Pop quiz: which two conferences have won the most baseball state titles the last three seasons?
Most will get the first with the SCC winning four in that time (Cheshire, Amity, Foran, Notre Dame-West Haven).
The other conference with four state titles the last three seasons is not the FCIAC, CCC or SWC.
It is the NVL.
The league has taken up a permanent residence at Palmer Field championship weekend.
In 2016, St. Paul won Class S and Wolcott won Class M; in 2017, Holy Cross won Class S and last season, Seymour defeated Wolcott to win Class M.
“I think, overall, the league doesn’t get the love it deserves,” Ansonia coach Pat Lynch said. “Our top-tier teams are as good as it comes in the state. Look at the last three years of the state tournament. There has been an NVL team that has won a state title and last year we had two teams in a state final against each other.”
The conference is consistently competitive on the state level and that shows no signs of stopping.
Currently, Wolcott (12-1) is atop the Class M standings and Holy Cross (11-2) is top dog in Class S with St. Paul (10-2) nipping at its heels.
Despite the same three teams occupying the top of the standings, the middle of the pack has improved with eight teams above .500 as the season round the halfway point, (Watertown, Woodland, Oxford, Ansonia and Naugatuck).
Defending Class M champions Seymour are currently 6-6.
“Oxford is always tough. Brian Hourigan down there lost a lot but he always seems to win,” St. Paul coach Victor Rinaldi said. “We played Seymour this week and won 8-7, they are very scrappy. Then there is always Naugatuck and Torrington, Derby and Ansonia have talent and of course, Wolcott at the top. The NVL doesn’t get enough credit sometimes. The credit it deserves. I think the NVL gets overlooked at times.”
Any team playing in Classes M or S certainly should not be overlooking the NVL but perhaps it is time for the rest of the state to pay attention, as well.
Long known for its basketball and football, baseball may be the conference’s top export, at the moment.
“When people think of the NVL and Waterbury, usually they are thinking boys basketball but I have been through it and I follow all the sports in the league. I think baseball, in the last 10 to 15 years, has been great,” Lynch said. “There are three to four state title contenders every year and the middle of the pack teams are competitive. They have good pitchers and kids going on to play Division-1 and Division-II. It is a very tough conference.”
The league also saw a bit of history last week with Wolcott coach Tary Scott picking up his 400th career win when the Eagles beat Naugatuck 7-2.
Wolcott, Holy Cross and St. Paul will enter the NVL tournament as the favorites but with potential lower seeds like Ansonia, Naugatuck and Oxford sporting top No. 1 pitchers, the script could be flipped very quickly.
One thing is for sure, come the state tournament, the NVL will be tough to eliminate from the brackets.