Thursday, March 29, 2018

HIGH 5 OF THE WEEK: Former Ram Chander Walker now all-time hits leader at Pfeiffer

Walker (Pfeiffer athletics)
Former Bristol Central star Chandler Walker has had a stellar softball career at Pfeiffer University in Misenheimer, N.C.
On March 22, Walker became the all-time hits leader for the Falcons, breaking the mark of 179 set by Hall of Famer Dacia Ijames in 2008. Walker, an athletic three-sport athlete at Bristol Central, got her hit in fitting fashion by beating out an infield single.
Walker needed two hits to break the record. She got the record-tying hit in the first game of a doubleheader, a 4-0 win over Brevard. In her final at bat of the second game, a 9-0 Pfeiffer victory, Walker legged out an infield single to break the record. She stole second and third base, then scored on a Bailey Sherrill sacrifice fly.
Walker has added seven hits since that doubleheader and has 38 on the season, 187 for her career. For the season, Walker is hitting .384 with four home runs, eight doubles, three triples and 26 RBI. She has stolen 13 bases in 15 attempts.

Vallee (Bay Path athletics)
Lauren Vallee, Bay Path University softball
Another former Bristol Central standout, and former teammate of Walker's, Vallee was named New England Collegiate Conference Player of the Week after a monstrous effort at the plate.
In four games, Vallee hit a scalding .692 with an absurd slugging percentage of 1.154. Vallee had multi-hit games in three of the four outings, including a pair of 3-for-3 efforts. In a game against New England College, she was 3-for-3 with two doubles, a triple and a stolen base. The onslaught continued in a game against Mass Maritime, where Vallee was 3-for-3 with a double and a stolen base.
For the week, Vallee had four doubles, one triple, one RBI and three stolen bases. In 16 games this season, Vallee is hitting .552 with a .983 slugging percentage, six doubles, all of her team's five triples, all three of her team's home runs, 13 RBI and five stolen bases. Vallee is leading the team in every one of those categories except stolen bases, which she is tied for first in. She also had team-highs in hits with 32 and runs with 22.

Jake Kawiecki, Western New England University baseball
Kawiecki (WNEU athletics)

Kawiecki, a third senior and former St. Paul standout, was named Commonwealth Coast Conference Pitcher of the Week after a strong outing against St. Olaf at the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational.
The right-hander tied his career-high with eight strikeouts in five innings. Kawiecki scattered six hits, allowed just one earned run, and walked only one batter.
In the bottom of the first inning, Kawiecki allowed a leadoff single, then picked that runner off first base. The other two outs of the inning came on his first two strikeouts.
Kawiecki had one strikeout in the second inning, two in the third, two in the fourth, and one in the fifth. Kawiecki improved to 2-0 on the season.
Kawiecki's ERA is higher than he would like, but he has the two wins in four appearances, including three starts. He has struck out 20 batters and walked seven in 16 innings of work.

Stephens (CCSU athletics)
Peyton Stephens, Central Connecticut State University baseball
The Blue Devil freshman and former Sacred Heart star earned Northeast Conference Rookie of the Week honors for his efforts on the mound and at the plate.
Stephens couldn't have had a much better debut than what he did against UConn. He started the game and pitched two innings, allowing no runs on one hit and while striking out two.
In three games at the plate, Stephens hit .357 (5-for-14) with two doubles, four RBI and three walks. He had one hit and one RBI in each game of a three-game sweep of NEC foe Fairleigh Dickinson.
Stephens had big hits in all three games. He hit a double in the eighth inning of Game 1 that put CCSU ahead 5-3. In Game 2, Stephens' clutch two-out hit in the sixth inning broke a 3-3 tie. In Game 3, Stephens started a five-run rally with a single to score former Bristol Central standout Mitch Guilmette.
At the plate, Stephens is hitting .389 with a home and two doubles. He is tied for second on the team with 11 RBI. Stephens' nine walks have helped him build up a .476 on-base percentage.

Matt Warren, Albertus Magnus College baseball
Warren (Albertus Magnus athletics)

The sophomore and former Wolcott standout is the leading hitter for the Falcons so far.
Warren has a .419 batting average, .814 slugging, 18 hits, three homers, four triples and 19 RBI. The left-handed slugger leads Albertus in all of those aforementioned categories.
Warren's efforts in Game 2 of a doubleheader against Elms College last Sunday earned him a spot on the Great Northeast Athletic Conference Weekly Honor Roll. He went 2-for-4 with a triple, home run and five RBI in a 7-2 win. Warren smacked a three-run triple in the first inning, then blasted a two-run homer in the sixth inning.

Statistics and information compiled from the team website of each athlete.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Waterbury's Walter Wright III continues pro journey in Mongolia

Wright (Montana athletics)
Former Wilby High School star and Division I college basketball player Walter Wright III had to deal with change in his rookie season of pro ball.
"The marathon continues. It's official... Mongolia, Asia to finish this rookie season," Wright posted on Twitter on March 22.
A rookie year that began in Zilina, Slovakia, switched to the Far East and the Mongolian National Basketball Association. Wright is now playing for Tanan Garid. His first game for his new team came on Wednesday at 7 p.m., or 7 a.m. on Tuesday in our time.
Tanan Garid lost 84-71, but Wright made a good first impression. He played 30 minutes and scored 24 points on 8-of-18 shooting, including 3-of-8 on 3-pointers. Wright also had five rebounds, six assists and two steals while committing three turnovers.

