CIAC Tournament Championships Preview

The CIAC Tournament Championships for the spring season begin on Tuesday and Wednesday for baseball, softball, boys and girls lacrosse and boys volleyball. There are a large number of CCC and NCCC teams The Sports Department covers competing in each tournament among the four classes used (LL, L, M, S). Amid these local teams, there are a number of top contenders for state championships, including five teams seeded among the top five teams in their brackets.

The links to the state tournament and brackets for these sports and others can be found on the CIAC website at http://content.ciacsports.com/tournamentcentral.shtml

BASEBALL

In Class LL, South Windsor (18-2) is the No. 2 seed for the second consecutive season, behind just Fairfield Prep. The senior-laden Bobcats will play CCC rival Farmington in Tuesday’s first round. If they win, they will play either New Britain or Enfield Saturday. South Windsor’s outstanding pitching staff held opponents to under three runs per game. South Windsor was shocked in the first round last season by Manchester.

Head coach Mike McDermott and star senior Jimmy Tamburro each spoke about their squad’s chances of winning the LL tournament and desire to avenge last year’s loss.

“There’s no doubt the tournament matters. We have to get it done now,” McDermott said. “As long as we continue to avoid mistakes and play at our highest level, there’s no double we’ll be very competitive.”

“We absolutely can win a championship, but we can work even harder to get one. Our goal coming into the season was “End Strong”. The last two years we went into the tournament not playing good baseball, and this year we want to end the regular season strong and then maintain it to the end,” Tamburro said.

Glastonbury (11-9) is seeded No. 13 in LL and will host No. 20 Shelton (11-9). If it wins, GHS will play either No. 4 Cheshire or No. 29 New Canaan. The Tomahawks had an excellent offense, averaging over 7 runs per game. They struggled at times in the second half of the regular season, losing 5 of their final 10 games. However, 2018 has still been a huge step forward from last year, when Glastonbury went 8-12 and then lost in the first round as the No. 29 seed.

“We are prepared for the tournament and in order to win we have to play our style of baseball cleanly,” Tomahawks head coach Dennis Accomando said. “It does not matter who is in the other dugout as we need to play to our standard regardless of the opponent.”

Enfield (12-8) is No. 18 in LL and will travel to No. 15 New Britain (13-7) on Tuesday. The Eagles ended the regular season on a tear, winning five of its final six games by a combined score of 47-16. Enfield was also seeded 18th in last year’s tournament, advancing to the quarterfinals.

Four teams qualified in Class M. No. 13 East Catholic (13-7) and No. 20 Suffield (11-9) will battle one another. East Catholic and Suffield each enter the tournament with a lot of momentum. ECHS was on a five-game win streak before losing its final regular season contest with South Windsor, averaging just under eight runs per contest during it. SHS won its final two regular season games and then the NCCC Tournament this past Thursday. The Wildcats shut out top-seeded Granby in the semifinals 3-0, and defeated Coventry 5-3 in the finals. East Catholic each lost in the first round last season. The winner of the East Catholic-Suffield contest will then play either No. 4 Plainville or No. 29 Plainville Wednesday.

“It may sound cliche, but if we don’t beat ourselves, I like our chances (against Suffield and in the tournament),” East Catholic head coach Martin Fiori said. “Our regular season schedule versus big schools should have us prepared.  If we play sound defense & scratch a couple runs across the board, we will be in good shape.”
“In the tournament, we have to continue doing what we have the past two weeks,” SHS head coach Jason Flynn said. “Our pitching has been dominant and our defense played very clean, the kids  know what to look for and how to approach each at bat, and on the bases we have been aggressive.  Momentum is on our side and team chemistry and cohesion is great. If we bring the energy, effort and enthusiasm each game we can battle with any team in the tournament. Ultimately, our goal at the start of the season was to win a state championship and this team has the ability to accomplish that.”

