The Ridgefield High baseball team relied on pitching and defense to reach the state finals for the first time in program history last season. Head coach Paul Fabbri foresees a similar path for more success this spring.
“We might again be built on pitching and defense,” he said. “We scored three runs in our final three games and won two of them last year. We probably won’t be the type of team that can just outscore opponents.”
Ridgefield’s lone loss in those final three contests of 2018 was a tough one: Cheshire scored a run on an infield groundout in the seventh inning to edge the Tigers, 1-0, in the Class L championship game.
Many of the pivotal players from last year’s 20-6 team have graduated, including pitchers Alex Price and Jake Artzt. Price went 7-2 with a 1.51 ERA and Artzt was 5-2 with a 1.69 ERA.
Also gone are several of the Tigers’ top hitters, a group that included outfielder Nick Hanna (.364), shortstop Matt Stamatis (.333), third baseman Pete Columbia (.325), second baseman Quinn McDonald (.304), catcher Ben Cohen (.291), and Price (.338).
“We graduated some very good players, no doubt about that,” said Fabbri, whose team opens the season Saturday on the road against New Milford at noon. “We will have a lot of new faces in the starting lineup.”
One key returnee is junior pitcher Matt DeLuca. DeLuca was sensational as a sophomore, going 5-1 with a 0.45 ERA. DeLuca allowed 23 hits in 46.1 innings, walking 25 batters and striking out 48. He also pitched a no-hitter against New Milford.
“He’s as good as anyone in the state,” said Fabbri about DeLuca, who has committed to Quinnipiac. “I feel good about our chances to win whenever he is on the mound.”
Senior Matt Colucci, junior Keenan Briggs, and sophomore Luke Barrientos are vying for the other two starting spots in the rotation, said Fabbri. Whichever one doesn’t start will figure prominently as a relief pitcher.
“Matt Colucci and Keenan Briggs are both power pitchers who need to throw strikes,” said Fabbri. “Luke Barrientos can also throw hard and he has great poise for a young pitcher.”
Ridgefield’s three most experienced hitters are senior first baseman Nick Cullinan (.333, 12 RBIs), senior leftfielder Matt Restivo (.306), and senior rightfielder Joey Pastore (.262, eight RBIs). “Nick and Matt can hit for average and get on base,” said Fabbri. “Joey Pastore could supply a little power. He hit two home runs last year.”
Junior Johnny Briody, who hit .333 in 14 games, takes over in centerfield, and senior Cole Blackwell will also be in the lineup, possibly at third base.
Senior Sean Livingstone is the starting catcher, and seniors Matt Lavorgna and Thomas Gioffre and juniors Colin Lacoille and Kory Nossan are in the mix for infield starting spots.
“I like our talent and potential,” said Fabbri. “If the pitching comes through, we should be pretty good.”