AMERICAN LEGION: To defend state title, Southington must re-embrace the grind

AMERICAN LEGION: To defend state title, Southington must re-embrace the grind

SOUTHINGTON — Fresh off winning the Connecticut American Legion state championship last season, Southington Post 72 has the same high hopes for this summer.

“I’m confident with our guys,” Southington Post 72 head coach Marc Verderame said. “We won it last year and it's a lot of the same guys coming back. We are confident, but we have to put the roadwork in. Just because we won last year, we have to stay greedy.”

Verderame said he spoke with his team about reaching one goal at a time: win Zone 1, win a state championship and get to the Northeast regionals.

“I always say people handle success differently,” Verderame said. “It’s hard to get up in the morning and do the roadwork when you are sleeping in silk sheets. You got to stay hungry. You got to put the work in and that’s what we stress to these guys.”

Southington will have a significant amount of players returning, but they lost several players who aged out of Legion baseball. Some of those players include Andrew Owsianko, Ryan Sheehan, Tyler Cyr and Brayden Cooney.

“Those were guys that ran the gauntlet,” Verderame said. “They were with me when they were freshmen and sophomores and I think we won five games. They went out as 19-year olds winning the state championship. They ran that gauntlet and that will always be a blood kinship, that team from last year.”

Despite losing those key players, the team possesses a pitching staff to be feared.

“We got the pitching and that’s what carried us last season,” Verderame said. “It’s scary to think about, but we have the same goal. We have the pitching; I’m not worried about it. We are going to go out there everyday and just play baseball.”

Verderame said he expects Nick Borkowski, Ryan Henderson and Jason Krar to make up the 1-2-3 punch in the starting rotation.

Krar is the guy who Verderame said will have the largest leap forward this season. The right-hander will be joining the Army in a month or two, and the head coach said he expects Krar to leave it all out on the baseball diamond before he hangs up the cleats.

Verderame’s biggest challenge will be finding playing time for his deep roster. The head coach said he told his team they shouldn’t all expect to play every day, and they are fine with that as long as it translates to wins.

“I think the most difficult part will be juggling the lineup because we got 18 guys who could start on most teams,” Verderame said. “We got to keep everybody happy, but we are a team and we want to win. So, we are going to do our best.”

What makes changing up the lineup a tad easier is that there are many games in Legion baseball. Verderame said that since his team is off to a late start to the regular season, due to Southington High School reaching the Class LL state championship game, Post 72 will be playing roughly 4-6 games per week. This will allow for normal days of rest.

One of the other challenges that Southington will face this season is adjusting back to Zone 1 after one season in Zone 3. Verderame said he is excited to be back in Zone 1 and to take on some of the top competition in the state.

“I like Zone 1; the competition is the best of the best,” Verderame said. “We played in Zone 3 with Cheshire. I think Cheshire is probably the best team we saw last season, even in regionals. They are a very good squad. We had that war with them in the playoffs last season that we were fortunate enough to win.”

Southington is now in the Southern Division of Zone 1 with Newington, West Hartford, Berlin and Hartford.

Berlin, like Southington, reached a state championship game during the high school season, falling 1-0 to Waterford in Class M the day before Southington lost 3-0 to Staples in Class LL.

Verderame said that his team is looking forward to playing another season of Legion baseball.

“You play so many games in a short amount of time,” Verdame said. “You are at the ballpark together everyday. It’s a brotherhood. It’s wood bat league, so you're not seeing these scores like 10-9 or 14-2. Every run counts and a lot of these games, they are 2-1 or 4-3. Every run counts and pitching is so important.”


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