North Branford Playing Solid Ball Early On
Junior captain Dominic Scalia produced a couple of hits at the dish to help the North Branford baseball team claim a 10-6 home victory against East Hampton on April 14. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain Jadon Canelli is leading a North Branford baseball squad that has some talented young players on its roster this spring. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Sophomore Nico DeSisto picked up his first varsity victory by pitching six innings when the T-Birds defeated East Hampton by a 10-6 score last week. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Senior Trevor Holzer knocked home three runs to help North Branford rally for a 10-6 win over the Bellringers. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
With baseball back on the diamond in North Branford, the Thunderbirds entered the 2021 season featuring a fairly young roster that’s filled with underclassmen who are ready to make a difference. As his team begins a new campaign, Head Coach Billy Mitchell is looking for North Branford’s young athletes to gain key experience during the regular season and then make a name for themselves in the postseason.
Coach Mitchell and his players were elated to get back to work and be together again when they heard that baseball would be played this spring. After earning a 4-2 win versus Valley Regional in their season opener, the T-Birds split a pair of contests last week by taking a 4-2 loss to Haddam-Killingworth and posting a 10-6 victory against East Hampton. North Branford’s record is now 2-1 on the year.
On April 12, North Branford hit the road for an away game against H-K. The Cougars scored a pair of runs in both the first and second innings to take a 4-0 lead. The T-Birds battled back by scoring a run in the fifth and another in the sixth, but ultimately lost the game by a 4-2 score.
Senior Jeremy Bunnell pitched five scoreless innings of relief for North Branford. Junior second baseman Ryan Nuzzo had two hits for Coach Mitchell’s team.
“I thought we played pretty good. H-K is a really good team. We got down 4-0 after two innings. We battled back and scratched a couple runs on the board and hung in there with them,” Mitchell said. “We shut them out the rest of the game. I was happy as far as I could be with a loss. We played really good defense. We just didn’t hit enough. I know the hitting will come.”
On April 14, the T-Birds returned home to face East Hampton. The Bellringers had a 6-0 lead heading into the fifth inning, but North Branford exploded for seven runs in the fifth and three more runs in the sixth to earn a 10-6 victory.
Junior center fielder Dom Scalia had two hits, while senior outfielder Trevor Holzer had three RBI for the Thunderbirds. Sophomore Nico DeSisto pitched six innings to notch his first career varsity win.
“He was excellent. I couldn’t have been any happier,” Mitchell said of DeSisto’s performance. “He was throwing the ball well. He had good velocity. He’s one of our many sophomores who I am looking forward to having on the team for three years. He did a great job on the mound that day.”
This year’s T-Birds are being led by two captains in Scalia, a junior, and senior Jadon Canelli, a pitcher/first baseman. Coach Mitchell named Canelli and Scalia as his captains based on the excellent leadership traits that they’ve displayed. In addition to that leadership, Mitchell believes that both players are two of the best in the entire Shoreline Conference.
“It was an easy pick for me. Jadon has been with us for four years. He has grown into a great player. He is our ace this year and he is going to be hard to beat. He’s an excellent defensive first baseman,” said Mitchell. “I foresee Dom as one of the better hitters right now in the Shoreline Conference. He is an excellent, excellent player.”
North Branford’s senior class also includes Holzer, who is in his first year with the team; Bunnell, who plays first base alongside pitcher; as well as outfielders Nicholas Tranquilli and PJ Mullen and infielder Anthony Raffone. Coach Mitchell said that this year’s senior group is a hardworking bunch and that he expects all of them to contribute at the varsity level this year.
Nuzzo and fellow junior Ryan Michonski, a catcher, are both starting for North Branford and serve as focal points of the team’s offense. Freshman infielder Victor Castillo and freshman utility man Caleb Allen are each expected to see varsity playing time during their rookie campaigns.
North Branford also has a large sophomore class that includes starting shortstop John Onofrio, starting third baseman Cam Garrett, and utility man Ben Stegina, along with DeSisto, who is slated to be one of the team’s top pitchers.
After missing out on last season, this year marks the first opportunity for North Branford’s sophomores to compete at the varsity level. So far, Coach Mitchell said that they have passed the test with flying colors.
“I’m really excited. I’m not surprised, but I’m really happy so far. Some of these guys would have played varsity last year. They’re technically sophomores, but it’s like they’re freshman. They have handled it admirably so far,” Mitchell said. “Our defense has been great, and I hope we keep that up. I understand I have a talented class at the junior high. I’m very excited for the future.”
Coach Mitchell was pleased with the way that North Branford performed overall in its first three games of the season. Going forward, Mitchell wants to see the T-Birds develop their hitting skills as they continue to improve their approach in the batter’s box.
Mitchell feels confident about both the present and the future of the North Branford baseball program. He’s hoping that the T-Birds can make a run at the playoffs before all is said and done this spring.
“By the end of the year, I definitely want to make the Shorelines and have a nice impact on the Shoreline Conference Tournament. We want to make states,” said Mitchell. “We want to get some experience and go as far as we can. We’re building towards the future.”