By BRIAN JENNINGS
Whether it’s pitching, fielding, batting, or base running, Blue Knight baseball coach Charlie Lembo said that he never focuses on just one area of the field. But if executed correctly, Lembo said that he thinks his team has a good chance of playing well in all areas if the team focuses.
“We have a group that’s worked very hard and gets along well,” said Lembo. “If that continues, these guys can have a lot of fun because they seem like the type of group that actually finds fun in the hard work.”
The Knights finished last year’s regular season at 14-6 overall (7-3 home, 7-3 away) and won the CCC Central Blue title with a regional record of 11-3 and divisional record of 6-2.
In the postseason, the eight-seeded Knights advanced to the quarterfinals of the Class LL tournament for the sixth-straight year with a 3-1 home win over No. 25 Shelton in the first round and 13-7 home win over No. 24 Staples in the second round. Southington’s postseason run came to an end following a 5-1 loss at top-seeded Amity in the quarterfinals, who eventually went on to claim their sixth CIAC Class LL title after defeating No. 10 Fairfield Warde by a run, 4-3, in the championship game.
“A lot of the guys we have back got some good experience last year,” said Lembo. “Hopefully going forward, they’ll be able to move forward with that experience they were able to obtain last year, knowing what the state tournament and season are about.”
Now, the Knights are going to take another run at it. Besides focusing on every game, every inning, and every pitch, Lembo said that chemistry will be a big factor in this team’s success as well.
“They enjoy the process of showing up, practicing hard, and trying to get better every day,” said Lembo. “This group embraces that, and then we’ll just go out and compete every day.”
The Knights lost 10 athletes to graduation after last season, including key players like Kyle Bunko (C), Drew Farkas (P), and Garrett Gugliotti (OF/P).
As the team’s ace, Farkas went 6-3 on the mound with five complete games and paced the Knights in strikeouts (67) and ERA (1.83) in 10 starts. He was also all-conference.
Gugliotti started in 21 games and was second on the team in hits (24) and RBIs (17). He also went 4-2 on the mound with 25 strikeouts, an ERA of 3.75, and a complete game.
Bunko started 18 games behind the plate.
Seniors Brayden Cooney (DH/1B), Tyler Cyr (OF/P), Johnathan Mikosz (SS/P), and Ryan Sheehan (P) were voted by their fellow senior teammates to be the team captains for the upcoming season.
“Those four guys have proven to be leaders on and off the field,” said Southington coach Charlie Lembo. “But it’s not just those four. It’s the whole group. I wouldn’t want to be without any one of them. They have the same common goal, and that is for us to be the best team we possibly can this year.”
Cooney, Cyr, and Mikosz started in all 23 of Southington’s games last year. Cooney hit a team high of five home runs, and Mikosz led the team in hits (28), batting average (.384), and RBIs (19). Sheehan posted a record of 4-1 on the mound with 43 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.91.
Mikosz was the only Knight to receive both all-state and all-conference honors. Sheehan was all-conference.
Other returning seniors include Jake Babon (1B/3B), Dominic Coppola (OF), Christian Gil (3B), Jonathan Gray (3B/P), Connor McDonough (P), Ryan McIntyre (OF), Bailey Robarge (P), Matthew Sciota (C), and Kyle Semmel (2B/SS).
Returning juniors include Dylan Chiaro, Brandon Kohl, Jeremy Mercier (1B/P), Joshua Panarella (C), Daniel Topper, Christian Vargas (C), Justin Verrilli (P), Vincent Viturale (P), and Jacob Weed (P). Sophomore Kyle Leifert (IF/P) is also competing for varsity playing time.
Southington added Tolland, New Britain, Bristol Eastern, and Norwich Free Academy to this year’s schedule. Lembo is entering his seventh year as head coach of the program and currently holds an overall coaching record of 108-36.
For weekly box scores and daily results, visit us throughout the week at www.SouthingtonObserver.com. Search “scoreboard.”