BRISTOL – The Bristol Eastern baseball team had a very good regular season run in a tough Central Connecticut Conference in 2018 and then pulled off two upsets – and nearly a third – over a spirited state tournament jaunt before running out of pitching arms.
And speaking of pitching, the Lancers will be returning more than a few arms and the likes of Jagger Duquette, Ethan Ray and Trevor Mays should help fuel this team once again.
True, the Lancers lost a lot of its offensive components but several starters are back and Eastern will take the field with some experienced hands.
Here’s a look at the Lancers in 2018:
Head Coach: Mike Giovinazzo (45th year)
Overall Record: 593-329-3
Last season’s Ledger: 12-8 regular season, 6-2 CCC South (first place CCC South Patriot Division, 2-1 in postseason play, 14-9 overall.
2018 Tournament: The Lancers, ranked 20th in the Class L tournament, upset No. 13 Fitch (12-6) and No. 4 Waterford (4-3) in 14 innings before falling to No. 12 Branford 2-1 in eight frames over a two-day odyssey that nearly saw the Bristol squad run out of gas money.
All Conference Performers from 2018: Jagger Duquette, Cory Fradette, Mac Goulet, & Josh Nohilly
Weakness/Question Mark: Offensive/defensive production
Key Losses: Josh Nohilly (OF/P); Cory Fradette (SS/P); Mac Goulet (sr., 3B); Alex DeNote (P/OF); Dave Bernier (C); Shane Caron (P/OF); John McPhee (OF); Jon Pierce (1B/DH).
Players to Watch: Matt D’Amato (jr., 2B); Ethan Ryan (sr., P/SS); James Dauphinee (sr., 1B/P); Jagger Duquette (sr., P); Noah Hickey (sr., CF); Trevor Mays (sr., P); Carson Sassu (sr., C); Anthony Marrotti (jr., SS); Jack Kozikowski (jr., P/3B); Jacob Bouchard (sr., 1B/P); Dylan Woodsome (so., P/LF); Devan Jacques (so., C/DH); Ian Latko (sr., RF); Tyler Donohue (so., OF/P); Alex Canzellarini (so., SS/P); Ryan Fradette (so), Andrew Dozier (so).
What to expect from the Lancers: The Bristol Eastern baseball team was possibly one rain-delay away from advancing to the Class L semifinals but ended up one run short off a brilliant postseason jaunt last year.
This year, the Lancers bring back a bulk of their pitching which is certainly one of the strengths of the squad.
Those returners combined for 11 victories (out of the 14) from last season and will be a tough trio to top once again.
Senior Jagger Duquette (7-2 overall, 2.03 ERA, 60 Ks) won half of the Lancers’ games off a big junior campaign.
He did an excellent job setting pace and tempo and will be one of the leaders of the squad.
Senior Ethan Ryan ended the season with a perfect 3-0 ledger, a 2.44 ERA, striking out 28 batters while walking just 10.
And senior Travis Mays (1-2) also showed promise as well, throwing over 24 innings and picking up a ton of experience along the way.
“We’ve got three guys back that threw several varsity innings and we’re counting on them to, at least, anchor the staff so to say,” said Giovinazzo.
While the pitching is one component, Eastern will have to find some new positional players among its line-up.
Senior Carson Sassu (.267 average, 16 hits, six RBI) was a nice hand in the outfield last year and will move to catcher for his final season at Eastern.
The versatile athlete behind the plate will certainly augment that pitching staff.
“He’s a work-in-progress,” said Giovinazzo of Sassu. “He’s a student of the game. He really provides a lot of leadership back there. I’m not saying that he’s Johnny Bench yet but he’s come a long way and I really like his attitude back there.”
Ever-improving Noah Hickey (.358 average) is looking for a big campaign in centerfield while junior Matt D’Amato will bring his usual defense back to second base and his .291 batting average fell below the radar last season.
They’re some defensive questions surrounding this team to start the year and it’s going to be up to the D’Amato’s and the like to set the tone around the horn.
“We’re a work-in-progress defensively,” said Giovinazzo. “I’ve not been really pleased with the defense early in the year. We’re going to have to get better at it.”
Several players also will have to step up for the Lancers offensively this year and Giovinazzo knows that is going to be another challenge over the entire season.
The Lancers batted a healthy .264 last year and the hope is to replicate that outstanding average.
“We lost quite a bit of our hitting,” said Giovinazzo. “With Mac Goulet, Cory Fraddette, Josh Nohilly and John Pierce, they were very, very productive offensively for us. They will not be easy to replace.”
Other standouts for Eastern includes senior James Dauphinee (first base), junior Anthony Marrotti (shortstop), Jack Kozikowski (third base), senior Jacob Bouchard (first base/pitcher), junior Devan Jacques (catcher/DH), and senior Ian Latko (right field).
But there is also a talented sophomore class that has taken the field in preseason games.
Sophomore’s Dylan Woodsome (pitcher/left field), Tyler Donohue (outfield/pitcher), Alex Canzellarini (shortstop/pitcher), Ryan Fradette and Andrew Lozier are in the mix as well.
“They’re getting a look in the scrimmages,” said Giovinazzo of his sophomore class. “I’m not saying there going to be there every day but they could possibly see some playing time.”
A 10-10 finish by the Lancers could be a realistic expectation for the squad this year and that’s based on that outstanding pitching core.
“To be honest, I’d be happy if we’re around the .500 mark,” said Giovinazzo. “We’ve got a tough schedule and I really, really question if we’re going to be able to replace that offense [from last season] enough to make some noise. But our pitching should keep us in all our games. That’s what we’re counting on.”
CCC South, Patriot Division Outlook: That three-team division includes Bristol Central and Plainville and Giovinazzo admits those two squads are going to be tough outs.
“Plainville and Bristol Central both have good programs,” said Giovinazzo. “You’re not going to walk in there and beat any of those teams just by throwing your gloves on in the field.”
“I always expect a battle with those two teams.”
And on the other side of the South, two teams stand out for Giovinazzo.
“Berlin and Platt are very good teams,” said Giovinazzo. “They’ll provide a lot of opposition for us.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Michael Letendre, email him at MLetendre@BristolObserver.com.