FAIRFIELD — Armed with a solid No. 1-2 (or should that be No. 1 and 1A?) pitching punch, Fairfield Warde seems poised to accomplish big things this spring.
Seniors John Natoli, who’s headed to Cornell this fall and Reece Maniscalco, who signed with Wofford, will be the Mustangs aces (both throw in the high 80’s). Maniscalco (23 hits, .426 average, 20 RBI) was an All-FCIAC first team election at first base, while Natoli captured All-FCIAC Central honors.
“We’re going to look for pitching and defense to keep us in games,” new coach Brett Conner wrote in his prospectus to the Citizen. “We are going to rely on our pitching leadership and varsity experience.”
Along with Natoli and Maniscalco, Warde will look to Joe Deutsch (20 hits, .364 average, 11 RBI), Jack Myers (.359 average, 8 RBI), Bobby Lazar (15 hits, .319 average, 9 RBI) and Giacomo Brancato - who missed last season recovering from non-Hodgkins Lymphoma - for the leadership and experience.
“We are looking forward to the upcoming season. The guys have really bought into our strength and conditioning program and we look to be strong in all aspects of the game,” Conner said. “The guys are anxious to begin competing and making a name for themselves in the very competitive FCIAC conference.”
Last season, Warde posted a 14-6 record (12-6 FCIAC) and lost to Staples in the FCIAC tournament quarterfinals. The Mustangs fell to Greenwich in the first round of the Class LL tournament.
The Falcons will be looking to rebound from a 6-14 season and better the five FCIAC wins they posted. But that’s easier said than done after Ludlowe lost nine lettermen and six starters from that team.
Coach Mike Francese returns All-FCIAC Central player CJ Hanrahan (.328 average, 17 RBI), who will be on the tri-captains this spring, along with Sean Gutierrez and Patrick Calabrese.
Pitcher Eddie Magi (35 innings pitches, three complete games) - an All-FCIAC honorable mention pick -- will be the ace of the staff while Chris Howell (.302 average, five doubles, three triples) will anchor the outfield with Tripp McGarrie (.350 average) and Mike Bernstein (.333 average).
“If we can throw strikes, make the routine plays and have quality at-bats, I’m confident we will compete and have a successful season,” Francese wrote in his prospectus to the Citizen. “We if work hard and take pride in our roles on the team, embrace the challenge, learn from our failures, I’m confident in what we can do on the field. We have to work hard and get better each day.”
Coach Bill Mazzucco will have to replace seven starters from last season’s 10-10 squad but the cupboard is not bare as senior first baseman, and All-SWC first teamer Ed Schwartz (.781 slugging percentage, five home runs) returns, as does senior shortstop Tyler Henchcliffe (.360 average), seniors Mike Antoniou and Garnell Bell and sophomore pitchers Dillon Higgins and Pete Minore.
“If we can make the plays in the field, it will be a successful season because we can hit the ball a mile,” Mazzucco wrote in his prospectus to the Citizen. “We have a young and talented pitching staff and a strong hitting lineup from top to bottom.”
The Lancers finished in third place in the SWC Patriot Division (5-8) and lost to Career in the opening round of the Class S tournament.
Armed with one of the best pitchers in the region in Grant Stone, Fairfield Prep looks to pick up right where it left off last season, en route to winning 20 games and reaching the Class LL tournament.
Stone, an All-SCC Quinnipiac Division player last season, went 7-1 with a 1.42 ERA. Another key pitching cog will be Karl Johnson, who was 2-1 with three saves and a 1.83 ERA last season. On the offensive side, J.R. Lopez batted .403 with 18 RBI and 19 runs scored and Jack Oricoli batted .311.
“We have a very challenging season ahead,” Prep coach Rudy Mauritz wrote in his prospectus to the Citizen. “Our success will depend on our ability to not give extra outs to the opposition and not give away outs on offense.”
The Jesuits reached the second round of the Class LL playoffs before losing to Stamford.
“We are looking forward to a fun and challenging season,” Mauritz said, despite losing six starters. “We have a good mix of returners and first-timers to the varsity level and they are going to be challenged by one of the toughest regular season schedules in Fairfield Prep baseball history.”