Woodland baseball searches for identity while trying to get to full health


Every team, even the expected contenders for the Naugatuck Valley League championship, spends the first part of the baseball season trying to figure itself out.
That’s the case for Woodland, too. Granted, the process is less painful when a team posts a 14-5 win on opening day, but the Hawks still have growing to do.
“I think we’re still trying to find our identity — who we are, where our strengths are, and where our opportunities for growth are,” coach Steve Bainer said. “It’s a learning curve. With playing and getting more games under our belts, we’ll figure it out.”
One thing Bainer learned quickly about his Hawks is that they can score in bunches. In the 14-5 win over Torrington on April 4, Tyler Lato homered, singled, had four RBI, and scored twice. Ethan Stepputtis had a double and a triple with two RBI, Zach Drewry doubles with two RBI, Ryan Montini had two hits with two runs and an RBI, and Hunter Simpson tallied two hits with an RBI.
“We can score, one through nine [in the lineup],” said Bainer, noting that Lato’s production came out of the six-hole and Stepputtis batted eighth.
Montini earned the win on the mound.
Part of the delay in Woodland’s self-discovery is health-related. Two starters, Michael Belcher and Croy Mastropietro, missed the Torrington game with injuries suffered in a scrimmage. Bainer hopes to have them back soon, but he noted that their early-season absence will give the Hawks an opportunity to develop depth that could come in handy later in the spring.
“We’ve gotta get healthy,” Bainer said. “We’ve had a couple of injuries early on, and we’re trying to weather the storm. This is going to test our depth. We need to get our key guys back, and that’ll help us a lot.”
Woodland is scheduled to play Watertown on Friday, Ansonia on Saturday and Wilby on Monday. Those games are followed by contests against Masuk on April 14, and Wolcott on April 16. The Hawks will face a string of tests later in April when they host Naugatuck on April 22, St. Joseph on April 23, and Holy Cross on April 29.