New Wave: Rebuilt New Milford baseball team determined to stay in contention
DANBURY — Last season was certainly a special one for the New Milford High School baseball team, one which included a trip to the South-West Conference title game and the Class LL state semifinals.
And although 15 seniors have since graduated from that team, the Green Wave is determined to remain in contention. It’ll just be up to a new crop of players to get it done.
“We’re just working hard in practice and just trying to get better every day,” senior catcher Derek Profita said. “We did lose a lot of seniors, but we have a lot of young kids and older guys that have replaced them. It’s going to be good.”
Among last year’s graduates were college-bound players Jackson Olson (Hartford), Owen Swanson (Wentworth Institute of Technology) and Tim Gesualdi (Mercy), who, coincidentally, each got his first collegiate hit on the same day last month. Now, it’s time for the next group to carry the torch — and it appears that torch is being carried by some very capable hands.
“Seeing those guys go out there and play in college, it does make me proud,” New Milford coach Ryan Johnson said. “Now we’ve got a young group coming up behind them, and I want them to follow in their footsteps.”
The feeder system in New Milford is very strong and is a veritable pipeline of fundamentally sound ballplayers to the high school program. Many of the current Green Wave players had played in Cal Ripken regional and national tournaments long before ever setting foot in the high school. So, it is possible for a team to graduate 15 seniors and pick up the next year right where it left off.
“Everybody is like ‘What are you going to do this year? You graduated 15 seniors,’” Johnson said. “Like I’ve said, it’s time for the next man up. We’re going to go hard every day. We’re going to go after it, and we’re going to be aggressive. These guys answered the bell like I asked them to.”
The Green Wave opened its season with a 29-3 victory at Abbott Tech on Wednesday. Zachary Prahach drove in five runs, Profita drove in four and Colin Lindner drove in three.
Senior Gavin Titus started on the mound and worked three scoreless innings to earn the win. With a stable full of pitchers on the varsity team last season, Titus paid some extra dues and sharpened his skills with the junior varsity last year. In following with Johnson’s “Next Guy Up” philosophy, now it’s Titus’ turn to show what he can do.
“I leaned on him in Game 1, and he went out there and threw strikes today,” Johnson said. “It’s a lot of guys who are believing in the ‘Next Guy Up,’ and they’re doing it. I’m excited about it.”
While it was a tough afternoon for Abbott Tech, the Wolverines are stocked with young, up-and-coming talent and are ready to make some noise in the Constitution State Conference this year. Abbott lost its opener on Monday to Bethel — another SWC contender. These early, non-conference games, however, are only going to help the Wolverines in the long run.
“Once we hit our stride and get some good practices in consecutive days, I think we’ll be right where we want to be,” Abbott Tech coach Dave Simone said. “I just have to get these guys ready for our conference games. That’s where we want to make our run. We want to win our conference and we want to win our division. That’s what our goals are.”
Brayan Aguilera and David Sweeney each had a single and a double Wednesday, and Billy Hyvarinen and Daniel Collinge each drove in run.
NEW MILFORD 29, ABBOTT TECH 3
NEW MILFORD54(13) 220 3 — 29 26 2
ABBOTT TECH000 102 0 — 3 6 3
Records: New Milford 1-0; Abbott Tech 0-2. Batteries: NM—Gavin Titus (W), Christopher Bouzakis (4) and Derek Profita; AT—Stanley Roman (L), Marcos Gonzalez (1), Derek Taveras (3), Corey DiPisia (3), Billy Hyvarinen (6) and Daniel Collinge. 2B: Profita (NM), Colin Lindner (NM), Austin Swanson (NM); Collinge (AT), David Sweeney (AT). RBI: NM—Zachary Prahach 5, Profita 4, Lindner 3, Titus 2, Matt Rodriguez 2, Nick DiCandido 2, Swanson, Noah Martinez, Santiago Nunes-Marques, Chris Gesualdi, Kendall Greene, Bouzakis; AT—Hyvarinen, Collinge.