North Haven Baseball Maintains Great Expectations Entering 2018

Chris Piccirillo, Sports EditorContact Reporter

Published Mar 31, 2018 • Last Updated 01:00 pm, March 31, 2018

Bob DeMayo is back for his 60th season as the head coach of the North Haven baseball team this spring. DeMayo’s club is coming off a campaign that saw the Indians win 18 ballgames and play their way all the way to the championship game of the Class L State Tournament. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)

The North Haven baseball team graduated 13 seniors from a club that notched 18 victories and advanced to the championship game of the Class L State Tournament last spring. For many programs, the expectation following this many graduations would be to go through a rebuilding season the next year, but not the North Haven baseball team. After all, the Indians are a postseason contender every year and have won five state titles with Head Coach Bob DeMayo, who’s entering his 60th year as the Indians’ skipper. DeMayo said that his players are determined to get back to the state final and capture the program’s sixth state championship in 2018.

“If you talk to the kids, they’re saying that we’re going back to win the final game. Their aspiration is to get back in the tournament and go all the away,” DeMayo said. “Those are high expectations for the lack of experience we have, but I’m right there with them. That is what we expect.”

Two of the athletes who are leading this rallying cry for North Haven are the team’s senior captains: catcher Kevin Lucey and center fielder Peyton Farina. In his first season as the Indians’ catcher, Lucey was named their Most Improved Player after hitting. 338 with 12 walks and 13 RBI last year. Farina batted .412 and scored 21 runs on his way to making the All-SCC Quinnipiac Team and the All-State Team.

“They are two phenomenal kids as far as what they do to keep the team together. They’ve been great,” said DeMayo of his captains. “Kevin is not only an exceptional leader, he’s one of best defensive receivers. He works the corners, he’s great on balls in dirt, and he just has a presence back there. He’s one of the best in the league. Peyton is an electric kind of player. He can get on base, he can run, he can do a lot of things that get things going. And he’s become a good leader.”

The leader of North Haven’s pitching staff will be senior right-hander Luca Lawrence, who earned All-Quinnipiac accolades by posting a 2.06 earned-run average with three wins in 64 innings pitched last season. However, Lawrence is the only returning pitcher who saw any significant varsity time in 2017. With the graduation of last year’s ace and team MVP Brendan Clark, along with few other key pitchers, North Haven’s staff will feature several people who have experience pitching at a high level, but are diving into the varsity fray at the high school for the first time this season.

In addition to Lawrence, North Haven’s pitching staff will include senior right-handers Chris Ciarleglio, Nate Zalegowski, and Zach Pincince; senior lefty Hunter Garthwait, junior rightie Ben Sbabo, and junior southpaws John Gontarek and Leo Konopka. Coach DeMayo knows that these pitchers need to adjust to life on the varsity mound quickly, so they can give the Indians some quality innings this year.

“The only pitcher that got any amount of work who is returning is Luca Lawrence. He’s a gamer. He wants the ball, he throws strikes, and, if we play good defense behind him, I think he’ll do well,” DeMayo said. “We have a lot of pitchers and, hopefully, two or three or five of them will step up and fill that void left by Brendan Clark, Preston Young, and all the pitchers we had last year. They have some experience, they have a great attitude, and I think they’ll do it.”

Lucey will be once again working with the pitchers as North Haven’s catcher this season. The Indians’ backup catchers are sophomore Dave Christoforo, who will also see time at designated hitter, and senior Dylan Brockamer.

Junior shortstop Matt Solomon is anchoring the infield as the lone returning starter on the heels of a season that saw him hit .276 with 14 walks and 23 runs scored. Senior Andrew Laudano is slated to play first base for the Indians and will be backed up by Garthwait and Zalegowski. At second base, Coach DeMayo said there’s been a great competition going on between senior Nick Perillie and junior Danny Cannavaciolo. There’s also been some competition for the third-base job with the edge going to sophomore Matt DeRosa, who can additionally play second and short. DeMayo said that senior Mike Salzano and junior Gianni DiMartino are also in the mix at the hot corner.

In the outfield, Farina is back to patrol center field for North Haven, while last year’s designated hitter, senior Steven Erbe, is slated to start in left field. Junior Justin Shea gets the call-up from the JV ranks and will play right field. Garthwait can also play the outfield, and senior Christian Somma will serve as a backup infielder and outfielder, as well as a pinch runner.

Coach DeMayo said that it’s integral for North Haven to play sound defense this season to take the pressure off its pitchers and allow his offense to utilize its trademark small-ball style.

“We don’t have strikeout pitching. If we get five in a game, that is a lot, so our defense will have to step up, and I think that can happen with a lot of work and a lot of coaching,” said DeMayo. “We can only give up three outs per inning—not four or five—to help our pitching. If we get that and play the kind of baseball we normally play—pressure baseball, bunt and run, and keep the game close—then success will come. But if we let ourselves get behind by four or five runs, then we can’t play that way, and we’ll be in trouble. Only time will tell.”

Although the Indians have some question marks entering the season, Coach DeMayo said there’s no question about the attitude that his athletes are bringing to the diamond this year. DeMayo is pleased to see that all of North Haven’s ballplayers are putting their nose to the grindstone in an effort to make 2018 another historic year in town.

“They have a great work ethic. They have a lot of hustle. That’s why I still keep going out there is because of the attitude of the kids,” he said. “They really want to improve themselves and like one another and have enthusiasm. These are the kinds of kids we have here in North Haven.”

As he gets ready for season No. 60 in the dugout, Coach DeMayo said he’s happy that the long, cold winter has finally come to a close, so he can once again do what he loves during the springtime.

“Well, the weather gets colder, the wind increases, and it gets tougher, but once I get out there, it’s just like the old book, The Boys of Summer, and that’s just it,” DeMayo said. “I’m excited about it all the time. My wife is excited about it. She loves to come to games and, as long as the two of us are in it and my truck still runs, I’ll go out there.”

From the Sidelines

This season, North Haven baseball Head Coach Bob DeMayo is being joined two new varsity assistant coaches in Lou Elia and Kevin Fuggi. Justin Falcon returns as head coach of the Indians’ JV team, and Mike Proto is back for another year as head coach of North Haven’s freshman team.

North Haven is once again playing in the SCC Quinnipiac Division with Xavier, East Haven, and Branford. The Indians will face all three of those teams twice, and they also have two games against fellow SCC opponents Jonathan Law, Sheehan, Shelton, Notre Dame-West Haven, and Cheshire, plus a pair of contests versus non-conference squad North Branford. North Haven will also host non-conference opponents Fairfield Ludlowe and Joel Barlow this season.

The Indians have claimed five state championships in their history. North Haven won the Class LL state title in 1975 and 1982, in addition to taking the Class L state title in 1985, 2003, and 2015.

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