Top 10 Storylines
Plot line: Amity has won the last three Class LL state championships and hasn’t skipped a beat this season. The Spartans are 22-1 entering the state tournament and coming off their second straight Southern Connecticut Conference title where they beat Notre Dame-West Haven 17-0.
Amity has been the No. 1 team in the GameTimeCT/New Haven Register Top 10 baseball poll since the preseason version came out and will look to finish the 2016 season there as well.
Worse news for the rest of the state, senior first baseman and UConn commit Chris Winkel has returned from a season-long absence due to injury and coach Sal Coppola says he’s ready to go.
You should know: No Connecticut baseball team has ever won four straight state titles. The most dominant streak was Shelton winning four in five years from 1972 to 1976.
Plot line: Last season the Eagles were primed and loaded to make a deep Class M state tournament run, and they did, until running into eventual champion Sheehan in the semifinals.
This year East Catholic doesn’t have the fire-power that it did a year ago, but the results are nearly the same. 17-3 and the two-time Gatorade Connecticut Player of the Year Jimmy Titus, the Eagles will look to finally get over the hump and into a final.
You should know: East Catholic closed the regular season with consecutive shutouts of South Windsor and Southington. Could they be peaking at the right time?
Plot line: The South-West Conference is tucked away north of the big Fairfield County schools and far enough from Hartford and New Haven that it is sometimes forgotten.
But this 2016 season has shown that the schools of the SWC can play baseball.
New Milford is riding the (green) wave of its best seasons in nearly a decade, rival New Fairfield just won the conference tournament as the No. 8 seed. Masuk has won of the best pitchers in the state in Cam Kovachik and Newtown rebounded from a 2-3 start to finish with the best conference record.
You should know: Pomperaug in 2010 is the last SWC member school to win a state title. New Milford is No. 4 in Class LL, the highest seed of any conference member this year.
Plot line: The Green Dragons started hot and just kept rolling. With a win over Branford in the SCC tournament, Hamden now has its most wins in program history (19) and is looking for its first state championship since 1977.
With SCC Player of the Year Ron Grant and Coach of the Year Chris Borelli, the Green Dragons have been one of the most compelling stories in the state this year and they don’t want it to end anytime soon.
You should know: A possible second round match-up with Fairfield Prep is looming for Hamden. The Jesuits are one of three teams to beat the Green Dragons this season.
Ellington’s Arms Race
Plot line: Back in the first half of the season Ellington pitchers Cam Rosa and Jay Skorulski threw no-hitters in consecutive games putting the Knights on the map. About a month later Ellington is the NCCC champions.
Now the Knights find themselves as the No. 9 seed in Class M and like the saying goes, ‘pitching wins championships.’
The only problem is, if they win their first two games and top-seeded Waterford does the same, a match-up of some top flight arms vs. a high-powered offense could be in the cards.
You should know: After losing five of its last 10 in the regular season, Ellington won the NCCC championship.
Plot line: After going 10-10 in the regular season and sneaking into the Shoreline tournament as the No. 8 seed, Lou Papariella guided the Panthers to the Shoreline Conference championship by knocking off top-seeded Haddam-Killingworth, North Branford and Valley Regional.
Cromwell has been there before, but was the conference tournament a fluke or are the Panthers primed to make a run.
You should know: Cromwell lost its last six regular season games and seven of eight before winning the Shoreline title. What changed? The Class M state tournament will tell.
Plot line: Long regarded as a football, lacrosse, volleyball and hockey powerhouse, Darien has also owned the FCIAC this season in baseball.
The Blue Wave suffered heavy graduation last season, yet, with a cadre of new stars, were the league’s most consistent team.
With a 3-2 victory over Trumbull last week, Blue Wave won their first conference championship since 1981 and scored plenty of runs along the way.
How much fun would an Amity/Darien Class LL final at Palmer Field be?
You should know: Darien has never won a baseball state championship.
Fresh legs or cold feet?
Plot line: The CCC is the largest conference in the state and yet still does not host a conference baseball tournament. Many of its team will have had a week or more off before playing its first round games this week. What kind of effect does that have?
The CCC has had a state champion each of the last two years — Northwest Catholic in 2015 and Rocky Hill in 2014. The SCC, which crowns a tournament champion, has three state title won by member schools last year.
You should know: The last time the CCC did not have a member school in a state final game was 2003. This is a product of the size of the conference — 33 schools — but it could help that the teams, particularly the pitchers, are getting rest while most others are playing highly competitive games.
SCC! SCC! SCC!
Plot line: The SCC has arguably been one of the best baseball conferences in the state the last few years.
That was on full display last year as three of the state champions were won by member schools. This season three-time Class LL champion Amity is the favorite to win another. But Hamden is No. 2. They could meet in the final only.
Notre Dame-West Haven is No. 11 in Class LL, and is anxious to put its rough SCC championship performance behind. Even Fairfield Prep, who had a slow start is coming on strong. Defending champion Sheehan is seeded 15 in Class M, but is notorious for making great postseason runs.
It may not get three again, but don’t be surprised if multiple SCC teams raise Connecticut shaped trophies at Palmer Field.
