After a 9-11 season that ended with a loss to New Canaan in the first round of the Class L tournament last spring, East Haven wanted to get better. For UConn-bound senior Nick Lamberti, the solution was simple.
“I said ‘if you guys want to win, go in your pockets and get the money because we’re going to work every Thursday night,’” he said.
The money was 250 dollars and the work was at The Grind Baseball Training Facility in Orange, where 15 Yellow Jackets paid each week to work on their hitting. Lamberti said he and his teammates went every week from January until the beginning of the preseason.
“They knew what we had to do to win,” Lamberti said. “We all work hard and we all push each other.”
He said the team’s chemistry was aided by trips to The Grind. With each player eager to improve, taking attendance wasn’t necessary.
“Everybody, all 15 kids, had their money on the deadline,” he said. “There was no problem.”
And there hasn’t been a problem on the field for the Yellow Jackets, who are 8-6 overall, 6-1 in the Southern Connecticut Conference Oronoque Division and can clinch the division title with a victory over North Haven on Wednesday.
The Yellow Jackets average 8.6 runs per game and have scored double digits four times, going 3-1 in those games. Coach Butch Johnson said the team’s offense has been crucial in picking up some key victories, like an 11-10 victory over Amity on April 10 and a 9-8 division victory over Branford on April 24 in a game that was resumed after a protest.
“There hasn’t been too many games where we haven’t hit,” he said.
East Haven’s pitching hasn’t been as consistent, surrendering 7.2 runs per game, and Johnson said it needs to continue to improve if the Yellow Jackets are going to win SCC and state tournament games.
“It is a concern,” the coach said. “Our pitching has been taking baby steps to get better.”
This week poses the best challenges for the Yellow Jackets. After a chance to clinch the division against North Haven, East Haven takes on Notre Dame-West Haven, a team it lost to 9-8 on April 19.
“There going to be up for Notre Dame,” Johnson said.
However, Johnson doesn’t want his team to get ahead of itself.
“I just hope there’s no letdown against North Haven,” he said. “That’s for the division.”
Lamberti said the Yellow Jackets are focused. After putting their money where their mouths were in the offseason, they’re hoping to put some hardware in their school this spring.
“We’re going to win (the division) Wednesday,” he said.