What you need to know about the 2022 CIAC baseball quarterfinals

Photo of Scott Ericson
Fairfield Warde's John Heitzman high fives Jake Balogh after scoring a run during a baseball game between Trumbull and Fairfield Warde at Trumbull High, Trumbull on Friday, May 20, 2022.

Fairfield Warde's John Heitzman high fives Jake Balogh after scoring a run during a baseball game between Trumbull and Fairfield Warde at Trumbull High, Trumbull on Friday, May 20, 2022.

Pete Paguaga / Hearst Connecticut

The CIAC state baseball tournaments are heading to the quarterfinals with just 32 teams left.

In the remaining field are teams with championship experience, teams that have never been there and teams that haven’t played for a championship since Lyndon Johnson was president.

By Saturday night, we will have each class’ final four in place and be one pitch closer to Palmer Field.

Before we get there, let us take a look at some key storylines heading into the quarterfinals.

Title Hunt

Of the teams remaining in the tournaments, only Hand, seeded No. 12 in Class L, remains as a defending champion. Norwalk (LL), Coginchaug (S) and East Catholic (M) were all eliminated in the first two rounds.

That obviously gives Hand the shortest time between titles of the remaining teams.

Among the remaining teams in all classes, nine have never won a state title: Glastonbury, Killingly, Suffield, Northwestern, Woodland, Maloney, North Branford, Valley Regional and Somers.

Glastonbury is the only team left in Class LL without a state title.

Southington has appeared in 13 state championship games, the best in Class LL, but second of all the remaining teams. However, the Blue Knights have not won a state title since 1999, last appearing in the 2019 championship game.

Of the other teams in LL, Fairfield Warde has not won since Andrew Warde won in 1981 and Xavier has not won since 1980, though both appeared in state finals in the last 12 years. A unified Fairfield High won Class LL in 2002. Fairfield had one high school from 1988-2003.

Maloney is the only school left in Class L which has not won a state championship. Maloney last played in a final in 1995.

East Lyme has the longest drought, last winning in 1989, though Windsor and Middletown are not far behind, last winning state titles in 1991.

Class M has the most remaining teams that have never won titles with Killingly, Suffield, Northwestern and Woodland never taking home crowns.

Killingly last made the finals in 1973, while Woodland and Suffield have never reached the final game.

Of the other teams, Joel Barlow has not won a title since 1964, which was also its only title game appearance.

Waterford, with 17 appearances in finals, has the most trips to championship games among the remaining teams, last winning in 2019.

Old Lyme has the longest stretch of the teams remaining in Class S, last winning in 1998 but reaching a final in 2006.

Every team in Class S has made it to the championship game at some point with Valley Regional not making an appearance since 1971.

CCC-FCIAC Showdown

Last year the FCIAC had four teams in the Class LL semifinals.

That will not be possible this year, though they could put three teams in the semis with representation in all but one of the quarterfinals. The other quarterfinal has CCC rivals Newington and Southington facing off, putting one CCC team in the semifinals. Trumbull plays Staples, assuring the FCIAC of one semifinalist as well.

The intriguing matchup here is No. 3 Warde (FCIAC) hosting No. 11 Glastonbury (CCC).

Glastonbury has done work against the FCIAC this season, beating Westhill in the regular season and then eliminating both No. 22 Westhill and No. 6 Ridgefield in the first two rounds.

Coincidently, Warde has only faced CCC teams in the state tournament, beating No. 30 Simsbury and No. 14 Conard.

The teams have five common opponents this season, a high number for teams from different conferences. Warde beat Berlin, Simsbury, Conard and Westhill (twice), but lost to Ridgefield. Glastonbury beat Westhill (twice), Ridgefield, Berlin and Simsbury (twice), but lost to Conard.

The CCC has four teams left in Class L and could place four teams in the semifinals.

The FCIAC only had two teams (St. Joseph in Class M and Wilton in Class L) outside of Class LL, but both lost in the first round.

Surprises

The biggest surprise so far has to be No. 29 Middletown in Class L, which would have to play its next two games in the tournament on the road if it has any hope of getting back to Middletown, which hosts the state finals at Palmer Field.

As it is, the Dragons are in the quarterfinals for the first time in 31 years and will face defending champion, No. 12 seed Hand. Middletown has taken down No. 4 Platt and No. 13 Torrington in the first two rounds.

Weston had to win a qualifying round game, 2-1 over Cromwell, just to get into the final 32, but then the Trojans knocked off No. 1 seed Nonnewaug, handing it just its second loss of the season.

That opened things up for No. 17 Sheehan out of the SCC, which beat Weston and now faces No. 8 Killingly.

No. 21 Suffield upset No. 12 Tolland in the first round, then got a home game, beating No. 28 Ledyard in the second round.

The prize for those wins is a date with No. 4 seed Barlow and their Stanford-bound ace Matt Scott.

School Of Choice Debate

It is nothing new, but as long as schools of choice that can draw students from multiple towns play in Class S alongside tiny public schools, the debate will continue.

While No. 20 Northwest Catholic and No. 12 Immaculate are lower seeds in Class S, few are surprised to see both of them in the quarterfinals as schools routinely make runs through small public schools in the lower divisions.

That winner of that game guarantees at least one school in the semifinals will be a school of choice.

No. 1 St. Paul has multiple players going to play Division I college baseball and reached the Class S final last season, but stayed in S and is the No. 1 seed with a quarterfinal matchup against North Branford.

A silver lining for public schools, the four teams remaining in the lower half of the draw are all public schools, assuring a public school a spot in the championship.

A private school has won Class S four of the last six seasons with 2019 being the only time in that stretch that no Catholic school played in a S final.

There are no private schools remaining in the other three divisions.

Class M is also guaranteed at least one double-digit seed in the semifinals as No. 11 Waterford will host No. 19 Law.

No. 9 North Branford will be the next team to try and knock No. 1 St. Paul out.

Class S will also get a double-digit seed into a semifinal as No. 12 Immaculate will host No. 20 NW Catholic.

How The Top 10 Fared

All season, GameTimeCT has state media vote for the top 10 teams in the state.

In theory, those teams would still be playing in the quarterfinals despite the random nature of a one-and-done baseball tournament.

So how did the voters do so far?

The top four teams, Warde, Windsor, Xavier and St. Paul are all still alive.

The next three, Ridgefield, Amity and Fairfield Prep are out.

No. 8 ranked Newington and No. 10 Southington are alive and will play each other while No. 9 Brookfield is out.

sericson@stamfordadvocate.com