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Canton Crushers hope to continue growth in Tri-State League campaign

Taylor Riley is one of many pitchers that return for the Canton Crushers Tri-State League baseball team. The Crushers open their fourth season on Sunday in Bethlehem.

CANTON, May 20 – The Canton Crushers baseball team has continued to grow and progress in their first three seasons in the Tri-State League. Fourth-year skipper Tom Dubois hopes the Crushers can take the next step this summer – a winning record and a playoff berth.

Canton returns a solid core of players from last year’s squad that had the most wins in team history. But the Crushers (5-13) also added some talented newcomers.

Sean Allaire, a Bristol native who was the 2010 player of the year in the Northeast Conference while playing at Central Connecticut State, joins the team. He batted a team-leading .426 and matched a school record with 100 hits with 22 doubles and 73 RBI for the Blue Devils in 2010. He played a year of professional baseball in the Frontier League before moving into coaching.

Sean Allare was an assistant coach at CCSU in 2016.

Allaire spent two years as an assistant coach at the University of Hartford and one year at Central Connecticut State. He is now an assistant coach at Glastonbury High.

Pitcher Taylor Landry was the NEWMAC pitcher of the year for WPI in 2015, leading the conference in strikeouts (51) and innings pitched (66.1). He has spent the past two summers with the Thomaston Threshers but the team has disbanded.

Mike Zammett, who played on two Bristol American Legion state championship teams, joins the team along with youngster Matt Rose, who played at Avon High.

Taylor Riley (2B), Heath Cotton (SS), Jim Spirito (OF), Jake Bryant (infield) and Chris Van deBogart (CF) all return for the Crushers. All of them can pitch, too. Spirito was 2-4 a year ago while Cotton had two saves. Riley and Bryant also had wins for the Crushers.

“Our goal for the summer is to end the season with a winning record and make the playoffs, “ Dubois said. “With added strength to our pitching staff I feel like they will put us in good position to win every game.”

The Canton Crushers won two of their final three games to end the 2016 campaign on a high note.

Spirito is the veteran mentor on the staff. A former Canton High and Eastern Connecticut State University pitcher, Spirito has been playing in the Tri-State League for years. He struck out 15 batters in a 2007 game against the Naugatuck Dogs and was drafted to play in the Stan Musial state tournament.

Riley, who grew up in Simsbury, was a pitcher at Manchester Community College and with the Simsbury Sabercats in the Connecticut Collegiate Baseball League. Bryant, an Avon native, has some pitching experience for his days at Eastern Connecticut State and with the Crushers. Cotton was a pitcher at Canton High.

The Crushers open the season on Sunday at Bethlehem at Gallup Field to face the Plowboys at 11 a.m. before playing their first home game against the former Brass City Brew from Prospect who are now known as Blasius Chevrolet on Thursday, May 25 at 5:45 p.m. at Bowdoin Field.

Canton will play eight of 19 games at Bowdoin Field.

Eighteen teams return for the Tri-State League as they kick off their 84th season of action on Sunday. Defending league champion Watertown (32-5) beat Naugatuck, 2-1 in the best-of-three league championship series last August. Watertown won the Stan Musial state tournament and finished second in the AABC World Series championship in Waterbury to Albany, N.Y.

For the second straight year, Waterbury has been named as a host city for the AABC World Series with games scheduled to played at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury, Fuessenich Park in Torrington and Harbor Yard in Bridgeport. Tri-State League commissioner Ed Gadomski has been named as the tournament director. Two Connecticut teams will receive invitations to the 12-team national tournament.

NOTES: Canton was 1-17 in its debut season in 2014 and improved to 2-16 in 2015. A year ago, the Crushers pitched better than they did in their first two seasons. Canton dropped a 1-0 decision to league champion Watertown and fell short in 2-0 losses to Amenia and Bethlehem and a 4-0 loss to Brass City. The Crushers ended the 2016 season with two straight wins over Southington, 5-3 and East Mountain, 9-7. Against East Mountain, Canton erased a four-run deficit with nine runs in the seventh and eighth inning to earn the win.

