HAMDEN – With new faces up and down the roster the Hamden baseball team has defied all preseason expectations and sit with a 12-5 record heading into the final week of the regular season.
“I guess the expectation was that we didn’t know what to expect,” Hamden coach Chris Borrelli said. “We knew that we were going to have a lot of first year varsity players on the field. We knew that we were going to have to rely on guys that we haven’t had to rely on before.”
The program lost 20 players over the past two seasons, including losing seven starters from the past season and they were coming off a 13-10 season.
With the exceptions of two topflight seniors — Mike Ferrett and Tyler Osbourne — Borrelli turned to a bunch of seniors, juniors, sophomores and even freshman with little to no experience.
“We knew we had Mike (Ferrett) and Tyler (Osbourne) coming back, which is a huge,” Borrelli said. “I think they’re both two of the best players in the league. But other than that we had a lot of positions open and we were looking at guys to step up and fill them.”
Ferrett and Osbourne have both lived up to their expectations at the plate, with Ferrett batting .455 this season with 20 hits and 10 RBI and Osbourne has been red hot at the plate raising his batting average to .375.
Both have been aces on the mound winning four games each so far this season.
“If you pitch and play defense you’re always going to have an opportunity to win games,” Borelli said. “That is something that we have preached around here for a long time.”
The new faces have stepped up most impressively being freshman Jake Pisano and Max Gross.
“You see it in their eyes,” Borelli said about his freshman duo. “When you do this long enough and see enough kids that come through, you know the guys that are ready. When I had conversations with them, there is no fear in either one of them. They weren’t intimidated by the moment. They were ready to go from day one and I just knew they would give us positive contributions.”
Gross, an outfielder and reliever, and Pisano, a shortstop, never feared making the jump to varsity baseball.
“He is always positive,” Ferrett said about Gross. “He is always ready to play.”
As for Pisano, “He works great at bats, he wants it so bad,” Ferrett said. “He will spend two to three hours in the cage hitting after practice. He’s a gamer.”
Ferrett has also been very impressed with how both freshman listen and take everything in.
“They both just soak in so much information,” he said.
If anyone on the Hamden roster knows how to be a freshman starter its Ferrett who is the first four-year starter ever for Borrelli.
“I told them to believe that they are capable and they deserve to be on the field with everyone and they are as good as everyone,” Ferrett said. “I think it caught on with the two freshman and the rest of the team.”
Over his four years, Ferrett has had multiple roles and has played multiple positions. He’s gone from a freshman third baseman who sat and learned, to a junior shortstop and now to senior leader and ace pitcher.
“The thing that I always liked about Mike is that he does his job,” Borelli said. “That is something that is underrated nowadays.”
With all of Ferret’s experience, he has been able to help the freshman adapt to varsity baseball along with Osbourne, who saw some time as a freshman himself. They both stay in contact with the freshman during the season, either at school or through text messages.
“I’m happy the younger kids are stepping up,” Osbourne said. “Everyone has their ups and downs. We try to bring the team up. We try to keep them up. Me and Ferrett have that role with our team to pick them up and encourage them to do better.”
It has worked. Pisano is batting .368 with a team leading 21 hits and nine stolen bases this season. Gross has hit .286 with nine stolen bases. He has also come out of the bullpen for the Green Dragons.
“(Mike and Tyler) are very motivating,” Gross said. “Mike is my throwing partner so I love that kid to death. Tyler is just very upbeat, just a happy kid overall. Lifts the team up.”
The duo has taken an big-brotherly role to the freshman.
“They’re like big brothers,” Pisano said. “They make mistakes and you learn from their mistakes, they make you get better. By having those big horses in front of you, you really need to strive to do better. They really keep the whole team up.”
Seniors Matt Wendland and Eddy Pena, juniors Henry Bielen and Ronnie Desroches are also players who have stepped up for Hamden. Bielen and Pena are both hitting over .300 and Desroches is tied with Osbourne for team lead in home runs with two.
“Offensively, it has been a bunch of different guys at different times,” Borelli said. “We have had guys get hot early. Some guys get hot in the middle, some guys get hot late and we do what we have to do to scrap together runs. It works.”
At any point in any game any player in the Green Dragons lineup can step up and deliver.
In a 5-4 victory over West Haven in late April, the Green Dragons scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth. The tying and go-ahead runs came from a two-run base hit from Wendland, who was batting ninth.
“It’s a dream come true,” Pisano said of having everyone step up. “No matter who is up at any spot, we have confidence in our guys. There is no pressure on anybody to go 3-for-3 or 4-for-4, you can 0-for and you know the guys behind you will have a day. Someone always carries our team, different people every time.”
Season turn around
The season didn’t start off well for the Green Dragons. They lost, 13-2, to FCIAC opponent St. Joseph.
“It was kind of a wakeup call,” Gross said. “After that we started to put the pieces together. The pitching has been phenomenal so far. The bats are living a little bit and we’re putting the ball in play.”
Hamden’s season turned around in the fifth game, against non-conference foe Platt of Meriden. The bats were silent as Hamden, then 2-2, was no-hit for the first four innings of the game.
Trailing 1-0 the Hamden bats broke out and scored six runs in the fifth inning, leading to an 8-1 victory.
“We were just on fire and the confidence was brewing, it was building,” Ferrett said. “Ever since then I think we got our mojo and we’re doing really well right now.
After that, the Green Dragons won their next five games and nine of their next 12.
“This year was a big learning curve for us,” Gross said. “Most of our team is a bunch of sophomore and juniors combined and obviously the two freshman. So far we have been pulling it off, we have been working hard in practice and things have been going our way so we just have to keep working.”