NEWINGTON - Not much has gone wrong for the Newington baseball team so far this season.
Out to a 13-6 record with the state tournament just a couple of weeks away and winners of six of their last seven, the Indians are playing their best baseball of the season with a team that is used to playing when it matters most.
Newington has seven senior and seven juniors listed on its roster. They have just one underclassman, sophomore Gunnar Johnson and head coach Ben Alaimo believes the veteran presence will be in key in a postseason run.
“It’s tremendous,” Alaimo said. “That varsity experience goes a long way. I’ve always thought that it takes about eight games on varsity [to develop that experience] and we have a lot of guys who have been varsity players for three or four years. We have guys who have been all-conference and all-state players. That leadership, guidance and security they provide really goes a long way in terms of you ability to be successful as a program.”
Alaimo also said that the seniors have been vital in helping him run the team. They’ve helped do a lot of thing “behind the scenes” like running practices and teaching the younger players how to behave on the field and off.
One senior Alaimo highlighted was Cooper Johnson, who is coming off a torn ACL in the fall. Alaimo believes his ability to work his way back at such a fast rate was a great way to set the tone for the season and really represent himself as a leader.
“That was definitely the worst day of my life,” Johnson said. “But I knew I still wanted to be back for the season. I was worried I was going to lose my scholarship. But Adelphi University kept my scholarship and I’m grateful for that. But that was also a motivator that no one around me has given up on me and I was not going to give up on my team.”
Johnson believes the team’s biggest asset is not necessarily the experience, but more so the camaraderie. The players he said spend a lot of time with one another and have played together for several years.
Another key player in the Indians’ success is starting pitcher Jack Kelley. Alaimo said Kelley has done a great job establishing himself as one of the team’s top three starters and how proud he is of Kelley’s constant progression throughout the season. Alaimo was especially happy with Kelley’s latest win over Goodwin Tech, giving him a 5-1 record on the season.
“He’s done a good job for us all year and has continued to improve, outing to outing,” Alaimo said. “What I was most happy with [against Goodwin Tech] was his ability to come back from that first inning, where he gave up the long home run. Sometimes pitchers can get rattled at the high school level, but he really didn’t and that shows the kind of pitcher he is.
Alaimo knows what having veteran players can do for a team, and knows they will need to continue to do their jobs down the stretch.
“They’ve really just set the bar for our culture as a program and they’re going to be huge for us,” Alaimo said.
Tyler Roaix can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org