Canton Crushers 2017 Tri-State Baseball
Sunday, May 21            at Bethlehem, 11 a.m.
Thursday, May 25         BLASIUS CHEVROLET-Prospect, 5:45 p.m.
Sunday, May 28            at Tri-Town (Community Field, Litchfield), 11 a.m.
Thursday, June 1          EAST MOUNTAIN, 5:45 p.m.
Sunday, June 4             AMENIA, N.Y., 4 p.m.
Wednesday, June 7      at Torrington (Fussenich Park), 7 p.m.
Thursday, June 8          BURLINGTON, 5:45 p.m.
Sunday, June 11           SOUTHINGTON, 4 p.m.
Thursday, June 15        at Winsted, 6 p.m.
Sunday, June 17           at Tribury (Holy Cross-Waterbury), 1 p.m.
Thursday, June 22        at Naugatuck (Rotary Field), 8 p.m.
Sunday, June 25           at Watertown (Deland Field), 11 a.m.
Sunday, June 25: Tri-State All-Star Game, Community Field, Litchfield, 4 p.m.
Thursday, July 6            VALLEY THUNDER-Wolcott, 5:45 p.m.
Saturday, July 8            at East Mountain (Crosby-Waterbury), 1 p.m.
Sunday, July 9              at Amenia, N.Y., 1 p.m.
Thursday, July 13         at Terryville (old Terryville HS), 5:45 p.m.
Sunday, July 16            at Bristol (Bristol Central), 1 p.m.
Thursday, July 18         LITCHFIELD, 5:45 p.m.
Saturday, July 22          WOLCOTT, 11 a.m.
Home games at Bowdoin Field, Canton

2016 Tri-State League Lg. TriSt CT WS Overall
Watertown Blaze 17-1 6-2 5-0 4-2 32-5
Naugatuck Dogs 16-2 5-3 3-2 0-2 24-9
Wolcott Scrappers 15-3 1-2 0-2 16-7
Terryville Black Sox 15-3 1-2 0-2 16-7
Bethlehem Plowboys 14-4 4-3 18-7
Tri-Town Trojans 12-6 5-3 17-9
Torrington Rebels 11-7 2-2 13-9
Litchfield Cowboys 9-8 3-2 12-10
Winsted Whalers 8-9 0-2 9-10
Bristol Greeners 8-9 0-2 8-11
Tribury Twisters 7-10 0-2 7-12
Brass City Brew 7-10 0-2 7-12
Southington 66ers 6-11 6-11
Amenia NY Monarches 4-9 4-9
Canton Crushers 5-13 5-13
Thomaston Threshers 4-14 4-14
Burlington Hunters 2-15 2-15
Valley Thunder 2-16 2-16
East Mountain Cougars 1-15 1-15

TriSt – League playoffs
CT – Stan Musial state tournament
WS – AABC World Series tournament

2016 Tri-State League playoffs
First round (Best of 3)
Top four teams get a first-round bye
Thursday, July 21
Bethlehem 11, Brass City 7
Tri-Town 13, Tribury 1
Torrington 7, Bristol 6 (10)
Litchfield 9, Winsted 1
Friday, July 22
Bethlehem 10, Brass City 9
Tri-Town 10, Tribury 9
Torrington 8, Bristol 3
Litchfield 9, Winsted 0

Second round (Best of 3)
Sunday, July 31
Litchfield 13, Watertown 6
Bethlehem 12, Terryville 6
Wolcott 3, Tri-Town 2
Naugatuck 2, Torrington 0
Monday, August 1
Tri-Town 5, Wolcott 4
Naugatuck 15, Torrington 1
Tuesday, August 2
Watertown 17, Litchfield 1
Terryville 6, Bethlehem 2
Tri-Town 23, Wolcott 6
Wednesday, August 3
Bethlehem 3, Terryville 0
Watertown 8, Litchfield 1

Semifinals (Best of 3)
Wednesday, August 10
Tri-Town 6, Naugatuck 4
Watertown 11, Bethlehem 2
Thursday, August 11
Watertown 3, Bethlehem 0
Friday, August 12
Naugatuck 11, Tri-Town 5
Sunday, August 14
Naugatuck def. Tri-Town

Championship (Best-of-3)
Monday, August 15
Watertown 4, Naugatuck 2
Tuesday, August 16
Naugatuck 5, Watertown 2
Wednesday, August 17
Watertown 3, Naugatuck 1

2016 Tri-State League award winners
MVP: Tony Patane (Watertown Blaze)
Silver Slugger: Kyle Murphy (Naugatuck Dogs)
Cy Young: Billy Armstrong (Terryville Black Sox)

2016 All-Star Team:
C Steve Harrison (Litchfield Cowboys)
1B Devin Murphy (Naugatuck Dogs)
2B Sean Miller-Jones (Naugatuck Dogs)
SS Macky Cianciolo (Naugatuck Dogs)
3B Ben Schumacher (Winsted Whalers)
OF Connor McEvoy (Watertown Blaze)
OF Ryan Plourde (Naugatuck Dogs)
OF Chris Ayer (Watertown Blaze)
DH Nick DeLotto (Watertown Blaze)
P Zach Sehnal (Wolcott Scrappers)

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years.

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