No. 15 Rockville (13-7) will host No. 18 Ledyard (11-9). If the squad wins, it will face either No. 2 Granby or No. 31 Brookfield. The Rams won 5 of their final 6 regular season games, including extra-inning triumphs against Suffield and Ellington. RHS defeated Stonington in last season’s first round. No. 24 Ellington (10-10) will battle No. 9 Seymour (14-6). If it wins, it will face either No. 8 Coginchaug or No. 25 Oxford. The Knights struggled in May, losing 3 games and 6 of 10. They were the top seed in M last season, but shocked by Northwestern Catholic in the first round.

BOYS LACROSSE

Five teams advanced to the state tournament between the three classes. In Class S, No. 3 East Catholic (13-3) will host No. 14 Rocky Hill (8-8) on Wednesday. If it wins, it will face either No. 6 Bacon Academy or No. 11 Northwest Catholic on Saturday. The Eagles won their final 10 regular season games, just one by less than double digits, and defeated Farmington 17-7 in the CCC North Division championship last Thursday. East Catholic defeated Granby last season.

Glastonbury (11-5) is also seeded in the top half of its bracket, as No. 7 in L. It will face No. 23 Greenwich (8-8), which upset Shelton in the qualifying round. With a win, GHS would battle either No. 2 Newtown or No. 15 Cheshire. The Tomahawks won their final three regular season games and defeated Simsbury 13-9 in the Central Division championship. GHS advanced to last season’s semifinals as the No. 5 seed.

“We are excited to host a first round game in the tournament,” head coach Scott Hinchey said. “Greenwich is a very solid opponent.  We feel we’ve played a good schedule and come in prepared for this matchup.  We need to value the ball on offense and make our possessions count.  On defense, we know all their guys are very solid threats to score.  Our team defense needs to be good and we need to win our matchups.”

In the M tournament, Ellington (11-6) is seeded 11th. EHS will travel to No. 6 Hand (11-5). It advanced to face the Tigers by defeating No. 22 Watertown 9-7 on Friday. If EHS wins again, it will face either No. 3 Westorn or No. 19 North Haven. The Knights advanced to the S tournament semifinals last season as its No. 4 seed. No. 14 RHAM lost in the qualifying round to No. 19 North Haven, being soundly upset 12-3. The Sachems end the 2018 season 9-8. Tolland (7-8) will also compete in Class S as its No. 17 seed. The Eagles defeated No. 16 Montville 11-6 in Saturday’s qualifier, and now is traveling to top-seeded St. Paul (15-1). If they pull off the upset, THS will play either No. 8 Old Lyme or No. 9 St. Joseph. The program did not qualify for the postseason in 2017.

SOFTBALL

Three teams (South Windsor, Enfield, Glastonbury) qualified for LL.  Each of these squads played outstanding in May. No. 9 South Windsor (15-5) will host No. 24 Newington (9-11), which it defeated at the beginning of the regular season. If it wins, it will face either No. 8 Bristol Eastern or No. 25 Manchester Wednesday. Despite a somewhat inconsistent offense, the Bobcats went 9-1 in the month behind ace Maria Hanchuk, who threw six shutouts. South Windsor was upset in the tournament’s first round last season. Meanwhile, No. 11 Enfield (14-6) will play No. 22 Staples (10-10), and then either No. 6 NFA or No. 27 Greenwich if it wins. The Eagles opened May with a six-game winning streak featuring multiple blowouts. Enfield also lost in the first round. No. 19 Glastonbury (12-8) will have the pleasure of traveling to No. 14 Stamford (13-7) for the first round. If it wins, it will have to go to No. 3 Cheshire. The Tomahawks also opened the month winning six consecutive games and averaged just under 12 runs per game in May. Glastonbury defeated Fairfield Warde in the 2017 tournament.

“Having a better offense will be the key for us in the postseason,” South Windsor head coach Mandy Roczniak said. “We must get more than 2-3 hits and our offense has to come from more than 2-3 kids.  We need more production 1-9 and we need more bat on ball and fewer strikeouts if we have any shot of getting past that first or second round.”

