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04/25/2022 12:00 AM

T-Birds Enjoy a Big Week with Three Victories

Senior Ryan Nuzzo and the North Branford baseball team won all three of their games last week to improve their record to 5-4 for the spring campaign. File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound

Even with a young roster, North Branford baseball Head Coach Billy Mitchell believes that the Thunderbirds have all the tools to go on a deep run in Shorelines and states this year. As his squad looks to make its mark, Coach Mitchell said that North Branford will rely on its senior captains and all-around strong work ethic to carry the T-Birds into the postseason.

North Branford improved to 5-4 on the year after winning a trio of home games last week. The Thunderbirds defeated Old Lyme by an 8-4 score on April 18, claimed a 10-1 win against Hale-Ray on April 20, and posted a 10-8 victory over Coginchaug on April 22.

Facing Old Lyme, North Branford answered a 2-run second inning from the visitors by plating four runs in that same frame. The T-Birds tacked on three more runs in the fifth, after which Old Lyme scored two in the seventh for the 8-4 final.

Senior Mike Virginelli pitched 6.1 innings for North Branford in the win, allowing 3 runs and striking out 4. Senior Ryan Nuzzo had 3 hits and 2 RBI, while senior captain Dom Scalia had a hit with 2 RBI and 2 runs scored.

In the win over Hale-Ray, the Thunderbirds jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first inning. They went on to add 3 more runs in the third before closing out the contest by scoring 2 in the sixth.

Junior Cam Garrett threw a complete game for North Branford, allowing just 1 unearned run and striking out 10. Garrett, fellow junior Nico Falcioni, and freshmen Matthew Scalia and Kyle Stegina each had two RBI in the victory. Nuzzo went 4-for-4 with 3 runs scored at the plate.

Closing out the week against Coginchaug, North Branford trailed 3-0 after the first inning and was down 4-0 after the third. However, the Thunderbirds stormed back, scoring 4 runs in the fourth and 5 runs in the fifth. Although the Blue Devils came back with 5 runs in the sixth, North Branford held on for the 10-8 victory.

Freshman JJ O’Connor earned his first varsity win after pitching 3.1 innings for North Branford. Junior John Onofrio had 2 hits, 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored in the victory. Dom Scalia and sophomore Victor Castillo both had 2 hits with 2 runs scored and 1 RBI.

“We played really well. Our pitchers pitched great. I was really happy with our approach at the plate,” Coach Mitchell said. “We did very well defensively this week. It was a good week.”

This season, the Thunderbirds are being led by a pair of senior captains in Scalia and Ryan Michonski. Golia is a first/third baseman, while Michonski serves as the team’s catcher. Coach Mitchell said that both players were easy picks for the captain’s role based on the work that they put in on and off the field.

“They were obvious choices. They were All-Shoreline players last year, but they’re true leaders,” said Mitchell. “The kids look up to them. They know they’re leaders on the team. They have all the traits of being a captain. It was an easy pick this year.”

With Michonski behind the plate and Scalia at first, they’re joined by Nuzzo at second, Onofrio at shortstop, and Garrett at third. When Garrett is pitching, Scalia will move over to third as Falcioni handles first base.

In the outfield, junior Ben Stegina plays center field, and freshman Matthew Scalia plays right field. Sophomore Caleb Allen is currently starting in left field while in a platoon with Falcioni and Castillo, who also plays second base.

Coach Mitchell said that everyone in the lineup worked hard during the offseason in order to improve in the batter’s box. Mitchell feels happy to see that hard work paying off with the Thunderbirds swinging some hot bats right now.

“The two captains bat first and second, and they lead the way for us. We’ve been putting up some runs on the board. We’ve been hitting the ball pretty well,” Mitchell said. “They’re just really good hitters. They’ve worked really hard on it. They put plenty of work in.”

North Branford’s pitching staff includes junior Nico DeSisto, who also plays left field. DeSisto suffered an injury during North Branford’s season opener, but Coach Mitchell is hoping to get him back and feels that his return would be a huge boost for the T-Birds.

With DeSisto’s absence, North Branford has been relying on Virginelli and Garrett on the mound. Mitchell said that both players have stepped up tremendously and are proving that they can be dangerous pitchers for North Branford whenever they toe the rubber. Allen, O’Connor, and freshman Kyle Stegina have also been called upon to help bolster the team’s pitching staff.

North Branford features more youth throughout its program than in years past. Due to a few injuries, some of those younger athletes have received a big opportunity to succeed at the varsity level. Following a three-win week, Coach Mitchell feels that the T-Birds are starting to hit their stride as the veteran players mesh together with the young up-and-comers.

“We ended up being pretty young. The freshmen have seen significant varsity time, but it has made us a better team,” said Mitchell. “We’re coming together right now. These younger guys have gotten a ton of experience, and we’re hoping to get some guys back. But we have been really progressing in the field, and the guys have been working hard.”

North Branford aims to go on a postseason run every year. Last year, the Thunderbirds reached the quarterfinals of the Class S State Tournament. Coach Mitchell believes that this year’s club has a chance to make some waves in the playoffs as long as the T-Birds keep working hard and continue playing together as a team.

“Our goal every year is to win the Shoreline and win the state tournament. If we start playing a little better defensively, I think that’s a realistic goal,” Mitchell said. “This group of guys work really hard. They were my hardest-working group of guys during the offseason. They play together as a team and I’m looking forward to progressing as the year goes on.”

The athletes in the North Branford baseball program are senior captains Dom Scalia and Ryan Michonski; seniors Ryan Anderson, Michael Virginelli, Ryan Nuzzo, and Jake Chopus; juniors Ben Stegina, Nico Falcioni, John Onofrio, Nico DeSisto, Cam Garrett, Nicholas Beecher, Robert Dolzani, Alec Johnson, Jake Rispoli, and Jake Seward V; sophomores Victor Castillo, Caleb Allen, Christopher Olsen, and Peter Ramada; and freshmen Adam Virginelli, JJ O’Connor, Matthew Scalia, Kyle Stegina, Jason Cosgrove, Kyle Anderson, Anthony Borgia, Ryan DeLucia, Jayden Giardina, Brody Minnocci, Anthony Sullivan, and Michael Trindale.

Senior captain Dom Scalia and the T-Birds claimed home victories against Old Lyme, Hale-Ray, and Coginchaug last week, scoring at least 8 runs in every contest. File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound