Sluggers Have New Look, Same Championship Goals

Gone from last year’s South-West Conference champion squad are eight team members who graduated. Still in place, however, is the goal to succeed. Newtown High School’s baseball team is striving to repeat as SWC champs and, in fact, go deeper in the state tournament this time around.

Newtown fell to Shelton in the opening round of the state bracket a season ago, and Coach Matt Memoli, despite his revamped lineup, is shooting for a longer state playoff run. The coach notes that wins in the regular season are important to give the Nighthawks a chance at earning a first-round state playoff bye, and some potentially needed rest.

Although many of the faces may not be the same, the makeup of this team is very similar to that of last year’s squad. “We have ten guys who are seniors this year,” Memoli points out.

In addition to all of those graduates, the Nighthawks are without junior pitcher Mike Davis at least to start the campaign. Davis is battling back from a torn ACL sustained early in the baseball season.

“We have guys who are hungry and they’re going to get their chance to step up,” Memoli said.

The top pitchers back in the fold are Brandon Marks and Pat Mullins. In Newtown’s second game of the spring, a 5-0 blanking of Fairfield Ludlowe on April 4, Mullins tossed a no-hitter.

“With the talent we have and the depth we have, if we play to our potential we could definitely repeat this year,” Memoli said.

The senior captains this year are third baseman Justin DeVellis and outfielders Reid Schmidt, Dean Demers, and Steve Conway. Other players whom Memoli expects big things from as the season gets going are junior shortstop Virgil Procaccini; sophomore Julian Dunn, who begins the year as the No. 3 hitter, and can play a variety of positions, including first base and catcher; junior starting catcher Austin Raftery; senior outfielder/designated hitter JP Blanco; and senior pitcher/infielder Mike Koch.

Teams Newtown expects to be tough in the conference are Pomperaug of Southbury, Bunnell of Stratford, and Weston, Memoli anticipates.

“I think, overall, to be successful this year we’re going to have to field the baseball and we’ll have to pitch,” said Memoli, adding that he expects his team to score runs fairly consistently. “Throwing strikes and playing defense is always huge in high school baseball.”

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