TORRINGTON >> Consistency is a prized virtue in sports.
Last year, a good Torrington High School baseball team had everything but that in a 10-12 season peppered with examples.
The Red Raiders couldn’t stop hitting in a 24-0 beat-down on Kennedy in the second game of the season, couldn’t get started in a 1-0 perfect-game loss to Sacred Heart late in the season, then lost 4-3 to the same Kennedy team they pounded early.
Nevertheless, the season ended on an upswing the Raiders still rode in their first outside practice day Friday afternoon.
In two state tournament games, No. 31 Torrington came from behind to beat Middletown in the play-in round, then lost just 1-0 to the eventual Class L runner-up, No. 2 seed Waterford.
To a man, this year’s Raiders think they can fill in the blanks left on last year’s schedule.
“We have a lot of returning players and a good rotation,” said senior second baseman John McCarthy. “And, for the first time, we worked as a team in the offseason.”
A group went to Berkshire Hitting in Bantam once a week for 12 weeks in the winter.
Third-year coach Pat Richardson welcomed that news as much for the attitude as for the skills.
“So far, we have a lot of energy, and that shows a commitment to our focus and mission,” he said. Kennedy remembers the big bats, only a few of which are gone. Using them at the right time is the trick.
“We have a lot of returners with varsity experience,” echoed senior Mitch Zagrodnik, whose bat will be in the lineup either from first base, third base or the DH slot. “We have a lot of big bats coming back. In those (five) one-run games we lost, we weren’t getting the right hits.
“In baseball, there’s either a lot of good things or a lot of bad things. Mentally, you have to come into every game thinking you’re going to have a great game.”
That kind of maturity might be the hallmark of this team.
“Last year, we had high expectations and didn’t live up to them,” said senior left-handed pitcher Shane Bierfeldt. “It’s up to us to figure out what we did wrong.”
Much of that thought began in the offseason.
“I’ve been lifting and throwing,” said Nate Manchester, one of last year’s great surprises as a freshman pitcher. “It definitely shows up in my velocity, but I don’t want to focus on velocity. That ruins a lot of pitchers.”
Maturity doesn’t always require age.
“We’re gonna be great,” said senior shortstop Stanley Rijo. “We’re just going to go out and play. We have more weapons, more people. We’re on a mission.”
“Our pitching staff is looking good,” said senior catcher Ben Thompson. “And we’re getting better at timely hitting. We haven’t been leaving too many stranded runners in our scrimmages.”
“We turn those one-run losses around by pitching and playing D,” said Coach Richardson.