Hawks return experienced, confident lineup

Woodland seniors, from left, Isaiah Cotto, Brendan Rowley, Jarrett Allen and Matt Hicks will lead the Hawks this season. –KEN MORSE

BEACON FALLS — The Woodland baseball team came into last season having to fill some huge holes after losing eight seniors, including four pitchers, to graduation.

That created a lot of opportunities for younger players to step into larger roles, but the Hawks struggled to a 3-9 start. Woodland won six of the final eight games to turn the season around and qualify for the postseason.

The tenacity and determination the Hawks unleashed last season is alive and well. Led by seniors Isaiah Cotto, Brendan Rowley, Matt Hicks and Jarrett Allen, the Hawks have the tools to surpass what they accomplished last season.

“Last year, the younger guys were a little wide-eyed,” Woodland head coach Mike Kingsley said. “This year, they are more confident and ready to compete because now they know what it’s all about.”

“We are still going to be relatively a young team, having five sophomores on the field, but now they know what they are getting into,” Kingsley added. “We have strong leadership with Cotto and Rowley in the outfield, Hicks on the mound and Allen is a three-four hitter in the lineup.”

Junior Matt Szturma, who batted .293 last season with 10 RBI, will be the Hawks’ number one pitcher on the hill. Sophomore Colby Linnell will start behind the plate as the Hawks’ battery is in place.

“We will rely on Szturma as our number one,” Kingsley said. “Justin Butterworth is a sophomore and is throwing the ball well. Zack Bedryczuk was our closer last year, but we will be leaning on him for a few starts. Sophomores Dante DiRubba and Joe Shea have also been throwing the ball well.”

Linnell brings back a .317 average with 10 runs scored, and Butterworth, a starting outfielder, hit at a .293 clip with eight runs scored. Bedryczuk anchored the infield at shortstop and belted a .282 average with 18 RBI. Juniors Zak Graveline and Kyle Macek will also be in the middle infield mix.

“Linnell is tough as nails,” Kingsley said. “He came back last year after a serious injury and went 8-for-8 at the plate. We may be a young team, but the experience and confidence that was gained will help us to compete this season.”

While snow was still on the baseball field at Woodland early this week, the Hawks got some live action in over the weekend in a scrimmage at Penders Field, which is artificial turf, in Stratford.

“By the time the season starts we will be game-ready and this team will be ready to go,” Kingsley said.

Woodland is scheduled to start the season April 3 at Ansonia. Woodland is set to host Wilby on April 6 and visit Sacred Heart on April 7.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated from the version published in the March 31 print edition to reflect a change in the date of the season-opening game against Ansonia.