Hawks look to competition to yield wins
BEACON FALLS — Woodland baseball coach Mike Kingsley hopes preseason competition leads to in-season wins.
The fourth-year head coach said there is more competition among players for starting positions this season than in any of his previous years on the job. That atmosphere is leading all those players to elevate their games.
“I love the competition, and it’s been understood as a competition from the beginning of workouts,” Kingsley said. “The kids have embraced it and it’s pushing them all to get better. We have an open competition at pretty much every spot on the field.”
Woodland lost five starters from a season ago, in which the Hawks squeaked into the Class M state tournament but lost in the qualifying round. Those losses, which included outfielders Anthony Scirpo and Nick Brown, third baseman Steve Baeder, shortstop Dave Uhl and designated hitter Anthony Ross, have left many spots open for the taking.
Four-way competitions have broken out at the corner infield positions. At third base, Tyler Boisvert, Josh Collet, Mason Rek and Kyle Soisson are all competing to become the starter. At first, the same battle has broken out among Mike Conway, Jared Grillo, Matt Spofford and Chris Slavin.
Slavin, though, must sit out the first 10 games of the season due to CIAC regulations following his transfer from Holy Cross.
At second base, Matt Butterworth, Joe Poeta and Boisvert are competing to start. The winner of that competition will man the middle infield with the winner of the shortstop competition, which is between Sam Merriman and Anthony D’Agnone.
Behind the plate, Mike Gondola and Conway are battling for the time to catch a senior-laden pitching staff. D’Agnone, Everett Miner and Tanner Kingsley will likely lead the rotation, but Mike Kingsley hopes some of the younger pitchers can earn time on the mound.
“We’ve got three seniors who will have to step it up on the mound,” Kingsley said. “(Boisvert, Spofford, Rek and Matt Wysocki) can pitch this year. It only makes us a better team if one of those kids can step up and pitch, so we can leave Tanner in center field.”
In the outfield, Tanner Kingsley and Mike Kenney will return to their starting spots in center and right field. Five players are fighting for the starting left field spot, plus another outfield spot when Kingsley hits the mound. Dylan Cummings, Mike Tuohy, Kevin Gabianelli, Steve Kazalunas and Wysocki have all been in the competition.
Whichever players end up becoming the starters, Mike Kingsley expects his lineup to be stronger than it has been in recent years.
“I think we’re going to smack the ball around,” Kingsley said. “The team strength is our offense. We’ve got some guys who can swing it. We’re going to be able to score some runs this year, which we weren’t able to do last year. That translates to defense, too. When you’re playing with a lead, you play better defense.”
The Hawks will open the season April 9 at home against Sacred Heart. They will host Crosby on April 11 before visiting Wolcott, last year’s Naugatuck Valley League runner-up, on April 14.