TORRINGTON — In a crazy year for high school baseball, Torrington, at 11-6, is a potential blowout win away from its best season since 2015’s 13-7 campaign.
It’s a year straight out of a Rip Van Winkle slumber story after missing the COVID season.
Players like Corey Pray, Brian Duman, Nick Basso, Ben Smith and Jason Karpeichik, last heard of — or not heard of — as sophomores, woke to find themselves suddenly team leaders as seniors.
Even more dramatically, other players like Ray Campbell, Joe DiPippo, Dean Basso, Jake Groebl, Cooper Suminski, Tyler Semonich and Tom Rooney, leaped from middle school or high school freshmen, sometimes having to introduce themselves to Coach Pat Richardson, to starting roles often playing key parts in the Raider success.
“Missing that year … we just had a bunch of guys who love baseball coming out early,” Richardson said.
Thanks to their magical-seeming arrival, it’s fun to hear the kids’ view of their transition and personal highlights in this year’s success.
“As a freshman, I was sitting on the bench, mostly all year,” said junior Ray Campbell, who filled in for catcher Karpeichik after the senior went down with an arm injury. “I had four RBI in the (first) Wolcott game,” a 13-3 win after a rainout gave the Raiders a re-start.
Two years ago, Joe DiPippo played middle school baseball as what he calls “an average player.” Two games into his first high school season, as a sophomore, he gave up just three hits and struck out seven in an 11-1 win over Sacred Heart.
“He’s pitched some big games and he plays like a senior,” said Richardson.
Dean Basso played alongside DiPippo at Torrington Middle School. Early this month, in a 23-1 blowout against Wilby/Crosby, he was on base five times.
“He makes an impact every time he’s in there,” said Richardson
Junior Jake Groebl has become the leadoff hitter in Torrington’s lineup and a centerfielder “who just goes and gets it,” said Richardson. “He has instincts you can’t teach.”
And, oh yeah, his seventh-inning homer was the go-ahead run in a 7-5 win at Oxford last month.
Cooper Suminski joined Campbell on the bench as a freshman. In the first game of a sweep against Watertown, he went 3-for-3 at bat with a bases loaded triple.
Richardson: “He plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”
Two years ago, Tyler Semonich was on Torrington’s JV/Freshman team. He poured in 6 RBI in the Raiders’ season opener this season in a 12-0 win over Derby.
Tom Rooney was Semonich’s JV/Freshman teammate two years ago. He pitched in the Oxford win “without my best stuff, but the boys had my back.”
Nobody’s glad for a missing year. Still, Coach Richardson agrees there’s something about missing it that’s brought more enthusiasm, more chemistry and more sheer joy in playing the game than Torrington’s Raiders have seen in many years.
All the kids played summer baseball last year, most on the same travel team.
Friday, they bring it all to Derby for their regular-season finale before next week’s NVL Tournament begins.
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