You should know: The SCC has had multiple state champions the last two years. 2005 was the last time a member school didn’t win a state title and 1999 was the last year no SCC teams made a state final game.
Plot line: There are many small schools tucked into the Naugatuck Valley and often passed over, but the race at the top of the league was furious this year.
Oxford — the eventual NVL champion — Holy Cross, St. Paul Catholic, Watertown, Wolcott and Sacred Heart all finished with at least 13 wins and all have a shot at a state title.
You should know: The last NVL team to win a state title was Oxford in 2013, when this year’s seniors were freshmen. Senior and team ace Cole Chudoba (8-0, 1.98 ERA) is the younger brother of that season’s championship-winning pitcher Kyle Chudoba.
Top 5 Players to Watch
Jimmy Titus, East Catholic
The two-time Gatorade Connecticut Player of the Year has improved his numbers from a year ago and has East Catholic as the No. 3 seed in the Class M tournament. The senior shortstop has hit .614 with six home runs, 12 doubles, 29 RBIs and 10 stolen bases this season and only struck out three times. He is a must-see at any field he is playing at.
Alex Petchark, Waterford
Heading into the ECC tournament, the junior corner infielder had hit three home runs, 10 doubles, driven in 30 and had a .441 batting average for one of the top offenses in the state. Waterford scored in double digits 13 times so far this season and Petchark is a big reason why.
Ron Grant, Hamden
The senior pitcher is a big reason why Hamden is in the situation it’s in with the No. 2 seed in the Class LL tournament. Grant, in 51 innings, has a 0.13 ERA with 81 strikeouts, 18 walks and allowed just 19 hits for a 0.725 WHIP and a 6-1 record, including a no-hitter. Grant is the top of a very strong Green Dragons pitching staff that should carry Hamden throughout the tournament.
Dylan Ketch, Morgan
There’s no mistaking was position he plays, just say his last name. Ketch, the Huskies lead-off hitter, led the team to the Class S finals last year and has them back near the top of the Class once again. He manages a strong pitching staff that could easily bring Morgan back to Middletown in early June.
Eli Oliphant, Amity
The No. 1 pitcher on the No. 1 team in the state, Oliphant has the skills on both sides of the ball to lead the Spartans to a four-peat. After beating Hand in the first round of the SCC tournament, Oliphant is now 6-0 and will likely get the start vs. Stamford on Tuesday in the first round of the Class LL tournament.
- Overview: Amity, the three-time defending champion, is the clear cut favorite. The Spartans have been No. 1 in the GameTimeCT/New Haven Register Top 10 Poll all season. The next three seeds, No. 2 Hamden, No. 3 Darien and No. 4 New Milford are all having program great years and dethroning Amity would be the ultimate prize.
- Upsets on the horizon: No. 19 Norwalk over No. 14 Trumbull, No. 18 Fairfield Prep over No. 15 Newington, No. 25 Shelton over No. 8 Southington.
- Final four: Amity, New Milford, No. 10 Fairfield Warde, Darien.
- Champion: Amity over Darien.
- Overview: Bristol Eastern has quietly made its way to the top of the Class L bracket that could be as wide open as ever. Defending champion North Haven just snuck in as the No. 31 seed and East Lyme, the team the Indians beat last year is No. 4 after winning 16 straight regular season games after starting 0-4.
- Upsets on the horizon: No. 20 Platt over No. 13 Ellis Tech, No. 21 Wethersfield over No. 12 Pomperaug, No. 27 Torrington over No. 6 Platt Tech, No. 19 New Fairfield over No. 14 Cheney Tech.
- Final four: Bristol Eastern, No. 5 Watertown, No. 11 Notre Dame-West Haven, No. 7 Masuk.
Champion: Notre Dame-West Haven over Bristol Eastern.
- Overview: Waterford and it high-powered offense has snagged the top seed, but as in recent years, Class M might be the tournament to watch. East Catholic is back as the No. 2 seed after losing in the semifinals last season and reigning Class S champion Northwest Catholic has moved up to Class M. Haddam-Killingworth has played in two of the last four title games is in as the fourth seed and would like something to show for its solid season after falling in the first round of the Shoreline tournament.
- Upsets on the horizon: No. 20 St. Joseph over No. 13 Suffield and No. 18 North Branford over No. 15 Sheehan.
- Final four: Waterford, No. 5 Plainville, East Catholic, No. 6 Valley Regional.
- Champion: Waterford over East Catholic.
- Overview: Oxford has earned the top seed and rightfully so. The top five or so teams in the NVL all beat up on each other this year and they could meet in the Class S tournament again. Sacred Heart is No. 9 and could see the Wolverines in the quarterfinals and No. 4 St. Paul could be there in the semifinals. No. 2 Holy Cross could make it an all NVL final if chalk holds. The interesting story is Cromwell who went 10-10, lost its last six before winning the Shoreline tournament. Keep an eye on the Panthers.
- Upsets on the horizon: No. 18 Housatonic over No. 15 Gilbert, No. 23 Cromwell over No. 10 Thomaston.
- Final four: Oxford, No. 5 Coventry, No. 3 Morgan, Holy Cross.
- Champion: Morgan over Oxford.