Collegiate league has local flair

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By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News

Brass City Bombers’ Matt Belcher (15) throws to second base as he warms up between innings during a Connecticut Collegiate Baseball League game against the Wallingford Silver Storm on July 12 at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. -JIM SHANNON/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

There is plenty of local flair in the Connecticut Collegiate Baseball League.

The 10-team league brings together college players from across the state for the summer. A look at the rosters finds more than a few familiar names.

Former Woodland Hawk Zach Bedryczuk and former Naugatuck Greyhound Derrick Jagello are not only teammates at Southern Connecticut State University, they also play together for the CCBL’s Brass City Bombers.

Jagello played 10 games as a freshman at SCSU. He batted .222 and pitched in three games, tallying four strikeouts.

“My first year in college was all over the place with COVID,” Jagello said. “I was quarantined twice but never had the virus. But being shut down twice really messed with my momentum. I’m hoping being around this environment with Brass City, playing against other college players, will get me on track.”

“We have a great group of guys, including another Naugy guy, John Greene, who went to Holy Cross and plays on the SCSU team,” he added. “All these guys are good and that will help me to become a better player.”

Jagello is also focused on making younger Naugatuck players better. He’s pulling double duty this summer and also playing for the Naugatuck American Legion team.

Jagello said Southern coach Tim Shea talked to Bombers general manager Scott Ouellette and Brass City coach Tim Belcher reached out to him.

“They were OK that I’m also playing for the Naugy Legion,” he said. “That means a lot to me since these guys will be seniors next year at Naugy, and if I can help them to become better players, that’s what I’m here for.”

Bedryczuk played for the Bombers in 2020 and helped them capture the CCBL championship. His sophomore season was cut short after five games when he was hit by a pitch and broke a finger. He was batting .385.

“It’s been a great experience,” Bedryczuk said. “These are good ball players and we saw Justin Guerrera, who was on the Bombers last year, get drafted by the Mets in the Major Leagues and a couple of other players that I played against got drafted. It just makes me want to develop my game even more.”

“Derrick is a great teammate,” Bedryczuk added. “Obviously in high school we were rivals but now we are teammates in college and the Bombers. He’s a good friend and he knows how to play the game the right way.”

Wallingford Silver Storm’s Jason Claiborn (29) runs down a ball in center field during a Connecticut Collegiate Baseball League game against the Brass City Bombers on July 12 at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. -JIM SHANNON/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

The CCBL also has a way of pitting former teammates against each other.

There was some Woodland on Woodland action when the Brass City Bombers and Wallingford Silver Storm played July 12 at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury.

Former Hawk catcher Matt Belcher, who plays for the Bombers, threw out former Hawk teammate Jason Claiborn, a member of the Storm, trying to steal second base in the first inning.

“Not gonna lie, you gunned me before,” Claiborn said to Belcher with a grin as he stepped in for his next plate appearance in the fourth inning. “It wasn’t even close.”

Claiborn had a very productive season at Eastern Connecticut State University. He batted. 360, scored 37 runs and had 18 RBI in 37 games.

“He’s good. I know Jay personally, and I’ve played with him, so it felt good,” Belcher said after Brass City’s 1-0, eight-inning win over Wallingford. “He knows not to do it again.”

Belcher earned All-State and All-NVL honors his senior season at Woodland.

Former Naugy Greyhound Joe Kwaak, who played for SUNY College in 2020, and is playing for the Southington Black Knights this summer.

The opportunity to play and improve is what attracts players to the league.

“I’m coming back from an injury but I think I’m seeing the ball pretty well,” Bedryczuk said. “I just wanted to get some live at-bats and get myself ready for my junior season at Southern.

“Definitely, playing in this kind of environment will make you a better player because you are playing against guys from all different divisions from D I to D III and from so many different colleges, if that doesn’t get you ready to pick up your game, nothing will.”

The Republican-American contributed to this article.