Old Saybrook Reigned Atop the Shoreline in Fraser’s First Campaign
Ryan Fraser wasn’t expecting to win a championship in his first season as head coach of the Old Saybrook baseball program. Fraser’s main goal was for the Rams to grow as they showcased their skills. However, with a combination of Fraser’s innovation and a talented pool of athletes, Old Saybrook put together a storybook season that saw the team win its first Shoreline Conference title since the 1980s.
Old Saybrook claimed the conference crown by earning a 4-2 victory versus Valley Regional in the Shoreline final. The Rams finished the year with 17 wins, marking a huge turnaround from when they won five games last season.
Coach Fraser entered his first year on the job with a motivated group of athletes that included six reliable seniors and several solid underclassmen. With some prior experience coaching in the Shoreline Conference, Fraser came into the campaign with a good amount of knowledge about the opposing teams in the league.
“My experience coaching at Haddam-Killingworth and coaching the Shoreline, at least as an assistant varsity coach beforehand, was very beneficial, because I knew the conference a little bit and knew how different teams worked,” Coach Fraser said. “I had recollection of different players that we played in the past, so that was helpful.”
The Rams began their year with a five-game win streak that featured a 2-1 victory over Valley Regional. Coach Fraser was pleased with the solid start and continued to encourage his players to stay level-headed throughout the ebbs and flows of the season. Old Saybrook then went on a three-game losing streak that turned out to be a wake-up call for the Rams.
“That was definitely a time where it was kind of a gut check,” said Fraser. “I think that was really important in terms of being able to bounce back. Teams can beat us when we don’t play our best baseball or we lose focus.”
The Rams responded by winning eight of their next nine games heading into the postseason. Coach Fraser continued to stress the importance of taking things on a game-by-game basis without looking too far down the road.
“I had that as my mantra all year. We weren’t looking too far ahead. We weren’t going to say we were going to win a championship. We were just trying to win the next game,” Fraser said. “[The players] just embodying that and carrying that philosophy was important in not thinking too far ahead, but focusing game by game.”
As the No. 2 seed, Old Saybrook opened up the Shoreline Conference Tournament by posting blowout wins over Old Lyme (10-1) and Cromwell (16-2). Senior captain Jake Butler pitched a complete game against Old Lyme and also went 4-for-4 with 2 triples, 3 runs scored, and 3 RBI at the plate.
In the win against Cromwell, senior Nick Scalzo went 5-for-5 with 3 runs scored and an RBI, while sophomore Auggie Albert was 4-for-4 with 2 runs and 4 RBI to lead the Rams’ offense. These two lopsided victories launched Old Saybrook into a matchup with Valley Regional in the Shoreline Conference championship game.
Valley took an early 2-0 lead over Old Saybrook, but a 2-run single by senior Noah Grace tied the game in the third inning. Then in the fifth inning, sophomore Connor Lane gave the Rams the lead by hitting an RBI double and later scored on a wild pitch for a 4-2 advantage. Lane pitched 3.1 innings of scoreless relief to finish off the game as Old Saybrook walked off the field with its first Shoreline Conference title in several decades.
Coach Fraser was impressed with the Rams’ clutch performance in the Shoreline final and their ability to prove themselves in the biggest of moments.
“It was surreal. There’s really no way I could describe the feeling that the players, the parents, and everyone involved with the program had on that day at Palmer Field,” said Fraser. “I don’t think anyone was expecting us to be there. We did expect ourselves to have a strong core, but in terms of being able to make it to the championship and to win against such a high-quality team like Valley was something you could only dream of, especially only in my first year. That meant a whole bunch to me.”
The Rams’ season came to an end with a 5-2 loss to Windsor Locks in the Class S State Tournament a few days later. Old Saybrook completed the 2022 campaign with an overall record of 17-5.
“Credit to Windsor Locks. They came out and they were the better team that day,” Fraser said. “I think a lot of us lost sight of how hard it is to win in that I think we took it a little bit for granted after we won the Shoreline championship.”
Coach Fraser felt beyond proud about the fact that the Rams improved their win total by 12 games from the 2021 season this spring. Old Saybrook’s success was spurred by a strong core of All-Shoreline Conference First Team honorees in Butler, Lane, senior captain Noah Hester, and senior Nick Scalzo. Albert was an All-Shoreline Conference Second Team selection for the Rams. Butler and Lane also solidified spots on their Connecticut High School Coaches Association All-State Team for their outstanding performances throughout the season.
Butler led Old Saybrook on the mound by posting a 6-2 record with an incredible 0.93 ERA. Lane had the highest batting average for the Rams by hitting .414 to go with a team-leading 19 RBI. While Lane is returning as a junior next season, Coach Fraser is going to miss the significant contributions of captain Butler and the team’s five other graduating seniors. Old Saybrook’s senior class also featured captains Carson Brown and Hester, along with Scalzo, Grace, and Nick Rothman.
“They were all just one unit working together. Their culture as a team in terms of how hard they work and their culture of how much they love being with each other, they really did everything together,” Fraser said. “I don’t think I’ve been with a closer team than the team I had this year. They were really pushing for one another. That’s a family feel that I want to create for years to come.”
As he cherishes the memories that the Rams made during the 2022 season, Coach Fraser is already eager to begin his second campaign as Old Saybrook’s skipper. While this year’s accomplishments were a big step in the right direction, Fraser doesn’t want the improvements to stop there. On the heels of an unbelievable run, Fraser is looking for continued success when the Rams returned to the ballfield in 2023.
“There’s still a lot of guys in that program that want to prove themselves and try and show that they can help lead this program forward,” said Fraser. “Overall, the first year was a very good step forward, but I told the players at the end-of-the-year meeting, we’re not trying to stop it right now. We’re trying to build something—a special baseball program that kids want to play in Old Saybrook.”
The Old Saybrook baseball team’s roster includes senior captains Jake Butler, Carson Brown, and Noah Hester; seniors Nick Scalzo, Nick Rothman, and Noah Grace; juniors Marlin Stavola and John Witczak; sophomores Nicholas Denovellis, Ryan Lombardi, Edward Devaney, Connor Lane, and William Albert; and freshmen Connor Barry, Noah Hubbard, Griffin Velardi, Charlie Carmichael, and Andrew Moshier.