By MICHAEL LETENDRE
The baseball and softball programs from St. Paul Catholic had excellent campaigns over the 2018 scholastic season and the same should be said of this year.
Vic Rinaldi enters his fourth season at the helm for the baseball squad while long time softball coach Gary Hovhanessian will look to make his 15th campaign a banner one for the program.
Both teams are athletic and each lost just a couple performers from last year.
Pitching and defense are always on the slate at St. Paul Catholic as two experienced squads retake the fields once again this spring and facing all the top squads of two very strong Naugatuck Valley League divisions.
Here’s a look at both squads:
ST PAUL CATHOLIC BASEBALL
Head Coach: Vic Rinaldi (fourth year)
Overall Record: 165-61
Last season’s Ledger: 19-7, which included postseason wins in both the NVL Tournament and Class S bracket.
2018 Tournament: The Falcons were the third-ranked squad in the Class S tournament, going 2-1 in postseason play. St. Paul Catholic defeated No. 30 Housatonic (14-), No. 19 St. Bernard (9-0) before falling to No. 3 Notre Dame-Fairfield (7-1) on May 2 in the quarterfinal round.
Strength: Returning players, pitching
Key Losses: Ryan Greene (All-Copper), Nick Morrell
Players to Watch: Chris Mills (sr.), Sean Crean (sr.), Dylan Gagnon (sr.), Julian Thayer (jr., All-Copper/All-State), Ethan Rembish (jr., All-Copper), Ryan Parent (jr., All-Copper), Walker Sharp (jr.), Josh Cofrancesco (jr.).
What to expect from the Falcons: Pitching and defense usually fuels this squad and expect more of the same this year.
The Falcons graduated a couple key players but a bulk of the line-up returns to the field.
But in the St. Paul Catholic program, all those talented players get into the line-up as underclassmen and usually are productive early on.
Pitching will be a strength once again with several arms back in the rotation.
Junior Ethan Rembish is a beast on the mound, going 7-2 overall last season, and is one of the featured arms of the program and the division. He started two postseason games and will be one of the leaders of the squad this year.
Fellow junior Julian Thayer got a tournament win under his belt last season and has a stick in the line-up that will produce runs for the Falcons. He was the Falcons’ representative last season on the All-State squad.
Others that could factor in the rotation includes seniors Scott Winters, Dylan Gagnon, among others.
Senior Chris Mills, senior Sean Crean, junior Walker Sharp, Thayer, Rembish, and Gagnon will help carry the load both offensively and defensively.
And while this crew has some veteran elements, St. Paul Catholic will go as far as its younger players can take it.
But this team will contend for the division title and could end up as the NVL’s best when June rolls around.
The NVL division is talented from top to bottom and there won’t be any night’s off for the program including battles with Class M champion Seymour, Woodland, Wolcott and the like.
In an exciting, non-conference bout, the St. Paul Catholic baseball team will travel to Dunkin Donuts Park in Hartford on April 23 as the program squares off against Litchfield at 6:35 p.m.
It will be a chance for the squad to battle a quality Berkshire League opponent Hartford’s beautiful venue.
ST PAUL CATHOLIC SOFTBALL
Head Coach: Gary Hovhanessian (15th year)
Overall Record: 176-130
Last season’s Ledger: 21-5 overall; 17-3 regular season.
2018 Tournament: As the No. 2 seed in the Class S bracket, the Falcons defeated No. 31 Windsor Locks (4-3) in first round action, turned away No. 18 Somers (7-6) in the second before falling to Class S runner-up – No. 7 Holy Cross – by a 7-3 final in the quarters.
Strength: Pitching, depth
Key Losses: Lindsey O’Bright (OF/C), Katelynn Oullette (1B), Crowley.
Players to Watch: Abby Poirot (sr., P, All-State), Jessica Persechino (sr., SS-P), Katrina Roy (jr., UT, C), Janessa Gonzalez (jr., 3B), Cari Marchak (sr.), McKenzie Gauthier (sr.), Rebecca Nerbonne (sr.), Caleigh Mcdougall (so.), Janessa Gonzalez (jr., infielder).
What to expect from the Falcons: A boatload of the 2018 crew is back, looking for another 20-win campaign and a high seed in the Class S state tournament fray.
Pitching will once again be a strength of the squad as All-Stater Abby Poirot went 15-5 overall over 20 games – carrying a strong 2.73 ERA and striking out 219.
Poirot was also an offensive standout, posting a .490 average, 47 hits, 26 runs, and 44 RBI.
The offense will be strong as well with all those returning players.
Jessica Persechino had one heck of a junior campaign last season, batting .495 with 49 hits, 52 runs scored, and 27 RBI. She was also a strong proponent of the infield defense.
Katrina Roy (catcher) had an excellent sophomore campaign and led the team with a .519 average from the plate. She smacked out 41 hits, notched 40 runs, and collected 15 RBI.
She played extremely well against Somers in the second round of state tournament play and expect the junior to be one of the featured players on the squad once again.
Cari Marchak (.282 average, 20 hits, 13 RBI) will also produce for the Falcons along with seniors McKenzie Gauthier, Rebecca Nerbonne, sophomore Caleigh Mcdougall, among others.
And don’t forget the return of junior Janessa Gonzalez, an outstanding third baseman, who was out the entire 2018 campaign due to her knee injury from hoop.
In her first 20 games of her freshman season, she batted .466 and helped her squad get to the Class S championship game.
With all that being said, will this be the season that St. Paul Catholic finally gets by Holy Cross in June?
The Falcons and Crusaders always play spirited regular season bouts.
St. Paul Catholic defeated Holy Cross 6-5 on April 30 from Bristol last season and the locals are eager to get that team in the postseason – if their paths ever cross.
The rematch takes place on May 1 from Waterbury while the Falcons takes it shot against Bristol Eastern (May 14) in a long-awaited battle between the Mum City rivals.
Poirot versus the Lancers’ Erin Girard is going to be a good one.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Michael Letendre, email him at MLetendre@BristolObserver.com.