Baseball moves up to the LL Division

Sofia Pflaumer, Staff Writer

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Every season the baseball team begins with the end goal in mind. The ultimate goal is to win their conference and make it to the state championship. However, this year, that goal may be harder to reach than usual. Last season, boys baseball ended with a record of 11-11 and lost in the second round of the state tournament. Yet, this was in CIAC class L. This 2019 spring baseball season, boys baseball will be competing in the most competitive division in the state, Class LL.

The team lost four seniors last season, including their starting catcher, leaving them without someone behind home plate. However, senior Ben Mrockza has left his starting outfield position to step up as the catcher. Mrockza will be a key player as the catcher and an important hitter in the batting lineup. Other key players include the team’s three senior captains, Ryan Conklin, Ryan Hurlburt, and Kobe Watanabe. It is crucial for the baseball captains to be leaders as they enter their most challenging season yet. Captain Ryan Hurlburt wants to set a good example for everyone. “My role as a captain is to be a leader and continue to set a great example for every single guy in the program from the varsity level, all the way to the freshman.”

Coach Joshua Cofield has high expectations for the team this season. “In addition to performance on the field, I want them all to reach the honor roll.” All players have an individual responsibility to meet their potential on the field and in the classroom. Cofield emphasizes the importance of student-athletes keeping their grades up.

Class LL is full of strong, quick, and coordinated players, many of whom will commit to college baseball teams. The team tries to remain competitive with these teams by staying active in the offseason. The Blue Dragons spend hours at Vale, a sports and training facility in Middletown, getting ready for the upcoming season. The team uses this time to become stronger and work on their hitting. Many players also play on an AAU team together, outside of school. Playing together all year round allows players to stay in shape and build a closer bond. Although most of the team will be returning players, team chemistry is pivotal in their 2019 season and all future seasons to come. Junior Greyson Pizzonia feels that your team is what pushes you and motivates you even when you’re having an off day. He also says that friendly rivalry is a key component in the team’s success. “We compete with each other in practice to make each other better.” The competitiveness within the team pushes each player to reach their full potential and strive to be the best baseball player on the field every game. With this attitude, boys baseball knows that they will be a strong competitor in LL.

Class LL is nothing the Blue Dragons have seen before. Many teams in LL do have an advantage over the Blue Dragons because many of the teams are private schools that draw student-athletes from all over Connecticut. Many LL teams also have multiple pitchers that throw significantly harder than the class L pitchers.

Although the tournament may be difficult, their regular season remains the same. Their conference teams, which they play twice, include Berlin, Platt, Maloney, and Bloomfield. The team knows they can compete with these teams and knows they are capable of winning the conference. However, some are skeptical they will not be prepared for the tournament. The team does not play any LL teams in the regular season, which may turn out to hurt them if they are not prepared for the competition in the state tournament. However, senior pitcher Noah Valeriano is  “looking forward to seeing success throughout the season.” It is crucial for the team to play well in the regular season in order to have a good seed in the state tournament.

Multiple seniors will be continuing their baseball career in college. Just three years ago the varsity baseball team was 0-20. Since then, the team has grown and improved, with a better record each year. Hurlburt has positive expectations for his last season with his teammates.“I look forward to playing with the same guys I’ve played with for years. I don’t want to leave anything out there when it is all said and done.” The seniors hope that for their last season as Blue Dragons they will keep the improvement going and finish with a state championship.

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