Baseball preview: Young players key for Wilton

A year ago, Wilton High baseball head coach Tim Eagen began the season with a cadre of seven sophomores, four of whom would start while the others would accumulate significant playing time.

Though only two senior starters will return, it would be easy to anticipate a winning 2014 campaign with so many young veterans a year older and better — except for one thing: There are some major holes to fill due to graduation losses and prep-school flight.

Eagen, starting his 35th year as head coach, begins afresh minus some key performers. He will miss five starters, including All-FCIAC centerfielder Will Bruschi, pitching mainstay and third baseman Andrew Jacobson, second baseman Jordan Prince, and first baseman Hunter Quinn, a defensive stalwart. Also gone is pitcher/first baseman/designated hitter Ryan Reuther, who won his first two starts last year, including a no-hitter. But Reuther was unable to pitch from early April on due to an arm injury. Another departure is that of Ben Rappaport, who has left for a private school.

“We won’t have a lot of margin for error this year,” said Eagen, whose team began the season with a 7-4 non-conference loss to Weston yesterday. “We’re young at several positions, including at pitcher, so there will be a lot of ups and downs.”

His pitching coach, Mark Ketley, agrees. “We’ve got arms, but how solid our depth will be is a question,” said Ketley.

Returning senior and captain Ethan Segall (1-1), who blossomed last year as a starter, will anchor the staff. After that, juniors JT Morin (1-0), Trevor Blond (3-2), Jack Senneff and Jackson Ward will vie for starting slots, joined by hopefuls Scott Shouvlin, Henry Hovland, Harry Sabo and Tom McCabe.

“We have good pitching, not overpowering pitching. So it means we have to make the basic plays and not give away outs. That’s true of any team,” says Eagen, “but I think it’s going to be true of this team even more.”

Behind the plate, junior Alex Jacobson, already with a starting year under his belt, looks to improve defensively and continue to wield a big bat. McCabe and Sabo will back him up.

The infield gets just one returnee, but it’s a critical one. Senior captain and four-year starter Brett Phillips will man shortstop one more time. Last year, he was the team’s leading hitter, and he acts as another coach on the field. Surrounding him will be Jackson Ward at second base and Sabo or Morin at first. Third base isn’t settled yet, but Hovland looks to have the inside track, with senior Dan Griffith and junior Jason Rothstein providing plenty of competition. Junior Nate Johnson is in the mix as well, with his versatility making him a potential fit at shortstop, second base or third base.

James Meany returns in left field, while Shouvlin moves from right field to center field. Paul Sorbo looks to hold down right field with a challenge from Ed Petrillo.

“Right now, we’ve got a lot of young guys trying to catch up with the speed of the game at the varsity level,” said Eagen. “Once it slows down for them, you’re going to see the talent of these kids.

“I think in the pre-season we’ve improved immensely on defense and, offensively, I am very pleased with how we’ve hit the ball in our last two scrimmages.”

Notes: Wilton went 12-9 last season, losing in the first round of the state tournament.