New Canaan leads pack of FCIAC baseball contenders
Published 1:12 pm, Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Want to forecast a champion in FCIAC baseball?
Seven teams have won the title over the last 10 years with Staples winning three times and Trumbull twice.
During that span, the eventual league champion has been one of the three regular season division winners just three times.
After winning it all in 2012 with a team loaded with juniors, Trumbull hoped to repeat in 2013 but another team with young talent, Danbury, stepped in to win the title, beating Trumbull 2-1 in the championship game.
Greenwich was unbeaten in 2012, losing just three games in 2013 but did not take home a league championship either year, last winning it all in 2004.
This season, Danbury returns with high expectations, as do Class M State champions New Canaan and Class S champions St. Joseph.
Will one of those three make it to the final game at Harbor Yard?
If they do it will not be easy in a league featuring three top five teams in the state preseason media poll and rosters littered with talented returning players.
If history is any lesson, be among the final eight and you have a chance.
TEAMS TO WATCH
New Canaan: The Rams won their first state championship since 1950 last spring, reaching the state final the last two seasons, and bring back the core of that team. New Canaan last won the FCIAC in 2006 and this group of seniors would consider a title the perfect way to end their careers. The Rams begin the season as the No. 1 ranked team in the state media poll.
St. Joseph: Despite being among the top teams every season, the Cadets have not won the league since 1998. This year's team has pitchers with experience, a veteran defense and should be able to swing the bats with anyone in the league. The Cadets begin the season as the No. 2 ranked team in the state.
Danbury: Win the league with a young team and expectations are sure to be high he following season. The Hatters have solid pitching and if they can get the bats going enough, will be in the mix to repeat as league champions.
Staples: The Wreckers took some lumps last season but were still dangerous all season. This season, the players learning on the job last year are back and the Wreckers are looking to get back to Harbor Yard where they won titles in 2008-09 and 11.
Greenwich: At first blush the Cardinals would be due for a regression. Most of the starters are gone from the best team in the league the last two years as is coach Mike Mora. However, Greenwich returns pitching and if it can play defense and hit should be a threat once again. Greenwich begins the season ranked No. 5 in the state.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Mark Hirschbeck, St. Joseph: The Cadets shortstop hit .365 with 2 homeruns, 8 doubles and 17 RBI last season.
Sam Ellinwood, Staples: Ellinwood was among the best defensive shortstops in the league and was pretty good with the stick, too. If the Wreckers are going to get back on top, look for a big season from Ellinwood.
Dan Rajkowski, New Canaan: Rajkowski will serve as the Rams closer but will see most of his time at first base, anchoring an offense that could put up a lot of crooked numbers.
Brett Phillips, Wilton: The Warriors could surprise people this season and it will be Phillips playing shortstop and leading the offensive charge.
Mike Foley, Fairfield Warde: An All-FCIAC first team outfielder last season, Foley comes into 2014 as one of the top players in the league and will be playing at the University of Rhode Island next season.
Pitchers to watch
Kyle Dunster, Greenwich: All-FCIAC first team a year ago, Dunster returns as maybe the league's top arm with an array of pitches keeping hitters off balance. Dunster has signed to play at Boston College.
Corey Brosz, Danbury: All-FCIAC first team last season, Brosz was on the hill for the FCIAC finals last season and should only be improved this year as the Hatters try to repeat.
Colin Keyes, Trumbull: Keyes will see time at shortstop as well but it will be on the bump where he will be most valuable to helping a young Eagles team get back in the playoffs.
Nick Williams, St. Joseph: Williams got valuable experience last season during the state tournament and is back as one of the top arms in the league.
Randy Polonia, Trinity Catholic: Polonia was All-State and All-FCIAC last season and will give the Crusaders a chance anytime he is on the mound.
GAMES TO WATCH
New Canaan at Greenwich, April 11
These two have played classic games the last three seasons and will kick-off the FCIAC season with both teams ranked in the top 5.
Danbury at Trumbull, April 17
Rematch of FCIAC finals and last two league champions.
Staples at Wilton, April 21
Both return good players and both want in the FCIAC playoffs.
New Canaan at St. Joseph, May 13
They may not still be ranked 1 and 2 in the state by May but this one should be great either way.
Westhill at Fairfield Ludlowe, May 14
Both teams have a shot at the league playoffs and this game could go a long way to determining which one makes it.