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Senior captain Steve Galluba and the North Branford baseball team notched 14 victories to go with a pair of playoff berths this spring. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain Carl Jacobson capped off his career with the Thunderbirds by hitting .425 on his way to winning the team’s MVP Award. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
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The North Branford baseball team enjoyed one of its best years in recent memory this spring. The Thunderbirds qualified for the Shoreline Conference Tournament and then won their first game in the bracket to make the semifinals, after which they hosted a first-round contest in the Class S State Tournament. Overall, Head Coach Billy Mitchell’s squad finished with a record of 14-9 in the 2019 season.
North Branford jumped out to a 4-0 start when senior captain Nick Mancini suffered an injury that kept him sidelined for eight games. The T-Birds lost their first two games following the injury, but then got back on track by rattling off a five-game win streak that qualified the team for the postseason.
“As a group, our biggest accomplishment was sticking together. We overcame a lot of adversity this year,” Coach Mitchell said. “Especially with the injury, the guys really played hard this year and did a good job. Our record was indicative to their dedication to our team.”
In 15 games played, Mancini posted a .400 batting average on 18 hits, including one home run, to go with 19 runs scored and seven RBI this spring. The two-time captain earned North Branford’s Steve Lenzi Award, won North Branford’s Desire and Dedication Award, and also garnered All-Shoreline Conference First Team recognition. On top of that, Mancini received the John “Whitey” Piurek There’s No ‘I’ in Team Award from the Southern Connecticut Diamond Club.
“He worked his butt of to get back and [play designated hitter] for us and helped us out tremendously. He inspired the whole team with his work ethic,” said Mitchell. “Going All-Shoreline was kind of a show of respect. If he didn’t get hurt, he probably would’ve been the Player of the Year in our conference.”
Fellow senior captain Carl Jacobson had a huge season at the plate for North Branford. Jacobson batted .425 on 31 hits with 18 runs scored and 20 RBI to take home the Thunderbirds’ Most Valuable Player Award.
“Carl offensively picked up our team this year,” Mitchell said. “He really did a tremendous job. He was like the quarterback of our team.”
Other players who put up quality offense numbers for North Branford included senior captain Steve Galluba, who batted .263 with 20 hits, 17 runs scored, and 19 RBI; senior Colin Baxter, who hit .315 on 23 hits and had 14 RBI; senior Gio Parillo, who finished with a .274 average, 17 hits, and 14 runs scored; junior Enrique Diaz, who finished with a .278 batting average on 20 hits with 12 runs and 14 RBI; junior John Pollock, who hit .293 with 22 hits, 11 runs, and 10 RBI; and freshman Dom Scalia who batted .316 with 24 hits, 17 runs scored, and 12 RBI.
North Branford’s pitching staff proved a bright spot this year. Pollock finished with a record of 6-3 and pitched to a 2.03 earned-run average with 36 strikeouts for the T-Birds. The junior earned All-Shoreline Conference First Team honors and also solidified a spot on the All-State Class S First Team. Junior Bret Fee notched a mark of 5-2 to go with a 1.57 ERA and 68 punchouts on the sesaon. Sophomore Jadon Canelli won two games and finished with an ERA of 2.92.
“Our pitchers performed admirably. They did a tremendous job,” Coach Mitchell said. “They grew up on the mound this year from last year and all did a great job.”
Coach Mitchell is excited about how North Branford’s rotation is shaping up for next year. Pollock, Fee, and Canelli will all be back in the fold, and Mitchell is also expecting good things from Scalia on the hill in the 2020 campaign.
“I’m really looking forward to next year. We’re going to have one of the better staffs in the Shoreline,” said Mitchell. “We have some spots to fill with some big losses—mainly our outfield—but I’m sure we’ll be able to do that, and we should have an equal or better year next year.”
From the Sidelines
The North Branford baseball team’s baseball roster featured senior captains Nick Mancini, Steve Galluba, Tyler Sibley, and Carl Jacobson; fellow seniors Colin Baxter, Matt Cosgrove, Gio Parillo, and Gary Robinson; juniors Stephen Adamczyk, Nicholas Bonaldo, Tyler Capasso, Joseph Carbone, Enrique Diaz, Bret Fee, Sean Lucibello, Jonathan Michonski, John Pollock, and Anthony Puglisi; sophomores Jeremy Bunnell, Jadon Canelli, Patrick Mullen, Anthony Raffone, and Nicholas Tranquilli; and freshmen Ryan Anderson, Ryan Michonski, Ryan Nuzzo, Dom Scalia, and Michael Virginelli.
Head Coach Billy Mitchell’s coaching staff featured assistant coaches Frank Mentone and Ron Ragozzino.
During the regular season, North Branford notched two victories versus Morgan (6-2 and 9-4) and Cromwell (5-3 and 6-4), in addition to one win apiece against East Hampton (17-0), Valley Regional (16-7), Portland (11-1), Westbrook (6-1), Lyman Hall (8-5), Old Lyme (10-4), Old Saybrook (4-3), Coginchaug (6-1), and North Haven (6-4).
The Thunderbirds qualified for the Shoreline Conference Tournament and defeated Valley Regional by a 2-1 score in the quarterfinals. North Branford went on to take a 4-2 loss to Haddam-Killingworth in the semifinal round.
In the Class S State Tournament, North Branford was the No. 12 seed and dropped a 9-6 decision against No. 21 seed Notre Dame-Fairfield in a first-round game.
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