Two years ago, a sophomore class emerged in the FCIAC that turned many heads.
Now, those sophomores are seniors and the FCIAC is absolutely loaded with top talent across the board.
The FCIAC has several teams capable of not just winning the league but being serious contenders for state championships.
As for the league itself, there are preseason favorites but in reality almost every team in the league could qualify for the conference tournament.
Who wins it this year is anyone’s guess.
5 TEAMS TO WATCH
Staples: Talk about high expectations. Everyone you talk to considers Staples a favorite for the FCIAC and the CIAC Class LL championship. This group of seniors can handle the pressure that comes with those elevated expectations. Duke-bound Chad Knight is back for his fourth year on the varsity after hitting .420 and posting a 4-1 pitching record with a 1.56 ERA. He will be joined in the rotation by Harry Azadian, Russ Krauss, Sam Robin and sophomore Alex Deutsch. The lineup is stacked with SS Andrew Moy, 2B Drew Rogers (.345 5HRs) as well as OF Kevin Rabacs and Adam Petro (.368).
St. Joseph: Looking for a team equal in experience and depth to Staples? Look no further than St. Joseph. Two seasons ago, the Cadets ran out a lineup mostly made up of sophomores. This year, the fruits of the last two seasons should ripen. Fairfield commit 3B Charlie Pagliarini (.338, 25 H, 29 RBI, 5 HR), 0F Stephen Paolini, C Aaron Kirby (.319, 23 H, 22 RBI, 20 R) and 1B Jimmy Evans (.421, 32 H, 25 RBI, 28 R) make up a formidable lineup for a team searching for its first FCIAC title since 1998.
Ludlowe: The Falcons overcame a terrible start to 2018, rallying down the stretch to make the FCIAC playoffs. The team brings back some big bats and what they feel is enough depth at pitcher to make a run in the league and states. All-FCIAC C/3B Vince Camera will be joined by senior CF Derek Tallman (.390 BA) and P Chris Benton (1.88 ERA, 3 saves, 23K’s in 22 IP) along with a deep squad of seniors. This could be the team to get the Falcons their first FCIAC title since 2010.
Danbury: The Hatters return 10 seniors from a team that reached the FCIAC playoffs last season. Justin Solimine is one of the best returning pitchers in the league and will be joined in the rotation by Matt Sabene, Justin Hope, Richard Wekerle and Andrew Philbin. The infield will be anchored by All-FCIAC shortstop Javon Hernandez. The Hatters are a dangerous team in the FCIAC and in Class LL.
Westhill: The Vikings have three of the top seniors in the league in CF Bobby Zmarzlak (.367 BA, .796 SLG, 4 HR), SS TJ Wainwright and P/1B Montana Semmel. The question for them will be whether they can replace almost the entire rotation lost to graduation and transfers. Semmel, who was injured last year, has impressed on the mound this spring but Westhill will need help on the bump this season if it hopes to be playing in the FCIAC tournament.
5 PLAYERS TO WATCH
Vince Camera, Ludlowe: At the heart of the Falcons’ stacked lineup is the All-FCIAC, CCSU-bound Camera. He will play 3B/C/DH a year after batting .405 with 30 hits, 5 HR, 7 2B, 3 3B and 23 RBI.
Harry Azadian, Staples: Azadian established himself as one of the top pitchers in the state last season with a 6-1 record and 1.25 ERA and should be even better this time around.
Kevin Bruggeman, Trumbull: The Hofstra-bound, All-FCIAC senior is one of the best catchers in the state with superb defensive skills to complement a .397 batting average last season.
Stephen Paolini, St. Joseph: The All-FCIAC, Elon-committed OF will hit at the top of the order after posting a .353, 30 H, 20 RBI, 40 R, 4 HR and 18 SB line a season ago.
TJ Wainwright, Westhill: The Fairleigh Dickinson-signed SS hit .333 with a sparkling .929 fielding percentage. His third season on the varsity could be his best.
GAMES TO WATCH
Greenwich at New Canaan, April 10: Both teams are improved from last season and ready to make a playoff run.
Ridgefield at Danbury, April 15: Good rivalry between two teams always in contention.
St. Joseph at Trumbull, May 1: The crosstown rivals also both happen to be pretty good teams this season.
Staples at Darien, May 6: Rematch of last year’s championship game.
Stamford at Wilton, May 13: If things break right for these two, a playoff spot could be on the line in this late-season matchup.