By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The weather has absolutely played havoc with the start of the spring scholastic season this year.
And from baseball to golf to track to softball to tennis, conditions have not been ideal for outside practice and play.
The Bristol Central baseball team finally got outside for its first practice on March 26 but the fields they played on weren’t exactly in tip-top shape.
“I’ve had two scrimmages,” said Bristol Central coach Bunty Ray as of March 26. “One was in the snow and the one at Fitch was against the number two team in the state (Amity).”
It’s hard to make any real assessments when your play is confined inside a gymnasium and that’s been a challenge for Ray and the Rams.
But in any case, Central knows what it has in ace thrower Matt Blandino.
It’s the other parts of the Central offense that needs work.
“Matt is Matt and he’s going to keep us in games,” said Ray of his star pitcher. “I don’t know if we’re the same team offensively. Matt threw a lot of games last year and he was able to just turn it loose especially when we were up so many runs.”
The Rams were able to beat up on several opponents last season and when necessary – even on days Blandino wasn’t starting on the mound – he was able to come in off the bench and earn a couple saves in some close calls.
“Matt was able to line up and throw against every top team in the South,” said Ray of last season.
But Blandino getting into those games was helped by the fact of the barrage of runs the squad scored and Ray needs that same kind of offense from this group this season.
And with Jarrett Michaels also in the pitching mix this year, getting significant leads only enhance that pitching when Blandino is not on the mound.
“Last year, we scored at least seven or eight runs a game on average,” said Ray about the Central offense. “That’s a lot easier when pitching with a lead. Actually, our defense was pretty solid as well.”
Because of the slow start to the preseason this year, the team is a little bit behind defensively.
The talent is there, however, to once again be a nightmare on the field with the likes of senior Andrew Laviero catching, senior Justen Jakubiak at first base, Joey DeFillippi or Andrew Martin at second, Elijah Minella at shortstop and Mitch Guilmette at third base.
“Defensively, with the weather and everything, we’re behind where we were last year,” said Ray. “But when things are all said and done, I think that team can be a pretty good defensive team. We’ve only been on the field three times so it’s hard for me to gauge where we are defensively.”
Central is the defending CCC South champions and didn’t lose a game in conference play in 2012.
Needless to say, the Rams will once again be the hunted on the diamond and there won’t be any nights off for this outstanding program.
“I don’t think we’ll catch anyone by surprise,” said Ray. “Over the years, traditionally, everyone’s come at us with their best efforts. People seem to get up for us and that’s because of our past success. Everyone knows we have quality kids and a quality program.”
“I don’t think anyone is going to be surprised about what we bring.”