A year ago, Shelton has arguably the best pitcher in the state in Mike Cowell, last year’s New Haven Register Player of the Year who’s now throwing at Fordham.
This season, Scott Gura and the Gaels don’t have that clear-cut ace. But they do have a squad of pitchers who that learned a lot from Cowell’s dominance last season.
“Mike Cowell had a big influence on them,” Gura said. “They saw his progression from his junior year to his senior year where he took off. How much hard work he put in in the offseason.”
They watched and learned and, so far, the Gaels’ pitchers have developed quickly enough to help Shelton to a 6-4 record midway through the season. Shelton had won three consecutive games heading into Monday night’s game vs. Cheshire.
“What’s helped us so far is our pitching,” Gura said. “And it’s gotten us to a point where I’m very pleased with having six wins in the first half of the year.”
As of Monday, senior Craig McNamara had allowed just one earned run all season and had a perfect 3-0 record. Junior Trey McLoughlin just recently beat then-No. 5 Sheehan, 7-2, while striking out 12 and allowing three hits.
The junior-heavy team is coming of age.
“We only had three kids with varsity experience coming into the year,” Gura said. “And [due to weather related postponements] we haven’t really been able to practice with them a lot. They’re kind of learning on the fly.”
It’s helped that Shelton has had an offensive sparkplug in Chris Kanios, a speedy senior who leads off and plays centerfield for the Gaels.
Kanios, a New Haven Register all-area receiver on Shelton’s football team, once considered baseball his sport, so much that he concentrated solely on baseball during his sophomore year. Kanios eventually returned to football as a junior. But after an injury-plagued career on the gridiron, he is starting to seriously consider playing baseball in college again, Gura said.
“He’s by far the most athletic kid I’ve ever coached,” Gura said. “He already has 14 runs scored in 10 games and he’s led off a game with a triple three times this year already. He hasn’t been thrown out stealing in three years.”
Two of Shelton’s losses are to No. 1 Amity (1-0 and 11-0) and the other to current No. 10 Sheehan (7-6 back in April. The Gaels also beat Sheehan the second time the two played (7-2) and also beat Quinnipiac Division champion Hamden.
Shelton plays two games against GameTimeCT/Register Top 10 poll vote-getters this week. The Gaels hosted Cheshire on Monday and travel to No. 6 Hamden on Wednesday.
Tolland pitching trio key to Eagles’ success
Quietly, the Tolland baseball team is putting together a pretty decent resume.
The Eagles were 9-3 entering Monday and have handed two Top 10 teams their only loss of the season: No. 4 South Windsor (8-5 on April 25) and No. 7 Bristol Eastern (7-6 in nine innings on April 11).
And they’ve been doing it with what coach Scott Czerwinski knew would be the team’s strength: Pitching.
“If you were asking me two or three months ago what I thought our strength was,” Czerwinski said. “I thought we had three pretty good starting pitchers, which, for a Class M school, is a pretty good thing.”
Senior Nick Paasch and juniors Jacob Simon and Matt Curtis are part of one of the deeper rotations in the state and have Tolland feeling good about its chances in the second half, especially when those three can be trusted nearly every time they step on the mound.
“We have three guys that we can count on,” Czerwinski said. “With Curtis and Simon giving us complete games and then Nick giving us five really good ones before we busted it open vs. RHAM (a 15-3 win on May 5). [That] takes a lot of pressure of us.”
And its been a luxury to have such solid pitching since both of Tolland’s corner outfield spots and the entire infield besides the catcher are first-year varsity players.
“Everyone was like, ‘Oh geez, they have pitching,'” Czerwinski said. “But guess what? When the ball’s hit somebody has to catch the baseball and we didn’t catch the baseball consistently early. But we have played very good defense over the past two or three weeks. And we’re kind of settling into that nice spot right now.”
Those two big wins stated earlier and one against NCCC leader Ellington have been important for the Eagles’ success. But Czerwinski said it hasn’t gotten to the players’ heads.
“It’s kind of just been: Win today and who’s up next,” Czerwinski said. “Not really thinking about what we just did. We went down to South Windsor and they were pounding people. We just went in there played well, won the game and it wasn’t even a huge thing afterward. It was just ‘We’re on to Wednesday.’
“It’s really been a focused group.”
On May 11, North Haven will be honoring its championship baseball teams (1975, 1982, 1985, 2003 and 2015) in an alumni ceremony beginning at 6:40 p.m. prior to the Indians game vs. Guilford.