Sunday, November 28, 2021

Sports

Guilford Never Stopped Believing During its Journey

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Andrew Shosho and the Guilford AAU baseball team had a year to remember that saw the squad make it to the championship game of the East Shore Travel League Playoffs. File photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier

Andrew Shosho and the Guilford AAU baseball team had a year to remember that saw the squad make it to the championship game of the East Shore Travel League Playoffs. (File photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier)

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Chris Golino and the Grizzlies battled hard all summer long, and their persistence paid off with a memorable playoff run. File photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier

Chris Golino and the Grizzlies battled hard all summer long, and their persistence paid off with a memorable playoff run. (File photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier)

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Michael Torre helped the Guilford AAU baseball squad put 14 victories in the win column during the 2021 season.

File photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier

Michael Torre helped the Guilford AAU baseball squad put 14 victories in the win column during the 2021 season. (File photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier)

It took some time for the Guilford 19-U AAU baseball team to find its confidence while competing in the East Shore Travel League this summer. However, once the Grizzlies started believing that they could win, the team began firing on all cylinders and went on to have a successful season.

Guilford finished with an overall record of 14-8-1 and came up just one win shy of claiming its league title this year. In the East Shore Travel League Playoffs, Guilford earned a 4-3 victory over New England Knights Zima and then notched a 4-3 win versus Run & Gun Baseball to make it to the title game, where the team took a 10-0 loss against the NCT Mustangs.

Head Coach Ryan Fraser said that his young club learned many valuable lessons throughout the course of the season. Coach Fraser feels that the most important lesson for Guilford’s players was building self-confidence.

“From start to finish, the team gained a lot of valuable experience in competing and winning close games,” said Fraser. “Early on, it took some time to get the guys to believe that they can compete in a 19-U league. The experience that they gained from playing against older players and dealing with adversity will help them in the spring and beyond.”

Guilford’s roster for the 2021 campaign included Colby Ambroziak, Sam Ametrano, Jack Farrah, Chris Golino, Ryan Halas, Aiden McBrierty, Colin Pompano, Andrew Shosho, Joe Tafro, Michael Torre, Alex Vincent, and Tyler Zajkowski. Coach Fraser was assisted by his father, John Fraser.

The Grizzlies’ skipper saw a big difference in his team from the first pitch of the season to the final out. Coach Fraser felt especially pleased to see his athletes rise to the occasion and make big plays when it came time to compete in the playoffs.

“The biggest improvement I saw was the confidence and the ability to execute the little things that help teams win games,” Fraser said. “In the beginning of the year, guys were hesitant to make the big play or be ‘the guy.’ By the end of the year and into the playoffs, the guys started to believe that they could win every game and wanted to be the guy to deliver, regardless of the situation.”

As his players stepped up in pressure situations, Coach Fraser was happy with how the Grizzlies improved their execution on the field as the season unfolded. Many of the fundamental errors that Guilford had made the beginning of the year were essentially eliminated by the end of it.

“The little things we improved on include situational hitting, running the bases the right way, defensive mechanics, thinking before the play happens, pitch selection and offensive approach, communication, and not taking a play off,” said Fraser. “All of those things allowed us to feel more comfortable and come up big in close games.”

Even when things weren’t going as planned, Coach Fraser’s belief in his players never wavered. Fraser always felt confident that the Grizzlies had it in them to win a championship this year.

“As a coach, I always believe going into the season that we have a chance to win the whole thing with hard work and focus on team and individual weaknesses. This year was no different,” Fraser said. “Maybe at the first practice, we weren’t the best team in the league or couldn’t have won the championship at that very time. However, I knew if we worked on the right things at practice and during games, individually and collectively, that the growth would lead us to compete for a championship.”

A major turning point in the Grizzlies’ season came when they took an 8-5 loss against the CT Warriors, a Guilford-based team, on July 27. Coach Fraser said that his squad shook off the disappointment from that loss and started to put everything together for a memorable home stretch.

“The Warriors played a great game and really punched us in the mouth from the get-go. We showed real nerves that I was disappointed in. We got off to a 6-0 deficit until we really started playing our game,” said Fraser. “We knew what we were walking into and what we must do to compete, so the coaching staff was disappointed in the way we played. However, the guys took this game in stride and learned a lot of valuable lessons. Practice habits began to change.”

Through all the ups and downs of the season, Coach Fraser’s father, John, was there every step of the way to lend a hand and help him become a better coach. When all was said and done, Fraser and his dad both feel proud about how Guilford delivered on the diamond.

“As my dad and I have reflected about the season daily for the last two weeks, I am most satisfied of the improvements that the guys made throughout the year,” Coach Fraser said. “I strongly believe that the guys’ ability to buy in to my philosophy around practicing the way you would play led to an increased focus in daily habits.”



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