Spring sports previews: baseball

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Naugatuck
2021 record: 11-12 overall, 10-10 regular season
Postseason: NVL tournament (1-1) – No. 7 seed, defeated No. 2 Woodland, 2-0; lost to No. 3 Holy Cross. State tournament (0-1) – No. 27 seed in Class L, lost in first round to No. 6 West Haven
Graduates: Alex Sosa, Justin Stone, Peter Mullin, Brayden Alves, Lucas McKenny, Ryan Galiette, Ryan Sutherland and Jonathan Chatfield.
Seniors: Brady Evon (P, All-NVL), Anthony Abate (SS, All-Iron), James Duda (2B), Michael Rusin (1B), Ryan Tyszka (P), Jacob Brenes (IF), Jibree Bartelle (OF).
Season opener: vs. Wolcott, April 2 at 3:45

Naugatuck is loaded with talent and depth, starting with juniors Michael Deitelbaum (C), Blake Stone (P), Matthew Stefan (OF) and Thomas Barry (OF). Sophomore pitcher Andrew Tyszka and infielder Dylan Sepulveda will also make an impact.
“Every year the NVL and the Class LL state tournament has a number of talented teams and we look forward to competing with them,” said first-year coach Joe Iannotti, who is taking over for Tom Deller, who retired after 25 years in the dugout.
“Our strength as a team is pitching and defense. We will be led by a strong group of seniors. We will continue to work hard in all aspects of the game and play with Naugy pride.”
– Ken Morse

Woodland
2021 results: 21-3 overall Postseason: Class M semifinalist; NVL quarterfinalist
Graduated: Matt Belcher, Jack Bronn, Matt Deptula, Gerald Gory, Cam Heeman, Matt Koliani, Jayden Tomasella
Seniors: Ben Brooks (OF), Matt Deegan (P/3B), Ryan Donnelly (P/OF), Zach Drewry (1B), Tyler Giambra (P/2B/OF), Tyler Lato (OF), Hunter Simpson (C), Croy Mastropietro (SS), Ryan Montini (P/OF), D.J. Mulligan (OF), Nick Sasso (1B)
Other key players: Michael Belcher (P/IF), Anthony Bukevicius (P/IF)
First week of games: April 2 vs. Ansonia; April 4 at Torrington; April 6 at Oxford; April 8 vs. Watertown

Fresh off the best season in school history, the Hawks return a veteran lineup that has lofty goals. Woodland set a program record for wins last year and reached the Class M semis for the third time, falling to Northwestern. Coach Steve Bainer said his team isn’t resting on its laurels.
“So far, the 2022 Hawks have come to practice every day looking to improve and get better,” he said. “The focus and commitment to improvement is a direct result of the exceptional senior leadership, led by Drewry, Giambra, Mastropietro, and Montini.”
Woodland’s strength could be its pitching staff, led by Michael Belcher, an All-State pick as a freshman. Simpson will take over behind the plate from Matt Belcher, also an All-State selection. Bainer foresees a competitive year in the Naugatuck Valley League, but the Hawks could be in the conversation for their first league title since 2007.
“Any team can win on any day in this league, and I fully expect the league to be strong,” Bainer said. “We hope that our hard work in practice will translate to being competitive against some of the top teams in the league.”
– Kyle Brennan