BEACON FALLS — The Woodland baseball team last season posted the program’s first winning record since 2009. The Hawks graduated eight seniors from last year’s 11-9 squad and enter this season minus the entire starting outfield, four pitchers and the middle-of-the-infield defense.
Despite the departures, head coach Mike Kingsley is confident in the ability of his young players to rise to the occasion.
“We lost a lot of talent from last year,” Kingsley acknowledged. “Three guys were All-Division, our starting pitcher Matt Spofford, shortstop Sam Merriman and outfielder Mike Kenney.
“The eight seniors were all four-year players and you just don’t replace those kind of players that easily. But we have some strong senior leadership to guide this relatively young team and we have a whole lot of younger players who are ready to step up.”
The young Hawks will rely on the experience and leadership of seniors Mike Tuohy, Mason Rek, Jared Grillo, Matt Butterworth and Tyler Boisvert.
Boisvert, who has already committed to Post University, will be Woodland’s ace on the hill. Rek will also take his turn on the mound and Tuohy is the starting catcher. Butterworth and Grillo offer productive bats in the lineup.
Juniors Jarrett Allen, Isaiah Cotto and Matt Hicks will be looked on to bridge the gap between the younger players and the experienced leadership. Allen will be in the outfield, Cotto is the team’s all-around player and Hicks had a breakout season last year with the JV team.
Woodland got off to a fast 7-3 start last year, and that is what the Hawks are hoping for this season. The Hawks leveled out in the second half of last season, scoring 13 runs total in 6 second half losses.
“It was probably more that we were facing a lot of teams’ number one pitcher after starting out 7-3,” Kingsley said.
Kingsley is high the younger players and is expecting the influx of youth to have Woodland back in the hunt this season. Sophomores Zak Graveline at third base and Brett Petruny in right field should be in the everyday lineup, and Matt Szturma has shown the ability to be an asset to the pitching staff.
Three freshmen will also have an impact on this year’s squad. Zach Bedryzcuk is making a strong bid to be the everyday shortstop and Toby Linnel is working hard behind the plate to get some innings. Justin Butterworth in centerfield can also provide another productive bat in the lineup.
“We are going to be a young team with possibly three sophomores and three freshman seeing quite a bit of innings,” Kingsley said. “There may be some growing pains but in the last three scrimmages we haven’t made an error, and that is very encouraging.”
Woodland is scheduled to get the season under way Saturday at Torrington. The Hawks will host Naugatuck on Monday before finishing out next week Wednesday at Oxford and Friday versus Kennedy.