Knight, Azadian reuinte with Staples baseball
WESTPORT—Four years ago the Westport Little League baseball team made its incredible run to the brink of a World Series title, and all of town took notice.
Those athletes have come into the Staples High varsity program over the past several seasons. The 2017 iteration of the Wreckers may field as many of those standouts as ever.
The reunion will be in full force as the Wreckers will count on many of its sophomores and juniors in what they hope will be a bounce-back season. Staples went 11-11 a year ago but six of the players who made the trip to Williamsport — Chad Knight, Matt Stone, Max Popken, Chris Drbal, Harry Azadian, Drew Rogers and Matt Brown — are expected to contribute to the varsity squad this spring. Add in several JV teammates, most of the former stars have put on the Staples baseball shirt.
“We’ve played together for a long time so we’re certainly comfortable with each other,” Knight said. “That whole summer was a magical summer, so if play like a team and have that same comradery then we can be very good. Not only are we teammates but we’re really good friends. We bring the best out of each other on and off the field, and that’s something I’m looking forward to this season.”
Knight had a seamless transition to the varsity game as a freshman last season, emerging as one of the top hitters in the entire league. The Duke commit hit .358 with three home runs, five doubles, two triples and 28 runs batted in 22 games last season operating in the middle of the lineup.
“He had a real nice season swinging the bat,” McFarland said. “It was a pleasant surprise how well he hit the ball.”
When Knight gets to take the mound for the Wreckers, who can go six or seven deep in a rotation, he will be throwing to a familiar target in Stone. The junior catcher stepped into the lineup last season and quickly made the position his.
Azadian, also a sophomore, spent last year at Fairfield Country Day School before transferring to Staples. A capable pitcher who once formed an-impossible-to-hit one-two punch along with Knight, Azadian is excited to finally join the Wreckers.
“I’m feeling a little of the nerves of my first year playing in high school,” Azadian said. “I’m really excited, I’m already impressed with the comradery of the team, and the leadership from our captains and coaches.”
Azadian noted about the increased competition of the FCIAC, a transition several of his teammates have achieved successful and a trend he hopes to follow.
“It’s definitely much better competition in general,” Azadian said. “The pitching is going to be much better; there’s also better coaching in the FCIAC. I expect to see a lot of Division I pitchers.”
Due to injuries to many of the upperclassmen expected to lead the team a year ago, many of the younger players were thrust into the starting lineup. Growing pains existed in the field. Several of the teammates have also gained experience in the summer and fall season playing for local club team Baseball U.
“These are kids who know how to win and how to grind in a tournament,” McFarland said. “Some of them got a taste last year in Ridgefield, in a big state game trying to win in a tough place and played a nice game. I’m excited these kids bring that aspect to the team.”