Shelton High baseball coach Scott Gura spoke glowingly of how the Gaels hoped to turn a concern into a team strength prior to their scrimmage with Masuk High in Monroe on March 28.
“Ed Groth has made an incredible adjustment this preseason from being a middle infielder to playing behind the plate,” Gura said. “He has quick hands and a strong arm.”
Two batters into the game, Groth injured his non-throwing hand while stealing second base and Shelton may have been back to square one if Groth was out for any amount of time.
“Eddie is fine and back playing,” said Gura, who is in his fourth year in charge of the program he starred for scholastically. “We lost five college baseball players from last season and must find a way to replace 138 hits and 92 RBIs from those players.
“We’re young and inexperienced, but should gel by midseason to make a run at the conference and state tournaments.”
Shelton opens its season today at 4 with a Southern Connecticut Conference road game with Notre Dame of West Haven at Quigley Stadium.
In 2012, Shelton finished with a 22-5 record, won the Class LL state title as the No. 4 seed with a 7-2 win over No. 6 South Windsor, and was ranked first in the final state writer’s top 10 poll.
Ryan Zahornasky, Dan McCormick, Dustin Chmielewski, Jeff Groth, Jeremy Soderholm, Bryan Kondor and Ryan Daiss graduated from that squad.
Ryan Testani, Marcello Ursini, Tyler Tice and Ed Groth are the top returnees.
Testani put together a 9-3 record with a 1.31 ERA as a junior, when he pitched a two-hitter in the state finals.
“Testani will be looked at as a potential MLB draft pick if he has a dominant senior year. Ryan has worked hard in the offseason — he has grown a few inches and put on about 10 pounds of muscle.
“His fast ball is up to 87-88 MPH and he has a devastating changeup.
“Ryan has signed a letter of intent and will be a scholarship player at Seton Hall next year.”
“Marcello is another captain and batted .416 as a junior. Another potential All-State choice, he set a school record with 42 hits in a single season last year. He scored 32 runs with ten doubles and twelve stolen bases.
“Tyler is our third senior captain. He batted .400 last year, scored 21 runs and stole seven bases.
“As a utility player, Ed batted .275 with eight stolen bases.”
The Gaels boast young arms behind Testani with Vin Backert, Hudson Boles, Mike Cowell and Justin Lynch.
“The price you pay for our success is graduating players. We have three to four inexperienced varsity arms and five to six new players in the field,” Gura said.
“I really like the team chemistry we have had the last few years. We will be young, but look to build on last year’s success with some new players getting a chance now to perform at the varsity level.
“We’re talented, just raw. We may take our lumps early, but when we gain experience we’ll be okay in the long run.”
Ursini and Tice will anchor the defense up the middle and are all a part of the Little League World Series team from Shelton that has had a great four-year career run — 2010 SCC champs, two Class LL semifinals and a state championship.
Gura said, “Amity will be tough to beat. We have such a storied rivalry with them, I won’t be surprised if it comes down to the two of us again for the third year out of four.
“We’ll have a target on our backs for twenty-plus games, because our being state champions will be part of every one of our rival’s pregame speeches.”
Shelton travels to Daniel Hand High of Madison Thursday at 4:15 and visits Hamden High on Saturday at 12 p.m.
Jonathan Law of Milford visits Monday at 3:45.
April 3 at Notre Dame, 4
April 4 at Hand, 4:15
April 6 at Hamden, noon
April 8 Jonathan Law, 3:45
April 10 Cheshire, 4
April 12 at Sheehan, 4:15
April 15 at Xavier, 4:15
April 17 Lyman Hall, 4
April 19 at Amity, 4
April 22 North Haven, 4
April 24 at Branford, 4:15
April 26 at West Haven, 4
May 1 at Cheshire, 4:15
May 3 Sheehan, 7
May 6 Guilford, 7
May 8 at Lyman Hall, 7
May 9 Amity, 7
May 13 at Prep, 4:15
May 15 Foran, 7
May 17 Daniel Hand, 7