Baseball: New-look Gaels looking to gain experience

Entering his ninth season as the head coach of the Shelton High baseball team, Scott Gura is looking for his club to build on its success from last spring.

After missing the postseason all together in 2014, the Gaels put together a renaissance campaign last year. Behind Mike Cowell and Justin Lynch, Shelton went 18-7 overall, advancing to the Class LL state quarterfinals and sharing the Southern Connecticut Conference Housatonic Division title with Sheehan High of Wallingford.

However, 10 seniors are gone from that squad — including all-league selections Cowell, Lynch and Michael Ficano. Cowell and Lynch combined to go 14-3 on the mound, while the trio formed the core of a potent Gael lineup.

The heavy losses mean Gura will be fielding seven new starters, with all-league senior center fielder Chris Kanios (.400 batting average, 32 hits) and junior second baseman Ryan Murphy (.286 batting average) the lone returnees.

Pitcher/first baseman Craig McNamara, who hit .417 year last year, also returns. Kanios and McNamara will serve as team captains.

“We’re very young and inexperienced, with seven new starters in field,” Gura said. “We hope to have strong senior leadership from our two captains with experience.”

Despite having a young team, the Gaels do have something every team craves — pitching depth.

Anchoring the staff is junior right-hander Trey McLoughlin, who posted a 3-3 record, 2.32 ERA and struck out 36 batters in 45 innings as a sophomore. A power arm with a heavy mid-to-high 80s fastball, McLoughlin is already drawing interest from Fairfield University.

Kanios and McNamara will also see time on the mound, as will junior shortstop David Wells and junior left fielder Carl Kopf.

Shelton will need a strong rotation, facing another difficult schedule that features three defending state champions in Amity High, Sheehan and North Haven.

Seven of the Gaels first eight games are scheduled to be on the road, including a non-league game on Saturday, April 9, at Harbor Yard against Trumbull High, before what amounts to a long homestand to end the regular season.

“We may take some lumps early, but the benefit is that we’ll gain the experience needed from a new varsity team, and be comfortable at home during the second half of the year,” Gura said. “Nine of our 10 home games are under the lights after April 25.”