NEW CANAAN ADVERTISER, NEW CANAAN, CONN., THURSDAY, APRIL 4, 2013
By Dave Stewart
The New Canaan Rams camewithin four outs of capturing a statechampionship last spring, a perfor-mance which was historical evenwithout the final trip to the winner’scircle.New Canaan was making its firstappearance in a state title game since1972, and was looking to win its firstchampionship since 1950. The Ramsfell just short, as Fitch of New Havenrallied for three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning for a 6-4 decision.Despite that defeat, New Canaanmade some tremendous strides, andis looking to get back to the promisedland again this year, and perhapseven take that one final step to acrown.“There has been a tremendousamount of carry-over,” Hoffman toldthe
“The biggest thing forus is the experience. The experienceof having the ability to deal with win-ning, what it takes, and how it feels.We’re playing to win games and Ican see it in their attitude. They’relooser and there’s a confidence factorbehind them in a positive way.”The Rams have good reason to beoptimistic this spring.With a deep lineup loaded withtalented hitters, plenty of speed onthe basepaths, a strong stable of pitchers, and a good deal of experi-ence, the sky’s the limit for NewCanaan.Thanks to a midseason hittingslump, New Canaan finished outsidethe FCIAC playoff bubble last year,going 10-10 during the regular sea-son, but they bounced back in theClass L tournament, winning fourstraight games before falling in thetitle game.“Last year was a good experiencefor them getting to within four outs(of a state championship), and kindof playing with the house’s money,”Hoffman said.Headlining the Ram nine areseniors Casey Ouellette and AndrewCasali, both experienced veteransand two-year captains. Ouellette hasspent four years as New Canaan’sstarting catcher, while Casali, whowas injured as a freshman, hasplayed varsity for three years as acenterfielder and a pitcher.“We consider our captains ascoaches,” Hoffman said. “It’s not justokay, you’re the captain; we expectthem to lead the team. We give a lotof freedom to our guys and Caseyand Andrew help with the wholeatmosphere based on experience andthe people that they are.”Ouellette is the on-field quarter-back, directing the game and thepitchers from behind home plate. Healso has atypical speed for a catcher,and will leadoff at the plate, givingthe Rams a potent stolen base threatto start things off.“Being a catcher myself, Caseyand I can think along the same lines.He’s been with me for four years,so I’m sure going to miss him,”Hoffman said. “Uniquely enough,he’s a catcher and a leadoff hitter,which typically fit, but he’s the sparkof the team behind the plate and atbat because he starts it for us.“I couldn’t ask for anything moreout of him than what I’ve seen so farin terms of his demeanor, his leader-ship and his guidance.”Casali will bat the three-hole andhas the biggest power bat the lineup.Like Ouellette, Casali is a threat tosteal, and also has great range incenterfield.“Andrew looks phenomenal,”Hoffman said. “He’s very looseand relaxed and he’s having fun.He’ll pitch, play center and hit third.Andrew is a very complete hitter.Being who he is, he’s not going tosee a lot of great pitches so he needsto make sure that he’s patient. He’sa kid that if you try to pitch aroundhim and he gets on base, he’ll turn itinto a double or a triple because he’sgoing to steal. He can hit the ball andhe can run as well.”The Rams can also boast of astrong and deep pitching staff, withthree varsity veterans on the mound.Junior J.R. Anderson earned astarting role last year and made themost of it, working his way into therole of ace.“J.R. is our inspirational lead-er,” Hoffman said. “He’s extremelyvocal, he has tremendous tenacityand he goes after it every single timehe’s out there. Even when he’s sittingon the bench because he’s not pitch-ing, he’s still a leader in terms of getting the team where it’s supposedto be mentally. I can’t speak higherof J.R.”Junior Dan Rajkowski, who cameup big during the state tournament,is also back, but has been dealingwith an injury during the preseason.Hoffman said Rajkowski is on a pitchcount for the time being, and hopesto have him back at full strength forthe second half of the schedule.Sophomore David Giusti movedup from the J.V. team and will startthis season, with the third and fourthspots going to Casali and sophomoreAlex LaPolice, a left-hander.Junior Jeff Chen, another lefty,and Luke Montgomery, a righty, willalso see time on the mound.“Pitching is the name of thegame,” Hoffman said. “We teachgetting the ball to the right parts of the plate, understanding how to pitchahead, and pitching with confidence.This year, we have the ability to letthe older pitchers we have teach thesophomore pitchers we have whatthey need to do.”The Rams will have a new lookon the infield with the losses of Doug Reilly, Gogo Jones and WillieBurger.Seniors Henry Lavieri and BrianMoran will split time at first base,with Moran serving as the DH whenhe’s not in the field. Moran, theRams’ cleanup hitter, was a star dur-ing the state tournament, comingwith numerous clutch hits.“Brian’s going to hit in the fourspot for us and he knows his role,”Hoffman said. “He’s hitting behindAndrew, so they can’t pitch aroundAndrew, they can’t pitch around both.Brian’s got some experience underhis belt and he’ll be fine there.”Sophomore Brandon Abate andsenior Grady Amrhein will be at sec-ond base, with juniors Matt Toth atshortstop, and Erik Jager at third.The outfield will feature Casali incenter, with junior Nick Cascione inright, and LaPolice in left. SeniorsAlex Curto and Ned Galluzzo arealso in the outfield mix.Backing up Ouellette behind theplate are senior C.J. Altman, whosaw time last year when Ouellettewas sidelined with an injury, and junior Griffin Donnelly.Hoffman said the influx of newtalent coupled with the veterans hasbeen a potent combination for theRams this spring.“There’s a lot of older faces here,but they’ve been welcoming the newfaces as well,” the coach said. “Lastyear, we were good, but we some-times looked for the next guy to hitthe ball. Now, we’re playing where if everybody just does their job, we’regood.”
Rams at a glance
Head Coach Mitch Hoffman
14-11, Class L runner-up
Casey Ouellette and Andrew Casali
Others to watch:
J.R. Anderson, Brian Moran, Nick Cascione,Dan Rajkowski, Alex LaPolice, Matt Toth, Henry Lavieri,Brandon Abate, Grady Amrhein, David Giusti, and Erik Jager
“The biggest thing for us is the experience. The experience of hav-ing the ability to deal with winning, what it takes, and how it feels.We’re playing to win games and I can see it in their attitude.”
— Mitch Hoffman
Junior J.R. Anderson, who emerged as an ace during his sophomore sea-son, will be back at the top of the rotation this spring.
New Canaan roster filled with diamond gems
Ram baseball team looks to build on historic 2012 state tournament performance
New Canaan seniorAndrew Casali followsthrough on a hit during a game at Mead Park lastspring. Casali and Casey Ouellette will be teamcaptains for the second year.