his first at bat in the bottom of the second inning. He was later picked off of second base to end the inning. Fitzsimons grounded out in his second at bat in the fourth inning. 
In the sixth, Fitzsimons rocketed a double to put runners on second and third with two outs, but the Angels failed to score. Fitzsimons ripped another hit, a single, in the eighth inning.
Fitzsimons has boosted his batting average to .239 on the season. 
On defense, Fitzsimons has thrown out eight baserunners and posted a .986 fielding percentage.

Blandino's solid performance
Blandino (Billings Mustangs)

It has been rough at times for former Bristol Central standout Matt Blandino in his time with the Dayton Dargons of the Midwest League.
Monday was a better time for Blandino, who picked up the win on the mound in a 3-2 victory over the Lansing Lugnuts. Blandino pitched six innings and gave up two runs, one earned, on seven hits. He didn't strike out anyone, but he also finished without a walk. Blandino did hit one batter. He threw 55 of his 78 pitches for strikes.
Blandino is 5-4 overall, 2-4 with the Dragons, who are a Single A full-season squad.



Cruz among RBI leaders on Islanders
Cruz (Puerto Rico Islanders)

Former Wolcott and Wilby star Manny Cruz is among the top hitters on the Long Island Islanders of the Empire Pro Baseball League.
Cruz is tied for third on the team in RBI with nine. In 50 at bats, Cruz has 16 hits and nine runs scored. He has stolen four bases and is batting .320 with a .435 on-base percentage.
On defense, Cruz has made just one error.

Statistics compiled from the websites of each player's team.

Bonicki helps Silver Knights get past Blues in Game 1 of FCBL semis

Bonicki (Clark athletics)
The Nashua Silver Knights beat the Bristol Blues 10-9 in Game 1 of their FCBL semifinal series, and Waterbury's Kyle Bonicki was right in the middle of it.
Batting third in the order, the former Chase Collegiate standout went 4-for-5 with a double, triple, three RBI and three runs scored. Bonicki, a star at Clark University, is hitting .500 through two postseason games.
In the top of the first inning, Bonicki blasted a RBI triple off the right field fence to put Nashua ahead 1-0. Bonicki scored the second run of the inning to give the Silver Knights a 2-0 lead.
In the third, Bonicki singled and scored in a four-run inning. Nashua used the big inning to claim a 6-1 advantage.
In the fourth, Bonicki doubled in two more runs to up the Silver Knight lead to 8-2. 
Bonicki flew out to center field in the sixth, but there were way bigger developments in the top of the inning. After scoring four runs in the fifth inning, Bristol struck for two more in the sixth to tie the game at 8-8.
The Blues went ahead 9-8 in the top of the eighth inning, but the Silver Knights had the answer. After a one-out single from Cam Cook, Bonicki singled for his fourth hit of the game. Anthony Meduri singled to drive in Cook, then Bonicki scored the eventual winning run on an error. 
Bristol got a two-out single to put the tying run on first base, but Nashua picked up a fielder's choice to end the game.
Game 2 of the semifinal series is at Bristol's Muzzy Field at 7 p.m. If there is a Game 3, it will be played on Friday night at 7 at Muzzy.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Mustapha Heron, Auburn playing ball and seeing sites in Italy

Mustapha Heron and Auburn men's basketball are in Italy.
The Tigers blew away Stella Azzura 87-29 in a game played today. Heron, who will be a sophomore for Auburn, had 13 points and tied for the team lead. Heron was a former star at Sacred Heart High School in Waterbury.
The Tigers are in Italy to get some basketball in, and oh yeah, to see some sites. Players and coaches posed for photos in Vatican City and at the Colosseum that were posted on Twitter on Tuesday.
Auburn arrived in Rome on Monday, grabbed lunch, then posed for a photo in front of the Trevi Fountain, an amazing site. Go to the Auburn men's basketball Twitter account for updates from the games and photos of the trip itself.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

BASKETBALL: Summer a busy time for area boys and girls on courts (UPDATED: more players, coach)

Baseball and softball are far from the only sports going on in the summer.
One in particular is basketball, and there is a lot of it with all of the AAU teams that exist now. For example, AAU programs with local names on the roster -- and this likely isn't all of them -- include the Connecticut Passion, CT Elite, Connecticut Spirit, Connecticut Starters, Connecticut Magic, Connecticut Basketball Club and CT Select.
In some cases, local coaches or former players are involved with the AAU team. Former Crosby player Julio Vazquez signed on to the Connecticut Passion program as a coach. Sacred Heart assistant Jay Seay is a coach with the CT Elite, and former Crosby star B.J. Monteiro helps out at camps.
July is considered to be a huge month for summer basketball. Several locals went up against top competition at the Basketbull Hall of Fame Summer Finale. A CT Select team in the 11th/Open Division had DeAndre Wallace and Nyzair Rountree from Holy Cross, Jeremiah Kendall from Crosby, Roderick Jenkins from Bristol Eastern, and Shamir Johnson from Taft on the roster. Jenkins and Johnson are from Waterbury.
The Connecticut Passion had Alex Bernier, Austin Jones, Donavan Symes, Mike Palmieri, Mike Tessarzik and Tyler Arbuckle on the roster. Among those players are Bristol Central, St. Paul and Wolcott, and there was Farmington as well.
There were a bushel of local players on other teams at the Summer Finale. And to think, this was just the 11th/Open Division of the Summer Finale.
A 10U CT Select team featured locals Connor Printz (Taft), DeAndre Wallace (Holy Cross), Kerwin Prince (Crosby) and Marcellus Gomes (Holy Cross).
There's three other Sacred Heart players to mention. Two are out of state, but they are ompeting with strong programs. Omar Rowe plays for the New York Rens 15U team, Raheem Solomon plays for the Mass Rivals, and Isiah Gaiter plays for the Connecticut Basketball Club. Freddie Feliciano, a Sacred Heart graduate, coaches with the 17U Rens team.
Other boys are playing in the Waterbury YMCA Summer Basketball League. There are teams from Holy Cross, Waterbury Career Academy, Wilby and Kaynor Tech. Still others, boys and girls, are playing in the Torrington Summer Basketball League, which has entered its third decade.
Jade Udoh of St. Paul made headlines for the Connecticut Spirit while Treasure Coleman of Sacred Heart did the same with the New York Lady Gauchos (AKA Lady Choz).
Summer basketball is a place where players get recognized by colleges and improve on their individual games.

