The Connetquot baseball program has won its share of county championships. But despite six county and two state titles, including a fabulous run to the Suffolk Class AA crown in 2012, the Thunderbirds have never won back-to-back Suffolk championships in any classification. And no team has ever won consecutive Class AA titles.
It won't be easy to successfully defend that title in a county loaded with NCAA Division I pitching prospects.
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"We have a confident and very experienced team," said staff ace Brian McKean, who won eight games as a junior. "Everyone contributes, that's how we win. We had so many clutch players to win it all last year and we're looking for that kind of output again."
There are 14 players back from the T-Birds' championship run. Coach Bob Ambrosini, who has 541 wins in 30 years, said his team is focused on a repeat.
"The goal is to repeat because we've never done it," Ambrosini said. "It's hard to duplicate the chemistry of a championship team. But we've never had this many returnees and we're very deep in pitching."
Connetquot fell short in a one-run loss in extra innings to Calhoun in the Long Island championship game at Farmingdale State University. All-Long Island shortstop Casey Baker, who is Stony Brook-bound, is one of the island's top all-around players and motivated by last year's final game.
"We have some unfinished business," said Baker, who hit .441. "There's a lot of great competition out there, so it has to be one game at a time."
Baker is correct. If you love pitching and defense this is your kind of year. League I will be loaded with top pitching prospects. A slew of teams with legitimate aces will put the onus on coaches to produce some offensive numbers.
"We need to manufacture runs," Ward Melville coach Lou Petrucci said. "The pitching will dominate in the county."
Petrucci has lefthanded senior Anthony Kay, who won the Gibson Award as Suffolk's top pitcher. Kay, who is headed to UConn, had an ERA of 0.00, and was virtually unhittable. He heads a staff that includes Comsewogue junior transfer Chris Cepeda, a righty with nasty stuff and sophomore righty Joe Flynn.
The Patriots staff is outstanding but so is the one at Longwood. Three hard-throwing righthanded juniors, Andruw Gazzola, Chris Weiss and Aaron Floyd make the Lions a threat to win the county crown. Floyd and Gazzola have committed to Stony Brook.
There are a host of other big arms in Suffolk. Bay Shore righty Greg Weissert, who is going to Fordham, can beat anyone in League II. Half Hollow Hills East righty Stephen Woods is the dominant arm in League III and the series of the year could be found in League IV, when Half Hollow Hills West plays East Islip.
"The county title run in Class AA is not limited to League I or II," Hills West coach Tom Migliozzi said.
Hills West is led by senior shortstop/pitcher Luke Stampfl, headed to Fordham, who earned the Silver Slugger Award as Suffolk's top hitter. East Islip has staff ace Ken Rotunno, a senior righty, and junior righty Dave Palmer. Riverhead senior lefty Matt Crohan is headed to Winthrop and is a Gibson Award candidate.
Kings Park senior righthander Joe Guercio signed with Stony Brook and brings a 15-3 career record into the league V season.
The Class A favorite is also pitching rich at Rocky Point with senior Tyler Piccolo and junior Frankie Moscatiello . . . Bayport-Blue Point will ride the left arm of Jack Piekos and Shoreham-Wading River added hard-throwing righthanded prospect Keven Pimentel, who moved into the district from the Dominican Republic. Mount Sinai has senior twins Mark and Mike Donadio. Mark, a catcher headed to Fordham, is a four-year varsity starter. Mike will play shortstop at St. John's. Both are game-changers.
The Class B team to beat is Center Moriches with two excellent righties in Louisville-bound junior Pat Bryant and junior Mike Columbi.