It’s been nearly two decades since a school from Stamford celebrated an FCIAC baseball championship, with the last league title going to Trinity Catholic in in 2000.
Westhill made the final back-to-back seasons in 2008 and ’09 but has not won it all since 1987. Stamford meanwhile has not won the FCIAC championship since 1980.
It is a long time for a city that prides itself on baseball success.
Last season, Westhill seemed poised to end the drought for the city, but came up short in the playoffs despite finishing the regular season with the best record in the FCIAC.
The Vikings bookended the standings with fellow Stamford school Trinity bringing up the rear in last place.
While the Crusaders are hoping to pull their program back to relevancy, Westhill will again contend for a top spot in the league and if things break right, Stamford High could be in the mix for a league playoff spot, as well.
As he begins his fourth season at the helm of the Black Knights, Rit Lacomis feels he has a group of players fully committed to what he and the other coaches are teaching.
“These are the guys who are buying in and we are very excited to coach this year. There are so many kids who are all about what we are trying to do,” Stamford coach Rit Lacomis said. “These kids come and work so hard every day, we had 20 kids at offseason weight lifting and that has never happened before. There is a camaraderie with this group of kids that could push us beyond where we are predicted to be. Making FCIACs is not out of reach. I really think we will be in contention at the end of the season.”
Back patrolling center field for Stamford will be senior Danny Collazo (.377 batting average, .464 on base percentage and 11 of 11 in stolen bases), Nico Kydes will be catching again, Matt Wirz (.341 BA, .482 OBP) returns at second base while sophomore David Collazo moves from second to shortstop and Mark Raimondi takes over a spot in the outfield.
That gives the Black Knights a ton of experience up the middle of the diamond.
How the young pitching staff develops could be the key for Stamford’s chances of making the FCIAC playoffs.
There is not a clear-cut No. 1 starter coming out of the preseason but rather a plethora of arms competing for rotation spots and hopefully leaving Stamford with a deep bullpen.
Wirz, Nick Otis, Matt Tiplady, Jack Palmer and Trinity transfer Jay Lockwood are all in the mix for pitching spots along with several other players.
The seniors on the team are ready to return the program to the postseason.
“Hopefully we can make the FCIAC playoffs, that would be a great accomplishment. I think we have the team that is capable of doing it,” Danny Collazo said. “We are all on the same page now. We all understand the system and everyone is buying in and I think this might be the year everything really clicks.”
The Trinity Catholic baseball team hit bottom last season, finishing with just one win.
This season, first-year coach Ryan Quinn is working restablish the program with several players who suffered through the losing campaign.
The Crusaders are certainly ready to rebound.
“It’s going well. It’s different and guys have to get used to the new coaching philosophy but it’s going well,” senior Zach Hurd said. “I think the guys we have coming back really learned last year what losing is like. One win is not enough, we are going out there to prove we are not the laughingstock of the FCIAC. We are here and ready for real competition.”
Quinn hopes a new mentality and approach in training will turn things around at a school with a rich baseball tradition.
“The kids have been very receptive to the new things we are trying to do,” Quinn said. “Just standard things like bunt defense, first and third situations and stuff like that. It is going to take some time to integrate that. It’s a process and we are doing the best with what we have.”
Hurd is back on the mound and will play third for the Crusaders, John Petrizzi will pitch and play the infield and junior Nico Morse will man first base.
Trinity will be looking for pitching depth from seniors Chris Raduazzo and David Broncati and sophomore Jordy Vazquez.
Juniors Anthony Possidento, Sam Pensiero and Cole Imbrogno and sophomore Sammy Santiago are expected to fill out the lineup.
The Vikings finished the regular season atop the FCIAC, but lost to Trumbull in the FCIAC quarterfinals and eventual champion Staples in the CIAC Class LL quarterfinals.
This season, the Vikings are hoping to be right back in contention for both crowns despite taking a few graduation hits.
“We have really talented players we need to replace, but I think we can build around the guys we have coming back and contend again,” Westhill coach DJ Mulvany said. “We had two one-run losses in the playoffs last season to two really good teams. While we did lose some good players, I feel we have some special players who are back.”
Topping the list of special players back for the Vikings is University of Maryland bound senior Bobby Zmarzlak, who hit .425 with 28 RBI and 25 runs scored while playing a stellar centerfield last season.
The other top returning talent is lanky right-handed pitcher John MacDonald, who was 3-1 with a 1.75 ERA last season despite missing time with a blister.
Junior TJ Wainwright is back for his third season on the varsity, moving over from second to short this season.
Senior pitchers Charles Olsen, Andrew Lappas, Ryan Carrol, Chris Candito and George Psicopaidas will see time on the mound as the team awaits the return of junior pitcher Leo Socci as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
“We want to win something this year. We do not want to go out in the first round again,” MacDonald said. “I like working with new guys and guys who have not played much varsity. Everyone we have are hard workers and I think we can be pretty good.”
Zac Feinstein at first base, Jason Bria at third and Alex Cordone behind the plate should have play significant roles on the team.