In the M tournament, No. 18 Ellington (14-6) will play at No. 15 Wolcott Tech (14-6). If EHS wins, it will face either No. 2 North Branford or No. 31 Woodland. The Knights also ended the regular season on a role, going 8-2 in May and winning their final four games while scoring 13 or more runs four times. They then defeated top-seeded Stafford in the NCCC Tournament before losing to Granby in the title game. EHS earned a tournament win against Valley Regional last season.

Head coach Tom Gordon and pitcher Megan Beebe each talked about Ellington’s tournament prospects after a win against South Windsor.

“We’ve been playing really well today and in the last few games. If each player performs their role and gives total effort, then as a team we can beat any opponent,” Gordon said. We’re looking forward to the challenge of the tournaments.”
“We showed both today and throughout the conference season we can beat quality teams. If we are focused and playing our best, then we can always win. Winning the conference and going on a tournament run is what we’ve been playing for all season,” Beebe said.

No. 23 Rockville (8-11) will battle No. 10 Guilford (14-6) in M. If it wins, it will face either No. 7 Maloney or No. 26 Mercy. The Rams struggled to end the season, losing five of their final six games. Rockville defeated East Lyme in 2017.

GIRLS LACROSSE

East Catholic and Tolland are two of the top teams in their classes, with East Catholic (14-2) No. 3 in S and Tolland (14-2) No. 4 in M. ECHS will host No. 14 Waterford Wednesday.If it wins, it will face either No. 6 Stonighton or No. 11 Old Lyme Thursday. The Eagles won 14 consecutive games from April 9th to May 14th, scoring in double figures in each. They lost in the first round of last season’s tournament. Tolland will host No. 13 Guilford (11-6), and then either No. 5 Woodstock or No. 12 Mercy with a win. THS won its first 11 games, and allowed opponents to score in double digits just four times. The Eagles lost in the qualifying round last season.

In LL, Glastonbury and South Windsor is seeded 12th and 15th. GHS (9-7) will travel to No. 5 New Canaan (12-4). If it triumphs, it will face either No. 4 Wilton or No. 20 Sheehan. In their final five wins, the Tomahawks scored either 19 or 20 points, with each win coming by at least 10 goals. Glastonbury was upset in last season’s first round by Wilton, which advanced to the finals. South Windsor (9-8) defeated No. 18 Southington 15-11 in the qualifiers, and will now play at No. 2 Cheshire (14-2). The Bobcats lost to CHS earlier this season. If they win, they will face either No. 7 Fairfield Warde or No. 10 Hall. In its five May wins, they averaged 16 goals. South Windsor lost in last year’s qualifying round.

BOYS VOLLEYBALL

South Windsor and Rockville had their strong regular seasons rewarded with the 5th and 7th seeds in the M tournament. South Windsor (13-8) has earned a first round bye and will play at No. 4 New Canaan (13-7) in the quarterfinals on Friday. The Bobcats went 7-3 in May, including a 4-match winning streak. South Windsor went on a run to the M finals as a No. 7 seed last season before losing to Newington. Rockville (10-8) will host No. 10 Wethersfield (10-10) on Wednesday, which it beat twice in the regular season. If it wins, it will face No. 2 Lewis Mills. The Rams went 6-3 in May. RHS was upset by South Windsor in the 2017 quarterfinals as the No. 2 seed.

“Wethersfield is a much-improved team,” Rockville head coach Jim Holt said. “It’s very difficult to beat a team a third time, so everybody’s going to have to show up and play their A game. Being in our home gym for the first round definitely helps us. We’ll have to limit our mistakes and execute.”

Enfield and Glastonbury are seeded 11th and 13th in L. Enfield (11-9) will travel to No. 6 Darien (16-4). If it wins, it will either travel to No. 3 Ridgefield or welcome No. 14 NFA. The Eagles swept their final three regular season matches before losing to Southington in the CCC Tournament. Enfield lost in the first round last season. Glastonbury (8-11) will play at No. 4 East Hartford (18-3), which it lost twice to in three sets. If GHS wins, it will face either No. 5 Southington or No. 12 Shelton. The Tomahawks struggled to end the season, losing 5 of its last 7 matches. Glastonbury lost in the first round to top-seeded Cheshire in 2017.

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