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Senior captain John Petonito talks with Guilford baseball Head Coach Brian Hayden during a game from the 2019 season. Petonito had a nice year at the dish for the Indians. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior Kevin Ciardiello was slated to toe the rubber for the Indians in 2020 after appearing in nearly half the squad’s contests as a junior. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Josh Wettemann is one of three seniors who is serving as a senior captain for the Guilford baseball team this year. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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As he approached his ninth year as head coach of the Guilford baseball team, Brian Hayden was eager for the Indians to kick off the 2020 season. Unfortunately, those plans came to a halt as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Guilford was coming off a solid 2019 campaign that saw the squad finish with a record of 13-10 and win a share of its division title, while qualifying for both the SCC Tournament and the Class L State Tournament, winning a game in the latter bracket.
Guilford was slated to be led by senior captains Josh Wettemann, Tyler Considine, and John Petonito, along with fellow senior Kevin Ciardiello this year. Regardless of how things play out, Coach Hayden has high praise for all four players.
“All four of those guys were going to have big years for us this season,” Hayden said. “They all brought a lot of leadership to the table and battled every day on the field. All four of them will be going to college, and I know they will all succeed in their future endeavors.”
In addition to garnering All-SCC honors, Wettemann, a catcher, posted a .348 batting with a .436 on-base-percentage (OBP) in 2019. He led the Indians with two home runs and 18 RBI on the campaign. Wettemann was also named to the Connecticut Junior Select Team, for which he was the starting catcher.
Considine also saw his share of success last year, posting a .338 OBP to go with a team-high 41 outfield putouts. He was also a perfect 6-for-6 in steals. Petonito batted .283 with a .386 OBP and led the Indians in runs scored with 18. Ciardiello led Guilford in appearances on the mound with 11 and saves with two.
On April 23, the CIAC ruled that there would be no postseason tournaments for the 2020 spring season, but still left open the possibility for teams to compete in some type of games. While Coach Hayden would love to see Guilford take the field, he knows that everyone’s safety is more important than any home runs or strikeouts.
“We’re optimistic. We’re hoping that we get to have some sort of season,” said Hayden. “We know how serious this virus is, and that should be the most important thing on everyone’s mind, first and foremost. I’m not really sure how it’s all going to play out, but I know that if it’s not safe for the student-athletes, then it doesn’t make sense to me to have a season.”
Even with all the tournaments being canceled, Hayden said that the Indians have still been preparing as though there will be a season. This includes meeting with his players via Zoom conference calls.
“I knew what I was going to do this regardless if there was a season or not, because this is about more than just baseball,” Hayden said. “We are trying to groom these kids to become successful young men. They learn how to play for one another. They learn time management skills. It makes them better people, and it really teaches them about respect and hard work. My point to them is I didn’t want it to be a lost year. We’ve used Zoom and have met with the kids by position group.”
The meetings have consisted of Hayden going over PowerPoint presentations that he’s put together, along with ways that Guilford’s players can work on their games from home.
“We’ve even brought in some guest speakers to talk to the guys,” Hayden said. “They’ve been getting a lot of advice, and we are trying to make this as interactive as possible. We’re not going to let the COVID-19 situation derail our path.”
Nevertheless, Hayden feels disappointed for his seniors that they might not be able to don an Indians’ jersey one last time.
“It’s tough for our seniors,” said Hayden. “I couldn’t imagine them not being able to play. We also have a big, talented freshman class who are also losing a year now, so it stinks for them, too.”
Despite any disappointment, Hayden is trying to keep things in perspective for his players during the pandemic. He’s expressed to them just how serious this virus is.
“Two of my immediate family members have COVID-19 right now,” Hayden said. “I know when I was a kid, I thought I was invincible, but this is nothing to joke about. This is a deadly disease, and I want these kids to be safe in everything they do. Thankfully, [Hayden’s family members] are on the road to recovery, but they still have a little ways to go.”
If the Indians do play any games in 2020, Coach Hayden knows that they are going to hit the ground running.
“If they give us the green light, I have all the confidence in the world that we will be ready,” said Hayden. “And it’s good that we are preparing now because, if this all does turn around quickly, we will have been better off for these meetings and still practicing in isolation.”
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