The Tigers baseball team competed furiously against the top clubs in the SCC and the state to finish 9-12 overall for their 2023 campaign, qualifying for a return trip to the Class L State Tournament. Photo courtesy of Travis LaPointe
The Hand baseball team grew a lot during the spring of 2023, earning another playoff appearance while being a team that truly made every club they faced win their decisions after the final out was made.
Head coach Travis LaPointe and the Tigers posted nine wins in their 20-game regular-season run: they failed to qualify for the Southern Connecticut Conference Tournament, but earned a bid to the Class L State Tournament. Once there , Hand suffered a hard-fought 5-4 loss to No. 8 Bristol Central in the first round as the 25th seed to conclude all 2023 affairs with a 9-12 aggregate.
Even with a sub-.500 finish and an early postseason exit, LaPointe is proud when he looks back on his guys’ efforts this spring: They faced the toughest competition in one of the most competitive conferences in the state and used it. as an opportunity to show his stuff instead of as a crutch.
“This year we went 9-12 and competed in every game,” LaPointe said. “I would still say we were one of the best teams in the SCC and in the entire state. In addition to having such a young team, we just couldn’t meet the demands of our schedule and some of the injuries that plagued our team.”
Speaking more of the slate of games the Tigers took, they entertained a quartet of SCC clubs in the league’s upper echelon and state title talks. No matter the outcome, one thing he could never say about this group was that they gave themselves up to their adversaries.
“We had two separate stretches of four straight games from Fairfield Prep, Xavier, Notre Dame-West Haven and Amity. We went 1-7 in those games, including an electric 12-11 win over Xavier,” LaPointe said. “Even though we had a chance to win every one of those games, we just didn’t have the personnel to consistently win against those types of teams this year. But it wasn’t for lack of toughness or competence. We gave everything we had all year and came up a little short too many times, including our 5-4 loss to Bristol Central in the first round of the state tournament.
Senior first baseman and captain Troy Piascik went 30-for-66 with a .455 batting average on the season. He had two home runs, 20 RBIs and 17 runs scored to finish first-team All-SCC for his efforts. Additionally, junior shortstop Nick Antonetti maintained a .317 batting average. He scored 22 runs and had eight RBIs.
Further bolstering the Mano offense, junior designated hitter, catcher, and left fielder Vinny Benevento had a .339 batting average (20-for-59) and had 11 RBIs and eight runs scored. Sophomore right fielder Sam Markovitz went 13-for-34 for a .382 batting average with 11 RBIs.
LaPointe also noted that juniors Tai Nuzzi (second base), Ben Kuja (at center field), senior Cole Daignault (at third), sophomore Alex Modica (outfielder), senior Jacob Rachler (outfielder), juniors David Quoka (outfield), Braeden Simmons (second base), Nick Earl (outfield), freshman Nick Maynard (patrolling the infield) and sophomore Paul Calandrelli (catcher), “all were great contributors to us” and helped the Tigers overcome several roster hiccups.
“[Junior] Will Patla missed his entire junior season due to hip surgery,” LaPointe said. “It would have been a great piece in the middle of our order. He’ll be back and fully healthy next year, so we’re very thankful for that. Cole Daignault, a senior captain, also missed more than half the season due to hand surgery. Ben Kuja missed much of the season with some lower body injuries. All those injuries, plus a few more, made a big difference, but a lot of other guys stepped up.”
For the team awards, Calandrelli won the Defensive Player of the Year award and young Brandon SanMarco received the Pitcher of the Year honor.
“Paul had excellent defense behind the plate. There’s just no way to measure what he does for us back there. He also threw some crucial innings for us,” LaPointe said. “Brandon SanMarco was our staff ace all year. He pitched in most of our biggest games and the toughest opponents. Besides, [sophomore] Sam Markovitz, Paul Calandrelli, [juniors] Owen Scarice, Johnny Reh, Payton Powell and [senior] Kiran Pathy gave us great innings on the mound this year.”
Led by 2024 captains Nuzzi and Kuja, Hand will welcome critical pieces throughout the sophomore and junior classes who gained extensive experience and a wealth of in-game instincts, paving a promising path for 2024 captains. Tigers travel a little deeper in the states Great dance and return to the league draw.
“I just wanted to recognize our four graduating seniors Troy Piascik, Jacob Rachler, Cole Daignault, and Kiran Pathy. All of those guys gave so much to our program throughout their careers,” LaPointe said. “Next year, we are going to be a very dangerous team. We’ll have a lot of talent up and down the roster, along with some big-game experience from across our roster. We’ll have a chip on our shoulder as we look to make a statement and be in contention for some titles in 2024.”
LaPointe, who finished his 11th season and has been in charge of the Hand dugout since 2012, was assisted by varsity assistant coaches Kyle Heins (7th year) and Justin Kaeser (6th year), coach JV Tyler Michaud (3rd year) and rookie First Year Coach Mike Spadaro.
The 2023 Hand baseball team roster consisted of seniors Piascik, Daignault, Pathy, Rachler; juniors Antonetti, Benevento, Earl, Christian Kells, Kuja, Nuzzi, Patla, Derek Piascik, Powell, Quoka, Reh, SanMarco, Scarice, Simmons; sophomores Markovitz, Calandrelli, Modica, Cooper Burke, Griffin Byrne, Rob Marchese, Shailen Pathy, Rocco Zagami; and finally freshmen Maynard, Ayden Brennan, Drew Catala, Clay Cosgriff, Drew Horn, Alex Khacherian, Jonas Markowitz, Colin Menard, Robert Monday, Robert Reh, Brendan Riordan, Gavin Scarice, Finn Strabley, and Jack Tanner.
Hand Baseball Team 2023 Regular Season Results
April 3: Hand 7, North Haven 4
April 5: Lyman Hall 4, Hand 0
April 8: Fairfield Ludlowe 6, Hand 4
April 10: Hand 2, Guilford 0
April 12: Hand 14, Cross 7
April 14: Fairfield Prep 6, Hand 4
April 17: Notre Dame-West Haven 13, Hand 3
April 19: Friendship 12, Hand 4
April 20: Hand 12, Xavier 11
April 24: Hand 10, West Haven 2
April 26: Fitch 8, Hand 5
April 28: Hand 3, Lyman Hall 2
May 1: Guilford 5, Hand 3
May 3: Hand 10, Tails 4
May 4: Fairfield Prep 7, Hand 6
May 8: Notre Dame-West Haven 7, Hand 3
May 10: Friendship 6, Hand 4
May 12: Xavier 7, Hand 5
May 15: Hand 6, West Haven 2
May 17: Hand 8, Cheshire 6