The road to the SCC championship will once again go through Woodbridge.
No matter how many players Amity loses through graduation, coach Sal Coppola always has his team ready to go come the postseason.
This year’s turnover appears particularly heavy. The Spartans are replacing seven of the nine starters from last season’s lineup. Still, the team expects to maintain the program’s run of excellence.
“There’s an expectation to win and they guys have done a great job living up to it,” Coppola said of his program’s past success.
Patrick Winkel, a UConn commit and one of the state’s best players, anchors Amity behind the plate and in the middle of the lineup along with Jack Nolan at first base.
Senior Ben Lodewick is the ace for the Spartans rotation this season after going 9-0 and pitching the Spartans into the state finals.
“I think he has earned it, to be called that,” Coppola said. “It’s nice having someone back like that.”
Lodewick will be joined by junior John Lumpinski who “got his beak wet” last season for the Spartans.
Last season, the SCC had three teams reach the state finals. One of them took home hardware as Foran came from nowhere to beat North Haven in the Class L championship. Amity lost to Staples in the Class LL title game, the Spartans first loss in postseason play since 2014.
Amity, Daniel Hand, North Haven, Notre Dame-West Haven, Branford and Will Lucas-led Fairfield Prep are expected to be atop the league again. But there are plenty of other candidates who could make waves.
Sheehan brings back five key returners, including senior outfielders Austin Lee and Pat Christensen. Guilford returns 12 seniors, including Noah Rubino, Matt Donlan and JohnLuke Cianciolo, from a team that won 13 games last season.
Foran, which only won seven regular-season games before its championship run, lost a ton, including every pitcher. The Lions do bring back a solid core up the middle: Matt Kennedy behind the dish and Tyler Heenan and Mark Wootton as their double-play duo.
Xavier not only lost pitcher Joe Vail and centerfielder Tim Dickson to graduation, it also lost New Haven Register All-Area selection Luke Garfolo, who transferred back to Coginchaug for his senior season. The Falcons do bring back a handful of arms – Dylan Albert, Liam Milewski, Nick Borkowski, Ray Seward – to lead the rotation.
Teams like Hamden, Shelton and Cheshire are all trying to fill voids left by graduation. They do return three of the best players in the conference: Mike Ferrett, William Ciccone and Ben DeLaubell leading the way for their respective clubs.
Jonathan Law brings back nine seniors — including Connor Creane, Nate Merchant, Dave Flynn and Dillon LaRoche — from a team that won just three games the year before. West Haven returns a handful of contributors, especially Nick Flammia, to a team that is hoping to make another state tournament after winning 10 games last year.
Lyman Hall, another 10-win team from last year, lost one of their top players in Mike Caruso. But the Trojans are solid in the outfield with Ethan Day, Tyler Lyons and Jake Ranney and with Jack McDonald at first base.
Career Magnet was hit hard by graduation will start six freshman to play alongside the three returning players including captains Isaiah Baez and Carlos Lugo.
Once again the league is deep with a handful of teams vying for a chance to knock off Amity during league play and a handful of teams who could make deep runs in the state tournament.
“Look at what Foran did last year, what Sheehan has done before winning 11 games and going on to win the state championship,” Coppola said.
There’s a good chance that it could happen again seeing as the SCC has at least one team playing for a state title every year since 2000.
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
PATRICK WINKEL, AMITY: He might be the best player in the whole state. Last season, as a junior, the catcher hit a staggering .512 with five home runs and 38 RBIs while helping lead the Spartans back to the Class LL state title game for the fifth year in the row. The senior slugger added 11 doubles, four triples and was one hit shy of tying the school record with 43 hits. He is committed to going to UConn.
EDDIE SWEENEY, HAND: Returning from an injury shortened season the senior outfielder is full healthy and expected once again to be a catalyst in for the Tigers. Sweeney hit .420 last season in 14 games with four home runs and 20 RBIs.