Wolcott baseball set up for a good season; Central will have growing pains

Left-handed hitters may not like what they see when they face Wolcott sophomore
southpaw Jack Moore, who has pitched well in the preseason. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
It was just a scrimmage, but Wolcott baseball showed some solid pitching in a Tuesday afternoon game against Bristol Central at Page Park.
First, it was junior Jack Drewry who took to the mound. Drewry put in some strong work without allowing a run. Drewry also showed that he can be a tough out at the plate, working the count before drilling a line drive for a hit.
Wolcott junior Jack Drewry provides a patient approach and solid bat
at the plate for the Eagles. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
Sophomore southpaw Jack Moore was next, and he continued an impressive strikeout streak to begin his season. The left-hander threw strikes, got his curveball over, and stranded a Bristol Central runner on second base.
"We've got arms," Eagles head coach Tary Scott said before the scrimmage.
Offensively, Wolcott did lose some good bats like Steve Urbanski and Ray Bartoli to graduation, but they also bring some back. Drewry had a home run and four RBI in a 13-6 first round Class M win over Woodland in 2017. Nick Trager scored three times and drove in a run, and Trey Nastri had two runs scored.
Bristol Central junior catcher Jake Santiago is ready
to uncork a throw to second base. Santiago threw out
a Wolcott runner on the play. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
In a regular season game against Wilby, Jeff Nicol went 5-for-5 with a home run, two doubles, five RBI and four runs scored. Nick Longo went 4-for-5 in that game with a double and six RBI. Longo was hitting in the No. 9 spot that game.
Players who were sophomores and juniors last year gained valuable experience in an up-and-down 13-9 season. That season ended in a 3-2 second round loss to Lewis Mills in Class M. Mills went on to reach the state final and was the runner-up. Eight players who were in the batting order or substituted in that second round game are back for Wolcott.
The Eagles are hoping for a more successful 2018, and it starts Saturday in Beacon Falls against Woodland at 1 p.m.

Bristol Central
The Rams are a young team with a bunch of sophomores, and that youth showed at times in Tuesday's scrimmage. Central head coach Bunty Ray spent most of his time instructing or correcting his players.
One positive was the pitching of freshman Sean Wininger. Wininger gave up some runs in the first inning, but settled down over his next three frames. Junior catcher Jake Santiago threw out a runner trying to steal second, and also showed leadership qualities when he told Wininger to slow down on the mound.
The Rams may have their struggles, but they're hoping first half learning curves turn into second half success.

GALLERY: Click here to see my photos from Tuesday's scrimmage.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Sacred Heart's Isiah Gaiter made it two MVPs in one night at CHSCA all-star games

Sacred Heart's Isiah Gaiter was a stat sheet filler in his time with the Hearts,
and it was more of the same in the CHSCA large-school all-star game.
Gaiter joined St. Paul's Tyler Arbuckle with game MVP honors.
(Copyright, Sports on CT-69, 2018 file) 
It turns out St. Paul's Tyler Arbuckle wasn't the only MVP to come out of last Thursday's Connecticut High School Coaches Association All-Star Festival at Meriden's Maloney High School.
Another lefty, Sacred Heart's Isiah Gaiter, put together a triple-double of 31 points, 18 rebounds, 11 assists -- plus four blocks and two steals -- for Team Pequot in the large-school game against Team Mohegan. Thank you to Sacred Heart alum Freddie Feliciano and assistant coach Jay Seay for the information.
Gaiter was a stat sheet filler in his two seasons as a Heart, so Thurday's performance came as no surprise. And his effort meant that two local NVL players earned MVP honors on the same night. It was a good night for area basketball.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Mallory on the mend after rookie season injury in Macedonia

Mallory (SCSU athletics)
B.J. Monteiro isn't the only former Brass City basketball star dealing with injuries during a professional season.
The same goes for former Holy Cross, Marianapolis Prep and Southern Connecticut State University standout Michael Mallory. Unfortunately for Mallory, the injury bug bit him during his rookie season with KK Blokotehna-NB of the Macedonian First League and Balkan International Basketball League.
Mallory played in seven games in the Balkan League and made one start before injury sidelined him. He had been playing pretty well for Blokotehna, averaging 11 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 20.7 minutes per game.
Here's hoping Mallory gets back on the floor some time soon.

Injuries have led to frustrating season for Monteiro in France

Caen Basket Calvados posted this on its Twitter account on March 3
in celebration of B.J. Monteiro's birthday. (CBC Twitter account)
It's been a tough 2017-18 season so far for former Crosby star B.J. Monteiro.
Monteiro has played in just five games for France's Caen Basket Calvados due to a patella tendon injury. He had surgery on the tendon on Nov. 6 of last year after playing just three games. The tendon had been an issue for the Waterbury native since the beginning of the regular season.
Monteiro tried to come back, but played just a single game on Dec. 15 before having a relapse, according to media reports from France (Google Translate used). Monteiro played just 12 minutes in that game.
Monteiro again returned to the lineup on Feb. 2 and played 25 minutes. He hasn't played in the seven games since.
Monteiro had arthroscopic surgery on Feb. 19 and was slated to be out about four weeks, according to a story on the West France website (Google Translate used). There was apparently cartilage between his meniscus and patella, head coach Herve Coudray said in the article written by Clément Hébert.
It's a tough time for an injury for Monteiro, who was voted Best Wing for 2016-17 on in the league France National 1, which was won by Caen. Caen has struggled to a record of 8-16 without its captain.
Hopefully Monteiro will get healthy soon and be able to return to the court.

