Updates every minute – View full tournament
The Southern Connecticut Conference tournament begins today. All eight teams that qualified have different strengths, weaknesses and concerns. This is how each team is handling them as they head into the postseason.
The View From the Top
Fairfield Prep has been one of the state’s best teams all season, which can do wonders for morale. However, playing in the SCC can quickly bring any team back down to earth.
The Jesuits were shut down by Notre Dame-West Haven’s Johnny Amendola and Law’s Kevin Johnson. Against the division winners in the SCC, Prep is 2-2.
“Those were good reminders for us that you can’t take things for granted,” said Prep coach Rudy Mauritz.
Despite dropping those two games to conference contenders, Mauritz isn’t too worried.
“We stack up just fine,” he said.
The Jesuits have been the No. 1 team in the state twice and have not lost back-to-back games all season. However, just one loss will send Prep packing this week. And, after the two late-season losses to conference foes, the Jesuits aren’t taking anything for granted.
Everybody Goes Knight-Knight
The Green Knights’ pitching has been strong all season thanks to Amendola. The starter leads a pitching staff that is surrendering just three runs per game — the Green Knights have given up 60 runs in their 20 games. No team has reached double digits against them and from April 21 to May 7, ND didn’t allow more than three runs in any game.
The Green Knights open up with Career, a team that averaged just over six runs per game.
Law won the conference title in 2009 but hasn’t qualified for the tournament in two seasons. The Eagles are back and a favorite to capture the crown again.
“The guys are feeling pretty good,” said Law coach Greg Simler.
And with good reason. Law finished 17-3, its best record through 20 games since 2009 when it went 16-4.
Law has picked up some solid wins over Class M contender St. Joseph, Class L contender Cheney Tech and the SCC’s No. 1 seed, Fairfield Prep, in Johnson’s 5-0 shutout.
“We knew we had that in us,” Simler said.
The Eagles are hoping they have some more left. If so, they could turn back the clock and hoist the SCC trophy at Yale Field.
Keep it Simple
Xavier coach Rich Magner has a pretty simple philosophy when it comes to the tournament.
“We’re going to try to win Tuesday, and if we get to that, we’re going to try to win Thursday, and if we get to that, we’re going to try to win Saturday,” he said with a laugh.
Lately the Falcons have made Magner’s blueprint seem like a possibility. Xavier has picked up victories over Amity, Notre Dame and East Haven during its seven-game winning streak.
“As our pitching’s been a little more solidified, we’ve just played better.”
Better than a pedestrian 3-2 start to the season and a early-season win over East Haven where the Falcons gave up eight runs in the seventh.
Cheshire has played three of the other seven teams in the tournament. Against those teams — Amity, Career and Notre Dame — the Rams are 2-5.
“They realize it’s a seven-inning game, it’s a complete game,” Rams coach Bill Mrowka said. “You’ve got to keep battling.”
The Rams have battled all season, won the Housatonic Division for the first time in 15 years and are 7-2 in games decided by two runs or less. With pitching ruling the day in most postseason games, Mrowka said his Rams are ready.
“Never give up, never give away at-bats,” he said. “That’s how we go about it. That’s what we preach to them.”
Career is the first New Haven team to qualify for the SCC tournament in its 20-year history. The Panthers have had one of their best seasons in recent memory by starting three freshmen and two sophomores. Even though Career is proud of what it accomplished, the Panthers want more than just a tournament berth.
“Our kids are focused,” said coach Brad Chernovetz.
The Panthers went 12-8 and picked up wins over Cheshire and East Haven. The Cheshire win, which came in the second game of the year, was the big one.
“To get the Cheshire win, the kids saw that we can play a little bit,” Chernovetz said.
The Panthers are hoping the rest of the SCC notices that this week.
(Still) the Defending Champs
Rain and time may have fogged some people’s memories, but Amity is still the defending SCC champ. The tournament was canceled last year due to rain after the team won in 2012. Even some of the Spartans needed a reminder.
“We told them that they are defending SCC champs,” said Amity coach Sal Coppola. “They’re excited.”
The Spartans bounced back like champs after starting the season 0-3. Amity ran off eight wins in its next 10 games. The Spartans have picked up victories over Notre Dame, Xavier, Cheshire and East Haven.
“Our guys feel like we have a chance,” Coppola said. “We can play with whoever’s in it.”
That slow start, kind of like the 2012 title, is a distant memory.
Play the Right Way
East Haven has a tough draw in top-seeded Fairfield Prep. Coach Butch Johnson said the final tally is important, but how the Yellow Jackets get to that final tally matters more.
“Whether we win or lose in the SCCs, we just have to play well,” he said.
East Haven has done that for the better part of the season. The Yellow Jackets won the Oronoque Division and were competitive in games against the conference’s best, losing two to Notre Dame by a combined three runs and two to Xavier by a combined four runs.
“They’re playing well right now,” Johnson said. “They’re looking forward to winning a few games. We’ll see what happens.”
Regardless of what happens, as long as it happens the right way, Johnson and Co. will be happy.
Fairfield Prep (15-3) is the No. 1 seed and faces No. 8 East Haven (10-8) at home.
Notre Dame-West Haven (15-3) is the No. 2 seed and plays host to No. 7 Amity, the defending league champions.
No. 3 Law (15-3) plays host to No. 6 Career (11-7). No. 5 Cheshire (12-6) travels to Palmer Field to face No. 4 Xavier (13-5).
All of the quarterfinal games will begin at 3:45 at the respective home sites.
The semifinals will be held Thursday, May 29 at 4 and 7 p.m at Yale Field.
The championship will be Saturday, May 31 at noon at Yale Field.