Baseball preview: Ridgefield hopes Price is right again

Although there were no postseason titles, the 2017 season was still among the best in program history for the Ridgefield High baseball team.

The Tigers finished with a 20-7 record, reaching the FCIAC championship game and the semifinals of the Class LL state tournament.

But with many of that team’s top players having graduated, Ridgefield may not be able to scale similar heights this season.

“To get back to where we were last year [the FCIAC finals and state semifinals] is going to take a lot of work,” said head coach Paul Fabbri. “We lost a bunch of good players.”

Fortunately for Fabbri and the Tigers, they have an ace in senior lefthander Alex Price.

As a junior last spring, Price went 8-1 with a 1.82 ERA and made the All-FCIAC first team and the Class LL all-state squad. He allowed 52 hits over 65.1 innings, walking 22 batters and striking out 72 while holding opponents to a .206 batting average. He also came out of the bullpen to save three games.

“To have him back is awful nice,” said Fabbri about Price, who will play at Middlebury College. “He wants the ball and is a great competitor; he never wants to come out of a game.”

After Price, however, Ridgefield’s pitching staff is unproven. Senior Jake Artzt is the only other returnee and he pitched just 10.1 innings last season. Used as a reliever except for one early season start, Artzt was effective: He went 1-1 and didn’t allow an earned run.

Other pitching options include seniors James McAnn, Pete Columbia and Matt Stamatis, junior Matthew Colucci, sophomores Keenan Briggs and Matthew DeLuca, and freshman Luke Barrientos.

Senior Ben Cohen returns as the starting catcher, but to be strong up the middle Ridgefield must adequately replace second baseman Colin Motill, shortstop Matt Colin, and center fielder John Thrasher.

Stamatis takes over at shortstop, with fellow senior Quinn McDonald starting at second base. Junior Nick Cullinan will be at first base, and Columbia returns at third base.

Vying for starting roles in the outfield are seniors Brandon Grizzaffi and Nick Hanna and juniors Joseph Pastore and Matt Restivo.

Also expected to contribute are seniors Michael Heller and Ty Fujitani and junior Sean Livingstone, who is the backup catcher to Cohen.

At the plate, the Tigers will look for Columbia (.278, 12 RBIs), McDonald (.273, 12 RBIs), Stamatis (.237, 10 RBIs), and Artzt (six RBIs) to be run producers.

“We have some pop in the middle of the lineup with guys like Artzt and Pastore,” said Fabbri. “But by no means are we a power-hitting team.”

Notes: Ridgefield’s biggest graduation loss was All-FCIAC pitcher Collin Lowe, who is now playing at Richmond. Lowe went 6-2 with a 2.44 ERA, allowing 50 hits in 60.1 innings while walking 25 batters and striking out 93. In three seasons as a starter, Lowe was 14-8 with a 3.13 ERA.

The Tigers lost to Wilton, 2-1, in the FCIAC championship game and to eventual state champ Staples, 7-3, in the Class LL semifinals.

Ridgefield is scheduled to open the season on the road Saturday afternoon (4:30) at Newtown. The Tigers’ home opener is next Tuesday (4 p.m.) against New Milford at Ciuccoli Field.