Former Crosby star Ireland has played all over Europe this season with Utenos Juventus

Ireland (Utenos Juventus)
Former Crosby star Anthony Ireland has had a solid season playing in several different leagues for Utenos Juventus in Lithuania.
Utenos Juventus has played in the Lithuanian Basketball League, Basketball Champions League and FIBA Europe Cup in the 2017-18 season. 
In the stats through 26 games in the LBL, Ireland leads Utenos Juventus in points per game at 14.2 and assists at 4.7. The 5-foot-9 guard also averages 3.6 rebounds per contest. He is a 87.5 percent free throw shooter and 44.9 percent on 3-pointers. Ireland plays an average of 26.5 minutes per game.
In 16 Basketball Champions League games, Ireland averaged 12.8 points, 4.2 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 26.3 minutes per game. He led the team in assists per game, and he shot 86.7 percent on free throws.
In two FIBA Europe Cup games, Ireland averaged 8.5 points, 5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals in 20.4 minutes.

Zimmerman makes NBLC history, is a favorite for sixth man award

Zimmerman (Halifax Hurricanes)
Former Holy Cross standout Ta'Quan Zimmerman is only in his second season in the National Basketball League of Canada, but he finds himself in the history books nonetheless.
Zimmerman became just the second player in NBLC history to make 100 3-pointers, grab 100 rebounds and dish out 100 assists off the bench. He is a favorite for the NBLC's Sixth Man of the Year Award and plays on a Halifax Hurricanes squad that looks like a big-time playoff threat.
"I just want to thank God for blessing me with the abilities that I have because without him I am nothing!" Zimmerman wrote in response to a question from Sports on CT-69. "I feel great. It's a blessing and an honor to make history at the pro level National Basketball League of Canada, which is a very good league, in only my second year. I'm grateful for achieving this milestone!"
Zimmerman needed one 3-pointer against the Saint John Riptide on Saturday to make history, and he went well beyond that. He hit four 3-pointers and finished with 16 points to go along with seven rebounds and four assists. Halifax won 90-82 and clinched the top seed in the Atlantic Division.
Zimmerman's play off the bench was a big key for the Hurricanes in their comeback victory. Halifax trailed by as much as 20 points. A NBLC story about Zimmerman earlier in the week alerted him in to the potential history.
"They mentioned me being close to making history and once I found that out I knew that that would be a personal goal that I wanted to achieve," Zimmerman wrote.
Zimmerman said the record-making 3-pointer felt amazing.
"Anywhere you go you wanna make sure you leave your mark in a positive way," Zimmerman wrote. "It makes me proud of myself because you can see all of the hard work, sweat, blood, prayers and tears that I put in daily pay off on the court! I have great teammates who always play hard and have my back whenever the shot isn't falling for me."
Zimmerman has played in all 36 games for the Hurricanes, 11 of which were starts. He is averaging 12.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 28.4 minutes per game. Zimmerman is shooting 42.4 percent from three-point range and 85.7 at the foul line.
Zimmerman is still chasing the dream of playing pro basketball in the NBA or Europe. A versatile player off the bench with the ability to create instant offense could prove to be very useful to some NBA or European team, and Zimmerman would love to get that chance.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Holy Cross state champions will return to baseball, softball diamonds with targets on their backs

Fran Phelan Jr. and Holy Cross baseball look to defend their NVL and Class S state titles.
(Copyright, Sports on CT-69, 2017 file)
The high school spring sports season is supposed to start next Saturday, so I'm going to delve into a little baseball and softball, and I'll start with Holy Cross.
The Crusader baseball and softball teams claimed Class S hardware in 2017. For softball, it was the third straight state title. For baseball, it was the first championship victory in three tries.
Alexandra Lombardo and Holy Cross softball would love a fourth straight trip to the state
championship game in 2018. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69, 2017 file)
Holy Cross baseball is looking to defend the NVL and Class S state championships it earned in 2017. The Crusaders will have to do so with Matt Bonvicini and Adam Razza. Bonvicini is playing baseball at UConn, Razza took on football at Western New England University. They aren't the only losses for Holy Cross -- which also saw big contributors like Nick Hernandez, Chris Flynn and Mike Keating graduate -- but it does bring back some solid talent, led by Fran Phelan Jr., Tim Zupkus, Connor Goggin, Will Marshall, Brian Parzyck and Justin Alamo.
Phelan will anchor the pitching staff and the top of the batting order. Zupkus and Goggin are solid players, and Marshall and Parzyck will contribute. All were part of a strong defense last season.
Holy Cross softball is looking at a much different picture. The Crusaders lost All-NVL and All-State pitcher Sarah Lawton to Florida Southwestern State College. A softball team losing its pitcher could prove to be a major problem. Holy Cross also lost Aubry DeFoe, Gabby Goldman and Emma Gargano to graduation.
The Crusaders, however, have some very capable players. There's Allie and Hannah Brown, Jenna Mowad, Lizzy Diorio, Valerie Nobrega, Carley DeFoe, Nicole Strielkauskas and Alexandra Lombardo. 
All Mowad did was take over at catcher -- as a freshman -- when Aubry DeFoe couldn't catch because of an injury. Mowad homered and doubled in the Class S final.
The Browns, Hannah in center field and Allie at shortstop, are dynamic in the middle of the field. All of the returnees have shown they can hit. Brandi McIntosh got some limited time in the circle last season. Strielkauskas pitched as a sophomore, but was hurt last season.
Both Holy Cross state champions have holes to fill, but each team also has plenty of talent. Baseball opens the season at home on April 3 against Seymour. Softball goes to Seymour on April 3 in its season opener.

