Baseball preview: Wilton must overcome graduation losses

Tim Eagen enters his 30-something year as head coach of the Wilton High varsity baseball team confronted with key losses from last year’s squad that finished 14-9, secured an FCIAC tournament berth, and reached the second round of the state tournament.

No longer will he have to look upward when he advises his two step ladders on the mound, starting pitchers Paul Merolla (6’8”) and Garrett Furnivall (6’6”), who were each good for four wins last spring. Gone as well are catcher Connor Buhler and centerfielder Sean Osgood.

Though Wilton has lost some strength up the middle, what remains is impressive. Junior Brett Phillips will begin his third year as the starting shortstop. Senior second baseman Jordan Prince complements Phillips for the second straight year, while senior tri-captain Will Bruschi moves to centerfield after demonstrating a season’s worth of offensive and defensive prowess in right.

Senior tri-captain Ryan Reuther (5-1 in 2012) will anchor the pitching corps. He comes off a superb year at the plate as well, having hit .424. There are several strong arms available to join Reuther, but none who have his experience. Senior tri-captain Andrew Jacobson, junior Ben Rappaport, senior Hunter Quinn and Prince saw limited action last season.

Then comes a parade of sophomores possessed of power arms but no varsity experience. Jack Senneff, Patrick Ryan and  Trevor Blond have all pitched well in pre-season scrimmages.

“They’re young but they’ve got good arms,” said pitching coach Mark Ketley, referring to all the young talent he has at his disposal. “Somebody is just going to have to step up.”

Stepping up will be the case at other strategic positions, particularly at catcher where sophomore Alex Jacobson appears to have the inside track. His rate of maturation will be an important factor as the season progresses. Senior Dimitri Psaltos and sophomore Tom McCabe look to see playing time behind the plate as well.

Pitching duties aside, Andrew Jacobson comfortable at third base, taking over for the graduated Zach Ellenthal, while junior Griffin Bender could share time at the position. Sophomore Will DeSantis has the ability to play multiple infield slots.

Completing the infield at first base will be Reuther (when not pitching) and an as yet-to-be-determined candidate from a group that includes Rappaport and Quinn.

Flanking Bruschi in the outfield could be Rappaport as well as some speedy newcomers in Ryan, sophomore Scott Shouvlin, junior Ethan Segall and sophomore James Meany.

As the team moves toward its season opener against Bullard Havens next Wednesday, Eagen will have to do some fine-tuning.

“There are always tough decisions a coach has to make,” he said. “It’s the hardest thing you have to do as a coach —  make a decision to keep one person and not another.

“We’ve got a lot of youth on the team and that means I’ll have to do a lot of teaching,” added Eagen. “You can’t substitute talent for experience. But so far I’m pleased with how we’re practicing and how we’ve done in scrimmages. Last year we didn’t know how guys like Prince, Furnivall, Andrew Jacobson and even Ryan Reuther would do. They all produced. Now we have another group and we’ll see how they respond to varsity level baseball.”