Monday, August 7, 2017

High school football starts in a week

The official start of high school football for teams that didn't conduct spring practice is a week away.
Monday, Aug. 14, is the first day that football teams can conduct conditioning sessions. There is no full-contact practice until Saturday, Aug. 19. 
Most local teams chose to start earlier in the fall rather than conduct spring practice. Only Waterbury Career Academy, Wilby and Wolcott held spring practice. Of those three teams, Wolcott has a new head coach, Matt Hove. Peter Flammia returns as WCA head coach while Lamar Kennedy does the same at Wilby.
Bristol Central, Bristol Eastern, Crosby, Holy Cross, Kennedy, Sacred Heart/Kaynor Tech and St. Paul will all start on Aug. 14. SH/KT will be led by a new head coach, Thomas Allen.

QUICK LOOK
Here's when the regular season begins for each local team, along with the opponent:
BRISTOL CENTRAL -- 9/9 at Hartford Public, 1 p.m.
BRISTOL EASTERN -- 9/8 at E.O. Smith, 6:30 p.m.
CROSBY -- 9/8 vs. Woodland (Jimmy Lee Stadium), 7 p.m.
HOLY CROSS -- 9/9 at KENNEDY, 1 p.m. (Municipal Stadium)
SH/KT -- 9/9 vs. ST. PAUL, 6 p.m. (Municipal Stadium)
WCA -- 9/8 vs. WILBY, 7 p.m. (Municipal Stadium)
WOLCOTT -- 9/8 at Ansonia (Nolan Field), 7 p.m.

PLAYOFFS: Bristol's Blues, Knights earn No. 2 seeds and byes (UPDATED: Twilight schedule changed)

The Bristol Blues are Western Division champions in the FCBL. They own the No. 2 playoff seed
and a first round bye. The Blues begin play Wednesday. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69, 2017 file)
The Bristol Blues wrapped up the Futures Collegiate Baseball League of New England's Western Division title on the last day of the season Sunday.
With that came the reward of a No. 2 seed and a bye through the first round, which begins Tuesday. Bristol will face its opponent in the semifinal round starting Wednesday. Under the FCBL playoff format, the Blues chose to play their first game on the road, then come back home for Game 2 Thursday and Game 3 Friday (if necessary). The other option was for Bristol to host only Game 1 while the other two games would be at the home field of their opponent.
The top seed in the FCBL is the Brockton Rox. The other four playoff teams, seeded third through sixth, are the Wachusett Dirt Dawgs, Pittsfield Suns, Nashua Silver Knights and Worcester Bravehearts. Wachusett hosts Worcester and Pittsfield is home to Nashua. Both games are scheduled for 6:35 p.m. Tuesday.


The Bristol Knights are also division champions and a No. 2 seed. The Knights
have a bye through the first two days of the CTL Playoffs and play on Wednesday.
(Copyright, Sports on CT-69, 2017 file)
BRISTOL KNIGHTS HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL THURSDAY TO PLAY
Bristol earned the No. 2 seed and a bye through the first days of play in the 10-team Connecticut Twilight League Playoffs.
That goes along with the Central Division title the Knights also captured. The playoffs were supposed to start this evening, but the threat of heavy rains postponed all contests. All four games have been moved to tomorrow.
At South Windsor's Rotary Field, the No. 7 Loco Perro Expos get the playoffs started against the No. 10 Wethersfield Dodgers at 6 p.m. The 8 p.m. game is between the defending champion and No. 4 Elmer's Silver Bullets and the No. 5 East Hampton Royals.
There is also a game each at Rec Park in Willimantic and Riverfront Park in Glastonbury. In Willimantic at 7 p.m., the No. 8 Willimantic Ridges play the No. 9 Brickhouse Indians. In Glastonbury and also at 7 p.m, the No. 3 Glastonbury Pirates take on the No. 6 East Hartford Angels.
Bristol plays the winner of that 3-6 matchup on Thursday at 8 p.m. in South Windsor.

TRI-STATE RETURNS
After a hiatus for the AABC East Coast World Series, the Connecticut Tri-State Baseball League Playoffs are back starting Friday.
That's when the No. 12 Wolcott Scrappers play at the No. 5 Bethlehem Plowboys. The game is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. at Gallup Field in Bethlehem and is slated for just seven innings because of the lack of lights. This is the first game of the second round, double elimination format for both teams. For the other six teams, Friday's games are nine innings.
The No. 3 Tri-Town Trojans host the No. 6 Terryville Black Sox at 5:30 p.m. at Litchfield's Community Field. The top-seeded Watertown Blaze play the No. 7 Amenia Monarchs at 5:30 p.m. at Deland Field. The second-seeded Naugatuck Dogs host the No. 8 Litchfield Cowboys at 8 p.m. at Rotary Field.
The winners and losers of Wolcott/Bethlehem and Amenia/Watertown play each other Saturday. The same goes for the winners and losers of Terryville/Tri-Town and Litchfield/Naugatuck.