HOOP NOTES: Arbuckle earns MVP of all-star game

St. Paul's Tyler Arbuckle, left, was named MVP of the small-school game
at the CHSCA All-Star Festival after recording 24 points, seven rebounds
and four assists for Team Constitution. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69, 2018 file)
A bunch of area boys high school basketball players were invited to take part in the annual Connecticut High School Coaches Association All-Star Festival.
The games had to be rescheduled to Thursday because of the threat of snow, but they did get played at Maloney High School in Meriden. When it was all said and done, a local standout won the MVP in the Constitution-Charter Oak game, which pitted players from divisions III, IV and V against each other.
St. Paul's Tyler Arbuckle had 27 points, seven rebounds and four assists, including the game-winning dime, for Team Constitution. Arbuckle made a touch pass to Classical Magnet's Tyriece Woods for the game-winning bucket in a 134-133 victory.
In a bit of a twist, Falcon teammate Mike Palmieri played for Charter Oak.
St. Paul's Mike Palmieri played for Team Charter
Oak in that small-school game.
(Copyright, Sports on CT-69, 2018 file)
In the nightcap of the doubleheader, Mohegan faced off against Pequot (both teams had divisions I, II and III players on their rosters). DeAndre Wallace of Holy Cross was chosen for Team Mohegan. For Team Pequot, Sacred Heart's Isiah Gaiter and Raheem Solomon were picked.
Gaiter and Solomon are also on a Connecticut team coached by Jon Carroll that will play in the 57th JCC Schoolboy/Schoolgirl Classic on April 8 at the Cardinal Shehan Center in Bridgeport. Carroll will coach the team, along with Notre Dame-Fairfield's Chris Watts. Tyler Bourne and Noreaga Davis of the Lancers will join Gaiter and Solomon on that team, which faces New Jersey.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Strong season ends in disappointment for Heron, Auburn

Heron (Auburn athletics)
Sophomore Mustapha Heron had another strong season for Auburn men's basketball, but the ending wasn't what he or the Tigers wanted.
Auburn outlasted College of Charleston 62-58 in a first round NCAA Tournament game, but was blown out by Clemson in the second round. Heron played 25 minutes in the Clemson loss before fouling out with 12 points on his ledger.
Auburn ended its season with a 26-8 record. Heron offered a pretty blunt assessment of not just the Clemson game, but the attitude after the SEC regular season title.
"I think we got lackadaisical, settled," Heron said in a story written by James Crepea for "Kind of just, we was happy winning a conference championship then that was it."
It was an historic season for Auburn, which won a share of the SEC regular season title and went into the conference tournament as the top seed. The Tigers were eliminated by Alabama in a quarterfinal game after receiving a first round bye. Auburn received a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Heron played and started in 32 of the 34 games the Tigers played this season. The former Sacred Heart High superstar led Auburn in scoring for the second straight season at 16.4 points per game. He was also near the top spot in field goal percentage (43.9), free throw percentage (80.3), rebounds (170/5.3 per game) and steals (38).
Multiple media reports say head coach Bruce Pearl expects Heron to go through the NBA Draft process. College basketball players can do workouts and find out where they may be drafted if they leave school, but they remain eligible if they don't hire an agent.
Justin Ferguson of SEC Country reported that Heron will talk with family, then make a decision.

HIGH 5 OF THE WEEK: Guilmette homers in three straight games for CCSU

Guilmette (CCSU athletics)
Central Connecticut State University senior Mitch Guilmette homered in three straight games during a recent stretch.
On Sunday, March 11, Guilmette smacked two home runs in a 4-2 loss to UMass in Northborough, Mass. The left-handed hitter was far from done.
In the Northeast Conference opener at Long Island University-Brooklyn on Friday, Guilmette homered to lead off the seventh inning. He drove in a run and scored two more in the 10-7 victory.
On Saturday, Guilmette homered in the seventh inning of a lopsided loss to LIU.
The former Bristol Central standout wasn't the only hot hitter for the Blue Devils.

Stephens (CCSU athletics)
Peyton Stephens, Central Connecticut State University baseball
The freshman is 11-for-23 in his last six games with six RBI and four runs scored.
Four of Stephens' RBI came on a grand slam he hit in the 10-7 win at LIU on Friday. The home run was the first at CCSU for the former Sacred Heart standout, and what a way to get on the board. Stephens hit his slam in a five-run third inning that put the Blue Devils ahead 6-2.
In Sunday's 5-3 loss to LIU, Stephens was 3-for-4. He has had four multi-hit games so far this season, including three in the last six contests.
Stephens is hitting .400 with seven RBI for the season. Of note, he made his first start on the mound on Tuesday in CCSU's home opener against UConn.

Matt Warren, Albertus Magnus College baseball
Warren (Albertus Magnus athletics)

The sophomore lefty hit the ball well during the Falcons' time at the Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Through eight games this season, Warren is hitting a solid .345 with two homers, three triples, 12 RBI and six runs scored. On March 13, he had two triples and three RBI against Clarks Summit. Warren hit a three-run homer against Lancaster Bible on March 15 and a solo homer against Wells on March 17. He had four RBI in the Lancaster Bible game and three against Wells.
Warren was a standout for Tary Scott at Wolcott High.

Gallino (Marist athletics)
Peter Gallino, Marist swimming and diving
The career of this senior Red Fox ended in a NCAA Diving Zone meet, but not until he had collected more honors.
Gallino was ECAC Diver of the Meet in each of the last three seasons. The former Sacred Heart High standout was MAAC Diver of the Week five times during his career, including four in his senior season. 
Gallino was a team captain in each of his last two seasons at Marist. He leaves the program ranked second in the one-meter and three-meter dives. Only Brian Bolstad is ahead of Gallino in both dives, and that's by a small amount of points in each event.
Marist called Gallino's diving career "spectacular," and there's no better way to describe it.

