Baseball preview: Pitching a plus for Ridgefield

Relying on pitching, defense and speed, the Ridgefield High baseball team won 14 of 20 regular-season games last season.

Opponents can expect more of the same this year.

“Those areas are going to be our strengths,” said head coach Paul Fabbri. “They give us a chance no matter who we are playing.”

On the mound, the Tigers have a front-of-the-rotation anchor in senior righthander Collin Lowe, who who has signed to play at the University of Richmond. Lowe has won eight games over the past two seasons, going 4-4 in 2016 with a 4.45 ERA. Lowe allowed 48 hits in 44 innings, walking 15 and striking out 45.

Right behind Lowe is junior lefthander Alex Price, one of the breakthrough players for Ridgefield last year. Price went 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA over nine appearances and four starts.

“With Collin Lowe, I think we have as good as a number one starter as there is in the FCIAC,” said Fabbri, whose team opens the season Tuesday at home (4 p.m., Ciuccoli Field) against Bunnell. “And with Alex Price, I think we have as good as a number two starter as there is in the FCIAC. We’re excited about our one-two punch.”

Seniors Andrew Mathes and Joe Signorelli are the leading candidates to become the team’s third starter behind Lowe and Price, with seniors Nick Squiteri and Matt Colin featuring in long relief and also capable of making spot starts.

Jump-starting Ridgefield’s offense is John Thrasher, a senior centerfielder who will play at the University of Hartford. As the Tigers’ leadoff hitter last year, Thrasher batted .464, scored 28 runs and stole an astounding 35 bases (in 22 games), earning spots on the All-FCIAC first team and the New Haven Register All-State second team.

“He can hit and steal bases, and he can also cover an enormous amount of room in center field with his speed,” said Fabbri about Thrasher, who may also come out of the bullpen as a closer. “He’s right up there with the best centerfielders in the state.”

Batting second in the order, senior second baseman Colin Motill was another standout for the Tigers last season. Motill hit .348 with 15 runs scored and 14 RBIs and also stole 15 bases.

“Having those two (Thrasher and Motill) at the top of the lineup is a big advantage for us,” said Fabbri. “They put pitchers under pressure whenever they get on base.”

Back at shortstop is Colin, a smooth defensive player who batted .286 last spring. “Matt has real good range in the field, and he can also hit. He’s going to bat third behind Thrasher and Motill,” said Fabbri. “With him at short, Motill at second and Thrasher in centerfield, we are really strong up the middle.”

Senior Lucas Furneri, one of the team’s top power bats, will split time at first base with Price and also be used as a designated hitter. Promising junior Quinn MacDonald takes over at third base, with seniors Dan Ignatowich (left field) and Tony Macchia (right field) also moving into starting roles.

The Tigers will have another newcomer behind the plate, as juniors Ben Cohen and Ty Fujitani are vying to become the starting catcher.

“We do have a bunch of guys who are starting for the first time,” said Fabbri. “But I think they are all capable of making the adjustment.

“The biggest question for us this year is are we going to hit?” added Fabbri. “We’re all set at the top of the order, but we need production throughout the lineup.”

Notes: Ridgefield finished the 2016 season with a 14-8 record, losing to Norwalk in the FCIAC quarterfinals and Staples in the first round of the Class LL state tournament.

Lowe and Motill both made the All-FCIAC West Division team last year.

Ridgefield's biggest graduation loss was outfielder AJ Fabbri, an All-FCIAC and Connecticut High School Coaches Association All-State first team choice last season.