By KEVIN ROBERTS
Southington baseball coach Charlie Lembo said he’s excited about his team going into the 2019 season. The Blue Knights return a large, experienced and interchangeable group.
“The thing I really, really like about this team is we have guys that can move around to different positions,” Lembo said. “We have pitchers that can play the field. We have fielders that can pitch.”
Lembo got a good look at what he had during scrimmages against Cheshire and Plainville. “Everyone here can play, so now they have to compete for their playing time,” Lembo said.
Southington returns a large group of seniors and juniors. The senior captains are pitchers Ryan Henderson, Brendan Kavanagh and Jason Krar, along with outfielder JT Martin. The Knights also have seniors Nico Gaudio (pitcher), Kyle Leifert (infielder), Jake Romano (infielder), Tyler Strong (outfielder) and Bryce Worth (infielder). Romano, Leifert and Worth all started a good amount of games in the infield in 2018.
Southington also returns experienced players in its junior class. Jack Meade (outfielder), Jake Neuman (first base, pitcher) and Andrew Paradis (All-CCC West outfielder) all started as sophomores.
“We do have a lot of returners, and they got valuable experience last year,” Lembo said.
Neuman started Southington’s second round Class LL state tournament game against top-seeded Fairfield Prep. The Prep game was the last for seniors Dylan Chiaro (All-CCC West), Jeremy Mercier (All-CCC West), Brandon Kohl, Dan Topper, Josh Panarella, Justin Verrilli, Christian Vargas and Jacob Weed.
The Knights did lose a bunch to graduation, but there is reason for optimism this season with the returning experience. As Lembo says, however, “experience is only as good as what you took from it.” It will also be about where players fit in the lineup. The lineup for the first game, scheduled for Wednesday at Hall, may be different than the one used in the regular season finale against NW Catholic on May 20.
“I think our starting pitching and our bullpen is going to be one of our strengths,” Lembo said. “I think we’re going to be good defensively, very good, and I also think we’re going to hit. Hopefully we can string a bunch of hits together and score some runs.”
Southington has been working hard in the preseason, and that extends beyond the returning players. Lembo expects junior newcomers Billy Carr (outfielder), Jake DelMonte (catcher), Bryce Fournier (pitcher, first base), Joe Gaudio (catcher, infielder), Mickey Gurzenda (outfielder, pitcher, Jared Kelly (outfielder), Ethan McDonough (infielder), Kevin McIntyre (pitcher, infielder) and Vin Spizzoucco (pitcher) to see some time this season.
“There’s still competition for playing time and spots,” Lembo said.
Lembo said the atmosphere has been great, and so has the chemistry. It’s a good way to go into the season, and the Knights hope to combine those good feelings with their experience into a strong season on the diamond.
Southington was scheduled to open the season on Wednesday at Hall. The Knights head to West Hartford again on Friday to play Conard at 3:45 p.m.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com