Borecki (CCSU athletics)
Sam Borecki, Central Connecticut State University indoor track and field
This former Holy Cross athlete capped off his Blue Devil indoor track career with a second team All-NEC nod.
Borecki finished second in the pole vault at the NEC championship meet with a mark of 4.75 meters (15 feet, 7 inches). The senior helped CCSU win the NEC championship as a team, and he looks for more success in the outdoor season. The Blue Devils have won four straight outdoor conference titles, and Borecki was first team All-NEC in pole vault as a junior.
Borecki is a Cheshire native.

Statistics and information compiled from the team website of each athlete.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Start of spring season uncertain with current conditions, more snow coming

Bristol Central baseball's varsity field as seen Tuesday morning. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
The spring sports season is supposed to start on Easter Weekend, or Saturday, March 31 to be precise.
I took a ride around the area, visiting three schools and a park that hosts games during the season. March 31 is in jeopardy, especially with the latest winter storm coming Wednesday into Thursday of this week.
My first site was Bristol Central High School. The varsity field honestly looked the best out of all of the ones I visited, and that's with water standing in the way of a sliding runner and third base. Behind the plate is another story, with snow blanketing the grass behind home plate. There's also snow near the mound, and snow out in the field itself.
Having covered Bristol Central, I know that this multi-purpose field (it's used for soccer in the fall) doesn't handle water well. Even if the snow melts early, the field will still be soaked. 
Wolcott baseball's varsity field as seen Tuesday morning. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
The Rams don't start their varsity slate until April 4, and they are on the road for the first two games. Their home opener is scheduled for Monday, April 9, against Hall.
The next stop was Wolcott High School. Except for a narrow path of grass in front of the left field fence, the varsity baseball field is covered in snow. It looks nothing like a baseball field at the moment -- more suited for cross country skiing -- and the incoming winter storm will only make that worse.
Wolcott is on the road for its season opener on March 31 at Woodland. The home opener is slated for Friday, April 6, against Oxford.
My third stop was Wilby High School. Perched on top of Bucks Hill, the Wildcat fields are already at a disadvantage. Like Wolcott, the Wilby varsity baseball field is covered in snow with very little grass visible.
Wilby's varsity baseball field as seen Tuesday morning. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
Wilby begins its season on Wednesday, April 4, at Oxford. Kaynor Tech is the home opener, which is penciled in for Friday, April 6.
Bucks Hill Park was my last top on the wintry fields tour. The softball infield appears to be a muddy mess, and there is a decent amount of snow in the outfield, though nowhere near as much as Wilby or Wolcott. Bucks Hill Park's softball field is the home venue for Wilby softball, and more snow will definitely be an issue.
In my opinion, the spring sports regular season games shouldn't start until the first full weekend in April. The extra week could help the snow melt and the fields dry out. It's tough to cram the spring season into only a couple months, but starting in March in Connecticut doesn't work so well. Expect plenty of scrimmages to be cancelled over the next two weeks.
The forecast as of this afternoon for Wolcott and Waterbury, according to the National Weather Service website, is for 11-15 inches of snow and light ice accumulations. Ouch.
For Bristol, the forecast from NWS says 5-10 inches of snow.
Local TV stations vary in their forecast amounts from 4-9 to 6-12, and there could be locally higher amounts.
The infield of a Bucks Hill Park softball field looking quite muddy on Tuesday morning.
(Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
Burlington-based weather forecaster John Bagioni said the European model is showing the snowfall numbers dropping, but he cautioned against anything being a done deal. Bagioni couldn't be more right, given what winters in New England are like.
If this storm smacks the area as bad as the NWS says it will, local fields may need until the first weekend in April just to dry out.
No matter how much snow falls, more snow is not great for spring sports teams.
As far as high temperatures go, they will be mostly in the low 40s for Bristol and Waterbury, but a mix of high 30s and low 40s for Wolcott, according to NWS.
What all this snow and mud means is teams will have to share gymnasiums for practices. A hardwood floor can't simulate the bounces of a baseball or softball field, and only so much can be done inside to get ready for track and field. We'll see what happens with the storm and upcoming weather patterns. Hopefully I'm wrong, but I think the March 31 start isn't happening.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Sacred Heart's CIAC win streak ends in Division I final

