WINSTED >> Last season the Northwestern Highlanders ran through the Berkshire League, 17-1, all the way to the Class M Championship game, finishing the season 23-2.
This season the Highlanders have to replace seven starters from the team that fell to St. Joseph, in nine innings, 2-1, in the title game.
That’s the good thing if you are a team in the Berkshire League; the bad thing is the two players coming back are two of the top players in the league, John Lippincott and Zach Risedorf.
Northwestern’s dominant duo are two of three players in the league who are committed to play baseball next season at the Division-I level.
Last season Risedorf, who is committed to play at UConn, dominated Berkshire League pitching, hitting .617, with 39 hits, 21 doubles and hit two home runs. Lippincott, who is also staying in state at Central Connecticut State University, hit .471 and drove in 27 RBI.
“It’s a lot for us even having one Division-I players, it’s a treat to have two,” Northwestern head coach Tom Germano said. “It’s a great thing to have.”
Towards the end of last season, teams started shying away from giving Risedorf a good pitch to hit, resulting in 19 walks in 25 games last season.
“As we got into the season, a lot of people realized how good he is and they tried to be careful with him,” Germano said.
Lippincott won’t be a surprise to any opposing teams either this year.
“I think the Lippincott’s are pretty known, this is our eighth year with a Lippincott, had his brother Bobby and now him, we can’t hide John either,” Germano said.
Though it’s not set in stone where Germano will bat his two sluggers one thing is certain.
“It’s going to be a dilemma for teams,” he said.
But if teams do decide to pitch around the duo, both Risedorf and Lippincott have confidence in their team’s lineup.
“Our lineup is good enough that if they want to pitch around us the other guys can pick us up,” Lippincott said.
“Other guys in the lineup are going to get on, they can’t walk us with the bases loaded,” Risedorf added.
Risedorf and Lippincott are both tasked to not only be the teams best hitters, but to also help bring along a young team, that has two other seniors and one junior.
“They’ve got to be consistent, they have to be good leaders, by setting good examples of how they got there (Class M Finals) last year,” Germano said.
If the Highlanders want to repeat as Berkshire League Champions, they are going to need the young players to step up.
“Bryce Ramsay and (Tony) Pucino, those guys have the experience, we are looking for them to have break out years to come,” said Germano of his two sophomores who played varsity last year.
Ramsay who started in right field for the Highlanders in the Class M finals will make the move to the mound this year.
“Bryce, right now is our number one,” said Germano, the Highlanders lost both starters Zach August and Jimi Phillips. “Behind him with have four or five guys who are even, they can all throw strikes and that’s a key.”
Both Thomaston and Lewis Mills join the Highlanders as favorites to compete for the league title.
“We have to bring it every day, we don’t have the talent we had last year, we don’t have the same pitching as last year,” Lippincott said.
“But we have the work ethic,” Risedorf added.