The Old Saybrook baseball team got out to a rocky start this spring, but those early struggles seem like a distant memory following a big-time turnaround last week. The Rams won all three of their games to even their record at 3-3 on the season.
On April 10, Old Saybrook matched up against St. Bernard at home and won by the final score of 5-2. Two days later, the Rams hosted Westbrook and their offense caught fire as they went onto a 11-4 victory. Old Saybrook capped off its undefeated week with an exciting 3-2 road win against Coginchaug on April 14.
Rams’ Head Coach Dan Driscoll said his team did some soul searching after taking a 5-0 loss against Valley Regional at the end of the previous week.
“I was disappointed with how we opened the season, but I knew it was fixable,” said Coach Driscoll, who’s in his fourth season at the helm. “After the Valley loss, we talked for 15 [to] 20 minutes in a team meeting about what we needed to do going forward. We came out the next day and worked our butts off at practice for three hours, and I think that helped in our game against St. Bernard.”
Facing non-conference opponent St. Bernard at home, the Rams’ bats woke up as they plated five runs after having been shut out in their first three contests. Sophomore Dan Cote tossed a gem for Old Saybrook by scattering five hits and striking out 12 to earn the win. Sophomore Patrick Kelley went 2-for-4 with a double, plus senior Philip Ledwith and sophomore Jaden Rolon both added a RBI. Old Saybrook also received a nice contribution from junior Robbie Holt, who doesn’t typically start, but did so because of injury. Holt went 2-for-3 with a huge two-out double that brought home two runs for Old Saybrook. Coach Driscoll believes that hit marked a huge momentum shift in both the victory and his team’s season.
“Robbie doesn’t usually start for us, but we were missing some kids due to injuries. He’s a quiet kid, comes every day, and works really hard. He stepped up and [played designated hitter] for us that game, and it was his first varsity start,” Driscoll said. “I think that was a turning point for us. We took the lead, and it energized our guys.”
Old Saybrook’s bats stayed hot when the squad hosted Shoreline Conference rival Westbrook on April 12. The Rams scored in every inning, starting with a three-spot in the bottom of the first. They made it 4-0 in the second, but Westbrook got on the board with two in the top of the third. Old Saybrook responded by scoring twice in the bottom half and then tacked on three more in the fourth to make it 9-2. Westbrook and Old Saybrook both scored single runs in the fifth and sixth innings to bring the final score to 11-4.
The Rams received another solid pitching performance in the victory—this time from Ledwith, who only allowed two hits and fanned eight to pick up the win. Sophomore Dan Cote went 2-for-4 with a triple and two RBI, senior captain Joe Finnegan was 1-for-3 with two RBI, while fellow senior captain Bryan Schuster tripled and drove in a run for the Rams.
Driscoll said the approach that he and his coaching staff are emphasizing this season took shape in Old Saybrook’s wins against St. Bernard and Westbrook.
“We’re focusing on the basics. We just want to make sure we’re playing solid defense and that the approach at the plate is appropriate,” said Driscoll. “Have an idea what to do when you get up there. If you make an out, it’s got to be a productive out. Move runners over and stay aggressive in a 3-1 count.”
The Rams looked to keep their momentum going when they hit the road to face conference foe Coginchaug to close out week. Old Saybrook scored all of its runs first three innings by plating one in each frame. It stayed 3-0 until the bottom of the seventh, when Coginchaug rallied to score two runs. With two outs, the Blue Devils had a runner at second and were threatening to tie the game. Coginchaug attempted to steal third on Rams’ catcher Haydon Lockhart, but the junior captain threw a bullet to cut down the runner, ending the game with a mighty roar as Lockhart’s teammates huddled around him to celebrate their 3-2 victory.
Coach Driscoll was effusive in his praise of his Lockhart, who batted .360 and led the team in RBI last season. Lockhart had a RBI in the Coginchaug win.
“He’s a great kid, incredibly passionate about the game of baseball, and a really caring leader,” said Driscoll. “He brings an intensity to the team and loves to be around the other guys. He’s the type of kid who eats, sleeps, and breathes baseball, and I think the guys feed off that.”
The Rams received another great effort on the mound against Coginchaug as Rolon allowed only two hits and struck out 11 to get the victory. Cote went 2-for-3 with a double and also came in to shut the door and earn a save. Kelley added a RBI for Old Saybrook.
Encouraged by the fire that his team showed this past week, Coach Driscioll thinks that can be glimpse of things to come for his young team in 2017.
“The biggest thing we have to overcome is our youth and staying confident,” said Driscoll. “I think these three wins prove to these guys what they are capable of this season.”
From the Sidelines
Old Saybrook’s captains this season are senior left fielder Joe Finnegan, senior Bryan Schuster, and junior catcher Haydon Lockhart.
Head Coach Dan Driscoll’s coaching staff consists of Jeff Buck, Dave Plotkin, and Nate Narducci.
The Rams went 8-12 last season, winning six games in a row during the final stretch to make it to the qualifying round of the Class S State Tournament, where they lost to Tourtellotte, 5-4.