Sacred Heart's Raheem Solomon, right, and Notre Dame-Fairfield's Tyler Bourne, left,
hooked up in a memorable duel between seniors during Sunday night's Division I state final.
Solomon outscored Bourne 33-30, but Bourne and the Lancers won their first state title
and ended the Hearts' 107-game CIAC win streak. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
How do you measure a 107-game winning streak?
On Feb. 5, 2014, Crosby boys basketball defeated Sacred Heart in the NVL Tournament final at Wilby High School. Little did we know that the Hearts wouldn't lose again for over four years.
No. 4 seed Sacred Heart's 107-game CIAC winning streak was ended on Sunday night by No. 2 Notre Dame-Fairfield, 65-60 at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Hearts' run of four straight state championships also ended.
Four years. The streak lasted 1,468 calendar days from its beginning to its end. There were 1,473 calendar days between losses.
The streak began on Feb. 12, 2014, when No. 3 Sacred Heart beat No. 14 St. Bernard 65-26 at Alumni Hall in a Class S second round game. This won't matter to the Hearts' detractors -- and there are many -- but the Hearts didn't make the postseason in 2013 while in Class M, finishing 6-14. Sacred Heart was dropped to Class S. (ASIDE: You may question the decision-making of adults, but remember that the players are just kids. Leave them out of any discussions about what class the Hearts should have been in, or where the players came from.)
Andre Anderson (4) attacks the basket for the Hearts. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
The last win of the steak may have been the most thrilling. No. 4 Sacred Heart rallied from what was a 16-point deficit at one point to nip No. 8 Windsor 59-58 in the Division I state semifinal round at the University of Hartford's Chase Arena.
The 105 wins in between included four state championships and four NVL Tournament titles.
Notre Dame, a two-time runner-up to Sacred Heart, put an end to the streak on Sunday night. The Lancers played a great game, led by seniors Tyler Bourne and Noreaga Davis.
"It was like this every night," Hearts head coach Jon Carroll said of the streak. "It may not seem like it with some of the scores, but it was a grind every night."
Like the Windsor semifinal, Sunday night's game was an uphill climb. Notre Dame jumped out to a 12-5 lead with 3:37 remaining in the first quarter. It was 15-9 Lancers at the 1:22 mark. Sacred Heart ground its way back to a 15-all tie by scoring the last six points. There were two straight baskets by senior Isiah Gaiter, then fellow senior Zach Francisco grabbed a loose ball and laid it in with his left (off) hand to tie the game. Gaiter had five rebounds in the quarter.
Solomon buries a 3 late in the third quarter. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
Senior Raheem Solomon also had five rebounds in that first quarter, but he didn't score. Solomon wound up leading the Hearts with 33 points and 12 rebounds in his final game for the maroon and gold. Solomon was unbelievable at many times, soaring over opponents for rebounds, going one-on-one before pulling up for shots, or driving to the basket and drawing fouls.
Solomon had a big seven points and five rebounds in the second quarter as Sacred Heart claimed a 26-25 lead at halftime. Gaiter had a team-high 10 points and six rebounds, but he also had two personal fouls, both coming in the first quarter.
Gaiter played the second quarter with two fouls, but couldn't escape trouble in the third. Gaiter picked up his third foul at 5:37 to go, then was whistled for his fourth 15 seconds later. The Hearts were ahead 32-29 before the fourth foul. Damion Medwinter made two foul shots to cut the lead to 32-31. Six more points from the Lancers put them ahead 37-32.
Notre Dame was still ahead 39-36 with just over two minutes left in the quarter, but then Solomon went off. Four foul shots were followed by a big-time 3-pointer from the right wing with 43 seconds to play in the quarter. With the third quarter winding down and the game tied at 43, Solomon went one-on-one with his defender, pulled up and drained another shot from the right wing to put Sacred Heart ahead 45-43 going into the fourth quarter.
Isiah Gaiter goes up for two. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
The Hearts upped the lead to 48-44 on another Solomon 3 at the 7:07 mark of the final quarter. 
That's when Bourne seized the moment. The 5-foot-9 sparkplug buried two straight 3-pointers for a 50-48 Lancer lead with 5:16 to go. A Davis basket off a Bourne drive had Notre Dame ahead 52-48.
Bourne and Solomon had a great battle going on in this game, and it made for some real entertainment for those who made the journey to Mohegan Sun Arena.
Solomon responded to Bourne's hot streak by making an unbelievable three-point play. He banked in a short shot on the left side of the basket with a Lancer defender hanging on his arm. His free throw cut the Hearts' deficit to 52-51, 4:17 to go.
Two foul shots from junior Josh Reaves put the Lancers up 54-51 at 3:56. Solomon then seized the moment with four straight points, and his most spectacular sequence of the night put the Hearts ahead for the last time in the 2017-18 season.
Solomon blocked a shot at one end of the floor, then raced to the other end. When Gaiter's initial layup missed, Solomon tipped it in for a 55-54 Sacred Heart lead with 3:20 to play in the game.
It looked like the Hearts might have had another comeback in them. The Lancers took the game away and seized their first state championship, and first undefeated season, in program history.
Davis tied the game at 55 on a free throw with 3:11 to go, but missed his second. Medwinter was there for the rebound and put it back in for a 57-55 Notre Dame lead. 
The Hearts take a timeout to regroup. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69)
At 2:25 to go, Bourne drew the fifth and final foul on Gaiter, ending his career. Bourne made one free throw, but missed his second. This time Reaves pulled down the offensive rebound. After a three-point miss, Woodley Monnexant chased down another rebound and got the ball back to Bourne, who was fouled. One more free throw out of two for Bourne put the Lancers ahead 59-55, 1:56 to go.
Freshman Connor Tierney's hook shot put the Hearts within two points at 59-57, but they would get no closer. The Lancers did what they needed to do to win. Senior Noah Francisco fouled out for the Hearts, ending his career with 13.6 seconds left. Two foul shots from Bourne accounted for the final score.
Notre Dame head coach Chris Watts was emotional after the game, and he had every right to be. The hardest part for him, he said, was watching the clock tick down.
"Waiting for those three zeros," Watts said. "We had a five-point lead with nine seconds left, but you still have to coach the game. I'm so happy for the kids and the school."
Carroll stood in front of his bench and calmly answered questions afterward, not an easy thing to do by any stretch after such a monumental loss.
"This hurts right now," Carroll said. "I feel for my seniors."
Those seniors were Solomon, Gaiter, Zach Francisco, Andre Anderson, Noah Francisco, Fran Barton III, Nick Williams, Garrett Jones and Mike Napolitano.
A streak that at times seemed like it wouldn't end finally did on Sunday night.
"We'll come back," Carroll said. "We'll be alright."

GAME STORY: Click here to see what I wrote for The Hoop Zone.

GALLERY: Click here to see the photos I took at Sunday night's game.

