Veteran pitching staff to lead Hawks

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Woodland sophomore Tanner Kingsley pitches Monday during a scrimmage against Bullard-Havens Technical High School in Beacon Falls. The Hawks boast an experienced pitching staff heading into the 2012 season. –LUKE MARSHALL

BEACON FALLS — At any one time this spring, there may be as few as one senior on the field for the Woodland baseball team. That’s not especially a bad thing, considering the talent the Hawks have in the other three classes.

Second-year head coach Mike Kingsley is preparing for this season with an outfield that doesn’t have a senior starter, an infield with likely only one senior starter, and a catching staff without any varsity game experience.

But there is one spot where a veteran presence helps — on the mound.

“I feel really good about the pitching staff,” Kingsley said. “Brian Langdon has seen significant innings by this point in his career, and Billy Alfiere was a horse for us last year. With three seniors, including Connor Chura, that gives us the confidence and stability we need as a young team.”

Alfiere led the Hawks with three wins last season while Langdon sported a team-best 2.58 ERA. They figure to be the top two starters for Woodland, while sophomore Tanner Kingsley sees plenty of action and others, like Chura, will be key relief options.

Mike Kingsley is especially excited about the outfield, which he thinks could end up being a major strength of the team. Junior center fielder Anthony Scirpo, who led the team with a .419 average and 31 hits last season, could be one of the top outfielders in the league. He’ll be flanked by Tanner Kingsley in left and freshman Mike Kenney in right.

“It should help us tremendously,” Mike Kingsley said of the outfield. “There are not a lot of fly balls that will hit the ground out there. They cover about as much ground as any outfield I’ve ever seen at the high school level. Mike Kenney is a freshman who should see a lot of time out there, but he’s being pushed by some other guys.”

In the infield, only junior Steve Baeder returns at his third-base spot. Junior shortstop Dave Uhl will help fill the left side after sitting out most of last season with an injury.

“We had experimented in the spring with moving Steve to shortstop, but his comfort zone is at third so he’ll stay there,” Kingsley said. “Dave Uhl is an outstanding shortstop who was injured most of last season so people didn’t get to see what he could do.”

The right side is a little more uncertain. When not pitching, Langdon figures to start at second base while junior Nick Brown, who hit .364 with 13 RBI last season, should see significant time at first. But, that all depends on the day’s pitcher.

“We’ve still got three or four guys competing at second base, but Brian Langdon looks to be starter,” Kingsley said. “First base is going to be a bit of a rotation because it will depend on who we have on the mound. Nick Brown looks to be the starter, but there will be times he’ll have to move around to different positions.”

Junior Anthony Ross is slated to be the opening-day catcher, but Brown, junior Kevin Brennan, and sophomore Mike Gondola could also see time behind the plate this season. They’ll all be charged with replacing all-state catcher Jack DeBiase.

“We’re trying to replace the catching position that’s been locked down by Jack DeBiase for three years,” Kingsley said. “Replacing Jack is not an easy thing to do, so they’ll all see time there.”

Kingsley is also excited about the team’s lineup, which he thinks should be improved from a strikeout-prone group last season. Joe Fancher is among those who could have an impact as a designated hitter.

“I think the key is that we have more guys who can put the ball in play on a consistent basis,” Kingsley said. “We have guys who are contact hitters with good speed. Speed is our biggest asset, offensively and defensively. Teams are going to have to play outstanding defense to get us out this year.”

Woodland, which finished 9-13 last season, opened the season Wednesday at St. Paul before facing Watertown Thursday. The Hawks will be at Seymour on Monday.