Woodland alumni playing in Tri-State League

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During the dead of summer, you might open the daily sports section of the Republican-American and find the “Tri-State Roundup” — but you might not know exactly what the Tri-State League even is. Well, it’s an adult baseball league with at least one pretty appealing facet — several of its teams field local talent.

The majority of local players are Woodland alumni — or would have been had the school been built a few years earlier — and play on three nearby squads, including the Waterbury Wild, Prospect Hearts, and Naugatuck Dogs.

The Tri-State League dates back to 1934, when it was known as the Inter-State League. That league fielded teams from Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts. The league was revamped in 1968 and rebranded the Tri-State League. Although there is only one team left from New York and none from Massachusetts, the Tri-State League’s name stuck.

The league now consists of 18 teams filled with teenagers, college players, and adults. Over a half-dozen Beacon Falls and Prospect natives in the league form important parts of three of the newest teams to the league—the Wild, Hearts, and Dogs.

The Wild joined the league in 2005, but it wasn’t until this year that they were infused with Black and Gold. Former Woodland all-Naugatuck Valley League second baseman Cody Kingsley and former all-NVL honorable mention players Jason Skibek and Nick Boucher all play key roles for the Wild.

“It’s pretty impressive,” Boucher said of the quality of play in the league. “I thought it was going to be a little easier than it was. There’s good pitching and some really good hitters. Sometimes you’ll face a slow pitcher and sometimes you’ll face somebody who throws pretty hard. We have guys throwing high 80s and low 90s.”

Prospect entered the league this year when Spencer Griffin and Dan Gugliotti pieced together a team. The Hearts feature former Woodland second baseman Mike Augelli as well as brothers Mike and Chris Valente.

“I wanted to play with Prospect because I love baseball and wanted to play with my brother,” Chris Valente said. “We always thought it would be fun to play on the same team with each other, especially since he’s a pitcher and I’m a catcher.”

The Dogs have been in the league since 2006 and rely on a pair of former all-NVL Hawks, outfielder Matt Kane and shortstop Macky Cianciolo, along with other local guys, including Bobby Augelli. Kane and Cianciolo who, along with Skibek, Boucher, and Kingsley, made up half of Woodland’s starting lineup during the Hawks’ 2007 Class-M state tournament semifinal run.

“I do enjoy playing with friends on my team and also against them,” Chris Valente agreed. “It raises the competition of play for both sides. I want my friends to do well, but it’s still a game that I want to win.”

Both the Dogs and the Wild qualified for the Tri-State League playoffs, which are scheduled to start this weekend, and will play each other Saturday. The Dogs earned the sixth seed in the 12-team tournament with a 13-9 regular-season record. The Wild snagged the 11th seed by finishing 10-12 overall.

The playoffs might not be the last games in the league for some of these guys, either.

“Depending on where I go to school,” Boucher said, “I can see myself playing here for a while.”