Go to The Hoop Zone to see all of their coverage. Great photos from Jim Shannon, and great stories from Joe Palladino.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

ANALYSIS: Hearts need quick start against Lancers in Division I final

Isiah Gaiter and Sacred Heart would love to be all smiles again after tonight's Division I
state final against Notre Dame-Fairfield. That would mean a fifth straight championship
for the Hearts. Of course, the Lancers were be a determined bunch out for revenge
and their first state title. (Copyright, Sports on CT-69, 2017 file)
The day of the Division I boys basketball state final is finally upon us.
Tonight at 6 o'clock at Mohegan Sun Arena, No. 4 Sacred Heart (24-2) goes for a fifth straight state final against undefeated No. 2 Notre Dame-Fairfield (26-0), a team in search of its first championship.
The Hearts can make history, but the Lancers are also motivated by history, and revenge. Notre Dame-Fairfield was soundly defeated by Sacred Heart in the 2016 Class M and 2017 Class L championship games. The Lancers don't want to see their undefeated season close with another loss on the biggest stage.
Expect Notre Dame-Fairfield to come out with a whole lot of fire and determination in this game tonight. Anything less would be unacceptable for the Lancers and head coach Chris Watts, given what he and his players said at Friday's luncheon.
Sacred Heart, which rallied for a win in the final minutes against Windsor after being down as much as 16 points, needs to be ready for that opening punch. A slow start would not be good for the Hearts against the Lancers.
Where All-State duo Isiah Gaiter and Raheem Solomon have gone, so does Sacred Heart. Timely contributions from senior Andre Anderson, the senior Francisco twins Noah and Zach, along with freshmen Connor Tierney and Caleb Sampson, would be big tonight. Those contributions need to come on the offensive and defensive ends. A full effort is necessary tonight for a fifth straight championship.
Speaking of defense, Sacred Heart needs to put a padlock on Josh Reaves, who is averaging 25 points per game in the state tournament. Of course, don't forget about senior speedster Tyler Bourne, who has had some monster games this season.
This will be the biggest state final exam Sacred Heart has faced in the last five seasons. If the Hearts have what it takes, and it will take plenty of effort and guts, they will pass and take a spot in history next to Cromwell and Warren Harding, the other schools in the state that have won five straight finals.
This game should be awesome. I will be covering it for The Hoop Zone along with Joe Palladino, but I won't shortchange you on here. Expect plenty of stuff here in the near future.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Heron gets win, is Auburn's leading scorer in first NCAA game

Heron (Auburn athletics)
It certainly wasn't easy, but fourth-seeded Auburn outlasted No. 13 College of Charleston 62-58 on Friday night in San Diego in a NCAA Tournament first round game.
It was the first NCAA game for sophomore Mustapha Heron, who was accustomed to postseason success while playing at Sacred Heart High School. Heron had a team-high 16 points, some of the spectacular variety, to go along with five rebounds and two assists. He started, played a team-high 36 minutes and shot 6-of-15 from the floor. Heron went 4-of-6 on foul shots.
Heron was able to get into the lane and draw fouls, including one he drew for a conventional three-point play. He also threw down a dunk on a defender in transition.
Auburn plays No. 5 Clemson or No. 12 New Mexico State in the second round this weekend.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Hearts survive major scare from Warriors, will play in fifth straight state final

Sacred Heart survived a major scare from Windsor on Thursday night.
(Copyright, Sports on CT-69, 2017 file)
In last year's Class L state tournament, Windsor led Sacred Heart in the fourth quarter at Alumni Hall and gave the eventual state champion all it could handle in a 58-52 quarterfinal.
The Warriors went even further on Thursday night at the University of Hartford's Chase Arena and came oh so close to taking down the Hearts.
Fourth-seeded Sacred Heart showed the heart of a champion and rallied for a 59-58 victory over eighth-seeded Windsor. The Hearts have now won 107 straight games against in-state opponents. One round after taking down undefeated, top-seeded and top-ranked East Catholic, Windsor put a major scare into Sacred Heart. The Warriors played without Ty Welborn, according to reports from the game.
After Raheem Solomon hit a pair of foul shots to put Sacred Heart ahead 59-58, Windsor had a chance to win. Warrior sophomore Corey McKeithan, the hero of the East Catholic double overtime win, took a shot from the top of the key. He got a clean look, but the ball hit off the back left side of the rim and missed.
Sacred Heart will play in a fifth straight state final, and go for its fifth straight championship, on Sunday at 6 p.m. against No. 2 Notre Dame-Fairfield at the Mohegan Sun Arena. The game is a rematch of last year's Class L final. It's also the third straight final between the two schools.

BOYS SWIMMING AND DIVING: Holy Cross second again in Class S

Holy Cross boys swimming and diving again took aim at a an elusive Class S state championship on Wednesday at the Cornerstone Aquatic Center in West Hartford.
For the fourth straight season, the Crusaders came in second place. It was the second year in a row that Holy Cross was second to Brookfield. In the previous two years, it was Weston who claimed the top spot in Class S.
Holy Cross took runner-up with 575 team points. Brookfield had 630, and Sacred Heart was sixth overall with 236.
The Crusaders got off to a great start, winning the 200-yard medley relay behind the team of senior Lucas Racevicius and juniors Ben Bowler, John Tucker and Sam Mason. Racevicius had another win in the 200 IM, and senior teammate Chris Fryer was second. Mason won the 50 freestyle and Tucker captured the top spot in the 100 freestyle. Holy Cross also won the 200 freestyle relay behind the team of Fryer, Bowler, junior Alex Ford and junior Chris Ford.
The Crusaders finished the night with a win in the 400 freestyle relay. The swimmers in that race were Racevicius, Mason, Tucker and Fryer.
Brookfield didn't win an event, but picked up enough points throughout the meet to overtake Holy Cross.
Sacred Heart senior Dan Walsh closed out his time competing in Class S with a third straight championship in the 200 freestyle. Walsh finished third in the 500 freestyle.
Fryer was second in the 200 IM and Lucas Racevicius took second in the 100 backstroke. Marcas Racevicius was third in diving earlier in the week, and Mason took third in the 100 freestyle. 
In Class M, Kaynor Tech junior Matheus Silva was fourth in diving. Kennedy had two relays add up to 22 team points in Class L. The Bristol Co-op and Crosby/WCA both competed in Class LL.

