Monday, September 27, 2021

Sports

H-K Baseball Continues Winning Tradition in 2021

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Senior captain Alec Erskine and the H-K baseball team recorded 16 victories during the 2021 spring season. Erskine earned All-State and All-Shoreline Conference First Team recognition for the Cougars. File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source

Senior captain Alec Erskine and the H-K baseball team recorded 16 victories during the 2021 spring season. Erskine earned All-State and All-Shoreline Conference First Team recognition for the Cougars. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source)

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Senior captain Luke DiMauro and the Cougars gave longtime Head Coach Mark Brookes his 700th career win with a 2-0 victory over Old Saybrook this year. DiMauro hit .477 on the campaign. File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source

Senior captain Luke DiMauro and the Cougars gave longtime Head Coach Mark Brookes his 700th career win with a 2-0 victory over Old Saybrook this year. DiMauro hit .477 on the campaign. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source)

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Alden Halfinger had a .403 batting average for the Haddam-Killingworth baseball squad as a senior this spring. File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source

Alden Halfinger had a .403 batting average for the Haddam-Killingworth baseball squad as a senior this spring. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source)

The Haddam-Killingworth baseball team’s 2021 season came to an end in the second round of the Class M State Tournament, but for Head Coach Mark Brookes and the Cougars, the quest to win a state title was just one aspect of a campaign that featured a great deal of success. When all was said and done, H-K put together the latest in a long line of solid seasons on the diamond this spring.

H-K finished the year with an overall record of 16-7, qualifying for both the Shoreline Conference Tournament and the Class M State Tournament. Along the way, Coach Brookes earned his 700th career victory as the Cougars’ skipper. H-K also managed to complete a full season without any lingering issues from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The fact the we completed a 20-game season and played in two postseason tournaments is remarkable under the circumstances,” said Brookes. “Throw in completing six preseason games and two scrimmages before the State Tournament, and you have close to a normal high school spring. The only hitch was contact-tracing very early involving two players.”

Coach Brookes notched career win No. 700 when H-K earned a 2-0 win versus Old Saybrook on May 3. After going 15-5 for the regular season, the Cougars competed in the Shoreline Conference Tournament and took a 2-1 loss to Morgan in the quarterfinal round.

H-K then opened up the Class M State Tournament with an 11-0 victory against Grasso Tech in a first-round contest. The Cougars went on to take a 6-5 defeat versus Rockville in the second round.

While H-K wanted to go farther in states, Coach Brookes said he feels proud of everything that his squad accomplished in 2021, especially the way that his players went about it.

“For me, the pleasure of coaching a team that believed in team achievement above their own accomplishments was the most rewarding,” Brookes said. “They will always remember being the team that accomplished the 700-win total, but that’s a distant second to completing the team goal of selflessness.”

Senior captains Alec Erskine, a pitcher/infielder; and outfielder Luke DiMauro led the way for H-K as the team’s senior captains this year. Both athletes earned All-State First Team and All-Shoreline Conference First Team recognition for their performances on the season. Erskine compiled a record of 6-1 with a 1.72 earned-run-average on the mound. He also had two saves and recorded 91 strikeouts in 53 innings pitched. DiMauro was H-K’s top hitter by posting a .477 batting average to go with 18 RBI and 15 stolen bases on the campaign.

Fellow senior Alden Halfinger, a pitcher/designated hitter, earned All-Shoreline Conference Second Team honors for H-K. Halfinger hit at a .403 clip and had 25 RBI for the season.

H-K’s senior class also included catcher/outfielder Cavin Burrell, outfielder Matthew Pray, infielder Ryan Kehlenbach, pitcher/infielder Matthew Miranda, and outfielder Spencer Kelsey.

“Next year will be a challenge after losing eight seniors. The usual adjustments must be made, and proper placement of player’s positions has to be emphasized,” Coach Brookes said. “Ninety-nine percent of our players participate in summer and fall programs, so careful evaluation of that participation on my part will be necessary to remain competitive.”

H-K’s roster also included junior infielder Caden Civiello, junior outfielder Declan Christopher, junior pitcher/infielder Lucas Kamoen, junior catcher Nicholas Glynn, junior infielder Ryan Duncanson, junior pitcher/outfielder Alex Sheehan, and junior pitcher Andrew Conti.

The Cougars’ sophomore class featured infielder Benjamin DeCrosta, pitcher/infielder Callen Powers, pitcher William Gordon, and Joseph Giaccone. Infielder Blake Kamoen was a freshman on the team.

One of the biggest concerns for Coach Brookes entering the offseason is to make sure that his team has enough pitching to remain competitive next year. The CIAC has implemented a pitch-count rule that limits how many pitches a pitcher can throw over a given timespan. Consequently, Brookes knows that the Cougars need to have depth in their bullpen going forward.

“I will need to be able to organize our pitching rotation as early as possible in order to create some consistency,” Brookes said. “With the pitch count rule, thought needs to center on relief pitchers, as well. In other words, effective pitching depth will be vital.”

The 2022 season will mark Brookes’s 46th year as head coach of the Haddam-Killingworth baseball program. Coach Brookes believes that his team will be ready to compete with the same level of selflessness that helped the Cougars win so many games in 2021.

“I am hopeful we can develop the same sense of selflessness in the players and team play that has made our teams successful in past years,” said Brookes.



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