Staples spring preview: Baseball team hopes for bounce-back season
WESTPORT—As Staples coach Jack McFarland put it, an 11-11 season and a first round Class LL win is a very good season for many baseball programs.
But not the Wreckers.
The season — which included not qualifying for the FCIAC playoffs for the first time in nine years — left a sour taste in the mouth for Staples, which hopes 2017 resembles 2015, and not 2016.
The Wreckers have a host of pitching options at their disposal, including aces Ben Casparius, Ryan Fitton and Chad Knight. George Goldstein (Middlebury) and Rob Stone (Holy Cross) are also college-bound arms who will be key contributors, while Mike Fanning and Adam Feuer also have varsity experience on the hill.
“We have the potential to be a great staff,” Fitton said. “Definitely last year we didn’t show that, but this group of pitchers are working hard and coach Trevor Brown is working us really hard. We’re expecting great things, and we’re looking forward to that.”
Staples stumbled in that area last year considerably. The Wreckers yielded 4.2 runs per game, a full two higher than the year before. The talent is undeniably there for a turnaround, though, and it begins with a concentrated effort on defense, Staples coach Jack McFarland said.
“I don’t know if (pitching) was a strength last year, but it needs to be this year,” McFarland said. “You win this league with pitching and defense; that’s the bottom line. That’s what we’re preaching here; we’re doing a lot of fundamental work.”
Fitton — who will play football at UConn — will be one of top horses for the Wreckers on the mound.
“He looks great and we’re excited to see him on the mound,” McFarland said. “The ball is coming out of his hand really well; so far in the preseason he’s throwing the ball well.”
North Carolina signee Casparius will get the chance to set the tone in the season-opener when the Wreckers host Newtown April 4. The first week of the season also includes a trip to four-time defending Class LL champion Amity.
Knight and Casparius will lead a middle-of-the-lineup charge that hopes to set the tone for a balanced lineup. McFarland expects Max Popken, Drew Rodgers, Andrew Moy, Harry Azadian, Matt Brown, Danny Thompson, Rob Stone, Trip Backus and Kevin Rabacs to also contribute for the Wreckers, among others.
The Wreckers hope better health translates to a more successful season; Staples expects to be one of the top teams in the league, a perch its held prior to last season.
“The goal is to stay healthy,” Knight said. “This is a much more experienced team; after last year we’re hungry. It’s no secret that last season wasn’t the one we wanted to have. I think we’re looking forward to bouncing back.”
“I think we all have to just make big pitches, keep the ball down and have to have good IQ on the mound,” Fitton said “Just know what we’re doing and be smart.”