Extreme parity is set to rule the SWC once again, with any of the eight teams who make the postseason capable of winning three games inside a week to lift the crown.
The wealth has been spread to a remarkable degree over the past decade. Six different schools have won the league the last six years, with eight of the 14 league teams lifting the trophy since 2007. Picking a winner this term is even more difficult given the heavy exodus of top pitchers from a year ago.
Bethel (Tyler Davis), New Fairfield (Sean King), Newtown (Kyle Roche), Immaculate (Jimmy Fahey), ND-Fairfield (Dillon Higgins) and Stratford (Brendan Duffy) all had stellar aces graduate last June. New names will be atop the rotation in spades, creating even more intrigue early in the season.
FIVE TEAMS TO WATCH
Masuk: A perennial playoff team that returns several key pieces including its ace, the Panthers could have the deepest pitching staff in the league. Josh Wittenberger and Matt McGovern also return for Masuk, which will have to replace Villanova freshman Nick Lorusso. Coach Ralph Franco is 13 wins away from 300 in his career.
New Fairfield: The Rebels could have the perfect blend of youth and experience. Senior pitcher Jake Smith leads a lineup that could see as many as five sophomores on the field at the same time. Fellow seniors Ryan Grimaldi and Sean Jamieson (outfielder) will lead the group.
Newtown: The Nighthawks graduated both of their aces from a year ago, but return a potent offense that’s capable of winning a lot of games. Josh Taylor, Michael Cotton and Luke Melillo should combine for a lot of hits for Newtown. Taylor hit .348 as a sophomore a year ago.
Bethel: The defending champions are out for a third straight finals appearance and fourth title in school history. Repeating as champs hasn’t been done since Pomperaug won back-to-back titles in 2010-11. Stephen DiMeglio, Shawn Sato, Steven Smith, Peitro Baia and Nick Vieira lead the Wildcats. Strong starting pitching should lead the Wildcats.
Stratford: Though they lost their ace in Duffy, the Red Devils have the potential of a deep staff in seniors Braydon Seaburg, Zach Fedak and Cam Smith. Sophomore catcher R.J. Burlone is also a key piece. Seaburg is committed to Quinnipiac.
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Tim Ciancolo, New Milford: An ace who actually returns this year, the senior could be one of the top pitchers in the league this term. A UMass-Boston commit, Ciancolo was named All-Colonial last year.
Mike Marella, Masuk: The Fairfield-bound senior pitched to a 1.89 ERA while striking out 56 batters in 44.1 innings pitched.
Matthew Garbowski, New Fairfield: One of the top sophomores in the state will be key to the hopes of a young New Fairfield squad. Hit near the of the order last season as a freshman and will be behind the plate thirs term. Committed to UConn.
Todd Petersen, Newtown: The UConn commit was named first team All-SWC last season at shortstop. Hit .333 with 27 runs scored out of the leadoff spot. C
Jack Carraturo, Bethel: The MVP from last year’s conference tournament with two phenomenal pitching performances. Committed to Central Connecticut.
FIVE GAMES TO WATCH
Ridgefield at New Milford, Saturday, March 30, 12 p.m.: Tigers ace Matt DeLuca fired a no-hitter against the Green Wave last year; a competitive season-opener for both teams.
New Fairfield at Darien, Tuesday, April 2, 4:30 p.m.: One of the top non-conference games of the season features the Blue Wave, winners of two of the last three FCIAC titles, hosting the Rebels.
ND-Fairfield at Newtown, Monday, April 29, 4:15 p.m.: Lancers sophomore Rich Kerstetter will be key on the hill and on the dish for the defending Class S champions.
Bethel at Masuk, Wednesday, May 8, 4 p.m.: The two league contenders meet twice this spring, once early in non-league action and once in the final 10 days.
Weston at Immaculate, Tuesday, May 14, 4:15 p.m.: Two playoff hopefuls meet very late in the season. Mustangs are a sleeper to claim their first SWC title in school history with most of their starters returning.