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CORRECTION AND UPDATE (Monday, April 2, 2018): The spelling of Coach Joanna Closs’s maiden name has been corrected. The April 2 game at St Joseph, postponed due to Newtown Public Schools being closed, will be rescheduled for Friday, April 6, at 4:15 pm.
Former Newtown High School third baseman Joanna (Barry) Closs (Class of 2008), who has spent three seasons as Newtown’s freshman coach/varsity assistant, takes over head-coaching duties with the varsity squad this spring.
Closs, a math teacher at Newtown High, is looking forward to instructing Nighthawk players and hopeful that application of what she asks of her players add up to a successful campaign.
“I’m really looking forward to it. This is what I’ve wanted to do since I graduated college,” said Closs, adding that she is applying things she has learned from when she was in their shoes at NHS a decade ago, as well as from her time at Central Connecticut State University, where she played for a season and a half.
“Our goals are to win SWCs and get as far as we can in the state,” Closs said. “I want us to be mechanically sound and mentally tough. As long as we don’t beat ourselves I’m going to be happy regardless of the outcome.”
The new Nighthawk leader has big shoes to fill, succeeding her former coach, Bob Guererra, who retired after 13 years at the helm.
Closs, who took pride in her focus on playing a strong third base, said she will put emphasis on fielding.
“I’m going to make sure this team is very good defensively,” she said.
Another area of importance, she said, is in the approach the players have.
“Hard work and attitude, having your head in the game, supporting your team — I’m really big into that. If I was a coach when I was playing I probably would have benched myself,” said Closs, noting that she feels she could have been more supportive of her team while playing. “A positive attitude goes a long way — it really does.”
The captains are pitcher/second baseman Sara Kennedy and catcher/shortstop Tess Mubarek. The Villanova-bound Kennedy is among the top throwers in the SWC, making pitching a clear strength of the Hawks. Another solid returnee, Closs said, is second baseman Jackie Moccio.
Newtown lost four graduates, including some middle-of-the-order power in the lineup from last year’s 12-8 team that lost in the South-West Conference quarterfinals and Class LL state tournament’s first round.
Tough teams include defending SWC champion Masuk of Monroe, which returns a bulk of its starting lineup, SWC runner-up Pomperaug of Southbury, and an improved Notre Dame-Fairfield squad, Closs said. Defending Class L state champion Joel Barlow of Redding is another tough conference rival.
Newtown’s home opener is scheduled for Wednesday, April 4, against Norwalk at 4:15 pm. The team’s scheduled visit to Ridgefield on March 31 was postponed (date and time to be determined), and the Monday, April 2 visit to St Joseph in Trumbull was rescheduled due to the snow causing school to be closed. Newtown and St Joes are set to play on Friday, April 6, beginning at 4:15 pm. NHS hosts Darien Saturday, April 7, at 1 pm. The Hawks play nonconference games against Barlow, Masuk, and Pomperaug early on, then face rematches against those foes in games that count toward the SWC standings.
Closs is extremely optimistic about the near and distant future of the program and notes that Newtown is the only SWC team to field freshmen, junior varsity, and varsity teams.
“We have a really young team. We have a lot of young players who are really excited, really passionate about the sport,” Closs said.