State Open
Holy Cross has the most top qualifiers among area teams. Mason and Lucas Racevicius are No. 5 seeds in the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke. The 400 freestyle relay of Lucas Racevicius, Mason, Tucker and Fryer is seeded fifth. Tucker is seeded eighth in the 100 butterfly.

Wolcott, Kennedy, Wilby host state semifinal games on same night

It was a busy night locally for high school boys basketball, but not a single area team was playing.
Instead, three different gyms were used by the CIAC as neutral sites for state tournament semifinal games. Wolcott High School's John H. Morris Gymnasium was the site of the Division V game between No. 4 Wamogo and No. 1 East Hampton.
At Kennedy's Jack Taglia Gymnasium, No. 1 Northwestern and No. 5 Kolbe Cathedral (Bridgeport) played in one Division IV semifinal. Across town, Wilby's Reggie O'Brien Gymnasium was the site for the other Division IV semifinal between No. 3 Wilcox Tech (Meriden) and No. 26 Rocky Hill.
I covered the Wamogo-East Hampton game for the Waterbury Republican-American, and the atmosphere inside the John H. Morris Gymnasium was terrific. There were over 900 people in attendance, with a pretty even number wearing Wamogo red or East Hampton blue and white. Wolcott did a great job hosting the game and the crowd was into it. Wamogo upended previously undefeated East Hampton 64-57.
At Kennedy, Kolbe Cathedral took down Northwestern, another top seed and Berkshire League team, 65-51. In the game at Wilby, No. 26 Rocky Hill continued its amazing postseason run with a 66-51 win over Wilcox Tech.
Three games, three different area gyms, one great night for high school boys basketball.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

HIGH 5 OF THE WEEK: Lawton pitching well for Florida Southwestern

Lawton (Fla. Southwestern athletics)
Former Holy Cross star Sarah Lawton is doing a solid job in the circle for Florida Southwestern State College.
Lawton has pitched in 16 games, including four starts. She is 4-1 with a terrific 1.22 ERA and two complete games. In 40 innings pitched, Lawton has struck out 55 and walked 18. She has allowed 12 total runs (seven earned) on 22 hits.
In the second game of a doubleheader on Tuesday against State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, Lawton fired a complete game one-hitter with 10 strikeouts and just three walks. She faced 26 batters in the game.
Florida Southwestern is 35-2 on the season, 6-0 in the Suncoast Conference. They are ranked second in the latest NJCAA Division I and Region 8 Softball Coaches' polls, which were released on Tuesday.

Guilmette (CCSU athletics)
Mitch Guilmette, Central Connecticut State University baseball
The former Bristol Central standout displayed some awesome power in a 4-2 loss to UMass on Sunday in Northborough, Mass.
Guilmette had two solo home runs for the only CCSU runs of the game. Guilmette homered to right field with one out in the fourth inning. With the Blue Devils down to their final out of the ninth inning, Guilmette smacked his second home run to right field.
Guilmette has played in all seven games this season. In 26 at bats, he is hitting .269 with two homers, two doubles, a team-high six RBI and four runs scored. Guilmette leads the team in slugging percentage at .577 and is tied for first in home runs.

Matt Mancini, Western Connecticut State University baseball
Mancini (WCSU athletics)

Mancini, another strong left-handed hitter from the area, is off to a good start with the Colonials.
The Sacred Heart graduate has played in six games and is hitting .381 (8-for-21). Mancini has driven in four runs and scored two more for WCSU. In a game against undefeated Hood College on Tuesday in Florida, Mancini went 3-for-4 with drove in two runs, each on a RBI single.
Mancini is already two-thirds of the way to the number of games he played in during his freshman season (nine).

Carney (SCSU athletics)
Nate Carney, Southern Connecticut State University baseball
Speaking of lefties, this former Bristol Eastern ace is off to a perfect start with the Owls.
A sophomore, Carney has started three games and is 2-0 with a solid 2.04 ERA in 17.2 innings. He has given up nine runs (four earned) on 23 hits and compiled 13 strikeouts to go with just four walks.
Carney pitched six innings in his first start, a 14-0 win over Dominican on Feb. 23. He scattered four hits, struck out five, walked two and a hit a batter.
Carney bounced back from a tough outing against Bridgeport with a strong one against Felician on March 9. He threw seven innings and gave up four runs (one earned) on nine hits. Carney struck out four and walked one in the 9-4 victory.

Brendan McCormack, Post University golf
McCormack (Post athletics)

McCormack, who played at Kaynor Tech, competed with the Eagles at the Barton College Intercollegiate two-day event in Wilson, N.C.
After starting the second day tied for 32nd overall, McCormack shot a 3-over-par 75 to move into a tie for 20th place. McCormack was third out of five finishers on his team.
McCormack, a Watertown native, is majoring in Marketing at Post. The next tournament for the Eagles is the St. Thomas Aquinas Spring Invitational on April 7-8 in Berlin, Md.

Statistics and information compiled from the team website of each athlete.