Sure, there’s always tough Pomperaug of Southbury, Bunnell of Stratford, and other formidable South-West Conference foes, but members of Newtown High School’s baseball team don’t really have to look any further than their own bench to find perhaps the biggest competition early on this campaign.
Only three of members of the Nighthawks — pitcher Mike Davis, shortstop Virgil Procaccini, and catcher Austin Raftery — have varsity experience under their belts as the Nighthawks take to the diamonds this spring.
Fifth-year Coach Matt Memoli knows this opens the door for unproven players to prove themselves and make an impact on the team. That said, with so many roster spots open and starting roles up for grabs, the level of competitiveness has been high as preseason gives way to the start of the regular campaign.
“When you have this much competition in a ballclub, like we do, it just brings out the best in everybody,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of new faces but that’s really what makes it exciting. For these guys — they’re pumped, they’re ready to go.”
Newtown went 8-13 a year ago, didn’t qualify for the SWC tourney, and lost in the first round of the Class LL state tournament.
The team will look for leadership from its four captains, the aforementioned varsity returnees, plus senior center fielder Greg Hennessey.
“Although we are young, we are talented,” Memoli said. “We definitely have a lot of talent on this team.
Other players whom Memoli expects to emerge and contribute are senior second baseman Garrison Buzzanca, junior third baseman Charlie Huegi, and a trio of junior outfielders, Jaret Devellis, Dave Matthews, and Nick Lotrecianno.
“We have a lot of depth on the mound, but will need to play small ball and situational baseball in order to score runs,” Memoli anticipates.
One of the goals this year is not only to qualify for the SWC bracket, but to compete for a conference title, and get a good placement in the state tourney, Memoli said.
Following April 9, 11, and 15 visits to Fairfield Ludlowe, Berlin, and SWC foe Weston, respectively, the Nighthawks are slated to have their home opener when Weston comes to town for a 2 pm first pitch on Thursday, April 17.