MIKE SANSONE, NOTRE DAME-WEST HAVEN: If you planned on scoring runs against the Green Knights it probably didn’t happen when this lefty was on the mound. The senior had an incredible 0.89 ERA to go with a 5-3 record and three saves. He struck out 74 batters and walked just five in 54.2 innings.
MICHAEL FERRETT, HAMDEN: The Southern Connecticut State University commit had 18 extra base hits last year (five home runs, 10 doubles and three triples), while knocking in 20 RBIs and scoring 20 runs. He added a .442 batting average and on the mound won four games with a 3.17 ERA.
WILLIAM CICCONE, SHELTON: The senior third baseman and pitcher led the Gaels with a .424 average and scored 18 runs. He hit .727 when it mattered with runners in scoring position and added 16 RBIs. When he pitched he struck out 20 batters and had a 3.50 ERA.
Don’t Sleep On…
KYLE SCHAFER, P, Hand; BEN LODEWICK, P, Amity; WILL LUCAS, INF, Fairfield Prep; BEN DELAUBELL, INF/P Cheshire; JACK NOLAN, 1B, Amity; NICK FLAMMIA, P/OF, West Haven; JACK MCDONALD, 1B, LYMAN HALL; MICHAEL TORNIERO, OF, Notre Dame-West Haven; ZANE KMIETEK, P, Branford; PEYTON FARINIA, OF, North Haven.
FIVE TEAMS TO WATCH
AMITY: Despite losing seven of nine starters, the Spartans have proven they can reload quickly. After all, they have been to the last five Class LL championship games. Amity also boasts the league’s top player in Patrick Winkel. The Spartans have won the SCC tournament the last three years.
DANIEL HAND: With Sweeney manning the outfield and the middle of the lineup along with Will Reiner, Tom Hobin and Cam Fitzgerald the Tigers are going to be a tough out. Kyle Schafer returns to lead the pitching staff with Spencer Oliver and Jake Crawford.
NOTRE DAME-WEST HAVEN: The Green Knights are returning two of the top player in the SCC with Sansone at the top of their rotation and Michale Torniero’s slick glove roaming the outfield. The Green Knights have also been in the state finals every even year dating back to 2014. Can they do it again?
NORTH HAVEN: The Indians have made three semifinals appearances and two finals appearances over the last five years (winning the Class L title in 2015). In short, don’t count out the Indians. All-State centerfielder Peyton Farinia leads the way alongside pitcher Luca Lawrence, catcher Kevin Lucey, shortstop Matt Soloman and outfielder Steven Erbe.
BRANFORD: Coming off a 15 win season and only handful of losses to graduation, the Hornets should be right back in the thick of things. Branford features three big arms in Zane Kmietek, Carson Mendoza and Alphonse Suppa. Robbie Barbash returns at catcher. Damien Maniscalco will lead Branford in the infield. D.J. Caron will be a staple in the outfield.
FIVE MATCHUPS TO WATCH
SHEEHAN vs. LYMAN HALL (APRIL 3 and MAY 4): It doesn’t matter where these teams sit in the standings, when these rivals get together it’s always a battle.
AMITY vs. FAIRFIELD PREP (APRIL 9 and APRIL 25: Who doesn’t like a rematch? Amity defeated Fairfield Prep in last year’s SCC final, 11-5. And both clubs should be in contention for this year’s crown, once again.
XAVIER vs. NOTRE DAME-WEST HAVEN (APRIL 9 and 25): A great catholic school rivalry between two teams that could possibly shake things up in the SCC this year.
HAND vs. AMITY, (APRIL 16 and MAY 7): Set a notification on your mobile phone’s calendar. These are SCC game you won’t want to miss. The Tigers typically play the Spartans tough and famously ended Amity’s 28-game win streak in a 4-3 victory last year.
NORTH HAVEN vs. BRANFORD (APRIL 18 and MAY 9): These rivals both figure on contending for the SCC Quinnipiac crown.