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Baseball preview: Arms must come through for RHS

Pitching.

When it comes to this spring’s Ridgefield High baseball team, the key word is pitching, the question mark is pitching, the difference between a decent season and a memorable one may well be pitching.

The Tigers went 17-6 last season, made the FCIAC playoffs and reached the Class LL state quarterfinals. Several of the team’s top hitters and position players return, and there is speed and pop in the lineup. But, like many teams, Ridgefield will only go as far as a revamped rotation takes it.

Graduation claimed Ryan Callanan, Chris McClelland and Patrick Molyneaux, the team’s three standout lefty starters, and also took reliever Brad Rosenfield. Replacing those players, and their combined innings and wins, will be Ridgefield’s biggest test.

“We don’t have much varsity experience on the mound,” said first-year head coach Paul Fabbri. “It’s an area of concern.”

Nevertheless, Fabbri does see encouraging signs. Seniors Chip Papa, Joe Malley and Devin Martin have some varsity experience and could be ready for breakthrough seasons; Colin Virag is a lefty with good control; and senior Phil Sammon and junior Joe Ammirato have shown off-season improvement.

“We think we’re in good shape with our pitching,” said Fabbri. “I think it can be better than people are expecting.”

Elsewhere around the diamond, Ridgefield has some talented returnees. Leading the group is senior shortstop Bryce Maher, an All-FCIAC Central Division selection in 2012 who will play Division I college baseball at UMass.

“He’ll be among the best shortstops in the FCIAC,” said Fabbri about Maher. “He can hit and field and he understands the game.”

Senior Adam Zandri, an All-FCIAC Central pick who batted over .300 last season as designated hitter, moves to second base to replace Harrison Siclare (one of Ridgefield’s two All-FCIAC players last year, along with Callanan), while senior Ryan Debany is back at third base following a solid 2012 season.

Also back is senior centerfielder Timo Muro, an All-FCIAC honorable mention choice along with Debany last spring. A gifted athlete, Muro will anchor the Ridgefield outfield.

As of Tuesday, Fabbri said the Tigers’ other position starters were not yet determined. Seniors Colin O’Meara and Kevin Ash are vying to take over for Eric Jones (All-FCIAC Central Division) at catcher; Martin, Sammon, Ammirato and junior Jack Brewster were batting for the first base spot; and seniors Jason Marra and Rob DePalma, junior Colin Belardinelli, Papa, Virag and Sammon were all in the running for the two corner outfield spots.

“A lot is still up in the air,” said Fabbri, whose team opens the season next Wednesday. “We should have a better read on things once we play some scrimmages.”

With Muro, Zandri and Maher forming a potent opening third to the batting order, and Sammon, Martin and Debany capable of hitting for power, Ridgefield might be able to score its share of runs this spring. The key will be whether the Tigers’ pitching can make those runs stand up.

“If the pitching comes through, we should be in good shape,” said Fabbri. “The FCIAC is a tough league, so you need several good pitchers in order to win consistently.”

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