AVON – Last July, the Avon American Legion baseball team won 17 of their first 20 games. But Post 201 hit a wall and their championship hopes faded away as Avon won just one of its final five games.
Simsbury swept a three-game series from Avon to capture Zone 1 championship. In the state tournament, upstart Hartford captured its first state tournament win since the 1940s with 3-2 victory, despite 10 Avon hits. Post 201 stranded 15 runners on base.
Post 201 and their new head coach John Ponziani aren’t looking backward. They are looking ahead. Avon has 13 players returning from last year’s team that went 18-7 and won at least 18 games for the sixth consecutive season.
“This is probably the most depth we’ve had,” Ponziani said. “It’s probably the most talent we’ve had with both teams.” There were years that long-time coach Brian Doyle had just enough players to field a Senior Division (ages 16-19) team. Now, Post 201 also has a Junior Division (ages 13-17) team.
“There is talent in the program,” said Ponziani, who has been an assistant for four years under Doyle. He played two years on the squad beginning in 2009, when it was brought back to life after a nine-year absence. “Our No. 1 goal is to win Zone 1. We were right there last year.”
This summer’s team is a mix of players from Avon High, Northwest Catholic, Avon Old Farms and Loomis Chaffee. One player, Connor McCutcheon, went to high school at Notre Dame-Fairfield this year, where he was a second team All-State hockey player and played baseball.
Leading the pitching staff will be Connor Dunn (6-2, 1.60 ERA, 29 strikeouts with Post 201 last summer), who pitched six games for Williams College earlier this spring. The staff also includes Avon High’s Justin Olson (2-2, 1.88 ERA, 17 strikeouts), Will Boone (4-1, 2.35 ERA, 4 saves) and AOF’s Brady Williamson (2-0, 2.03). Look for Kyle Emery and Connor Harris in the bullpen and picking up spot starts.
While Avon returns four of its top five pitchers from a year ago, they lost their two of their top three hitters – Cody Doyle (.370) and Ben Lombard (.341). However, Brady Williamson (.362) and Loomis Chaffee’s Ben Suski (.324) return along with Andrew Leduc (.275), Olson (.266) and Sean DelGallo (.266). Leduc, Olson and DelGallo each had outstanding springs with the Avon High squad that finished fourth in the North Central Connecticut Conference but won the NCCC Tournament.
Look for DelGallo at first base, Olson at second (when he isn’t pitching) and Ben Suski at shortstop. Avon High’s Jeremy Zarwanski should be catching with Matt Williamson, LeDuc, McCutcheon and Joe Suski in the outfield. However, it’s a versatile group of athletes that can play several positions.
The race for the Zone 1 title will be difficult – as it usually is. Simsbury has a veteran team returning, Southington High advanced to the Class LL semifinal and Bristol is always good. “It’s a very deep zone,” Ponziani said. “It’s as talented as it ever has been.”
Avon won its first Zone 1 championship in 2013. Avon opens the season Friday when they host Winsted at Avon Old Farms beginning at 5:45 p.m.
2015 Avon American Legion baseball
Home games at Avon Old Farms
12: WINSTED, 5:45 p.m.; 13: UNIONVILLE, 1 p.m.; 14: TORRINGTON (2), noon; 17: BRISTOL, 5:45 p.m.; 19: TERRYVILLE, 5:45 p.m.; 21: at Unionville (2), 1 p.m.; 23: at Wolcott; 24: at Simsbury; 25: SOUTHINGTON, 5:45 p.m.; 28: at Terryville (2), 3 p.m.; 29: SOUTHINGTON, 5:45 p.m.; 30: at Winsted, 5:45 p.m.
2: at Bristol, 5:45 p.m.; 5: WOLCOTT (2), 2 p.m.; 8: BRISTOL, 5:30 p.m.; 9: at Southington, 7 p.m.; 11: at Torrington, 7 p.m.; 12: SIMSBURY (2), 1 p.m.; 14: WINSTED, 5:30 p.m.
Final 2014 Zone 1 standings
Regular season only
x-Simsbury 18-6 21-7
Avon 18-6 18-6
Southington 16-8 16-8
Bristol 14-10 19-14-1
Terryville 12-12 13-13
Unionville 10-14 10-14
Wolcott 9-15 9-15
Torrington 9-15 9-15
Winsted 2-22 2-22
x-won Zone 1 title by winning season series against Avon, 3-0