Hillhouse is returning to the Southern Connecticut Conference for baseball this spring — albeit with some reinforcements.
Hillhouse and Career Magnet will be forming a co-op this season to play in the SCC. Hillhouse used to be a member of the Shoreline Conference, but played as an independent last season.
Eric Patchkofsky, New Haven’s director of athletics, said Career only had between seven and nine players returning to the entire Career program this spring. Hillhouse returns just eight, according to head coach R.J. Voelker.
So last fall, Patchkofsky applied to the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference to have the two schools form a co-op.
“Our biggest concern was we didn’t want kids to lose the opportunity to play,” Patchkofsky said. “Last year, the SCC agreed to give them a couple of years to play out of the league to rebuild the program.”
Gregg Simon, the associate executive director of the CIAC, confirmed the CIAC’s Co-Op committee met on Jan. 28 and allowed Hillhouse and Career to play baseball together.
Hillhouse had been in a co-op with Creed (formerly the Hyde Leadership School) in the Shoreline Conference since the 2012 season. Once Creed closed after the 2017-18 school year, Hillhouse then went independent.
“The whole point is to try to re-build baseball in New Haven, make it a more viable sport and to field competitive teams,” Patchkofsky said.
Hillhouse played eight SCC games last year. The co-op will play 14 this season.
“It’s not about wins and losses. It’s being a part of our league and playing a full league schedule,” SCC commissioner Al Carbone said. “This is part of developing sports at all levels.”
Voelker will coach the co-op. Chip Porto, the former Career coach, is now the Wilbur Cross softball coach. Voelker said Hillhouse hasn’t had a JV program since 2011, Career not since 2014.
“This gives both schools the opportunity to play together. The boys have played together most of their lives,” Voelker said. “They enjoy being with each other and it’s an opportunity for us to compete.”
Games will be played at West Rock Park’s Amhryn Field. Hillhouse/Career will play in the SCC Oronoque Division. The team will play Amity, Law, Shelton, Sheehan, East Haven, West Haven and Wilbur Cross all twice apiece.
Also on the schedule includes University/Classical Magnet and Whitney Tech twice and Bullard-Havens and Wilby once each.
But the team also had to drop six games that were on the schedule due to its previously independent status. Voelker, also Hillhouse’s athletic facilitator, said he notified the following six programs last week that Hillhouse had to drop them: Wilcox Tech, Innovation, Civic Leadership, MLC, Vinal Tech and Bullard-Havens (although there is still one game with Bullard-Havens still on the schedule).
“I didn’t want to leave anyone looking for games this late,” Voelker said. “I explained the situation that we had an agreement with the league. I also provided the schools (with the contact information for the other schools that Hillhouse dropped). I’m very sympathetic. I know how hard it is to fill a schedule.”
Now it’s time to focus on playing in one of the state’s best baseball leagues.
“It’s going to be a challenge. We will come out and play our best 21 outs all the time,” Voelker said. “The SCC is a great baseball league. Hopefully, in due time, we will be able to compete and win in the SCC.”
Hillhouse/Career opens the season April 6 against University/Classical Magnet.