Baseball team falls in CRAL semifinals, looks for upset in states

Third baseman Jackson Marchetti ’25 on the bases against Prince Tech.

As the stakes get higher and the competition becomes more intense, we see history repeat itself as the baseball team reaches great heights in their performance.

The University/Classical team’s regular season ended with a record of 13-6, allowing them to qualify for the Class M state tournament for the fifth season in a row. They also finished their CRAL schedule with an 11-3 record, making them #3 in their conference behind East Windsor/International and Bloomfield/AAE/Bulkeley. They had the same record as Bulkeley/Bloomfield/AAE but got the #3 seed by tiebreaker.

“We always have high expectations as a program, but at the beginning of the year we were also being realistic knowing we lost nine guys from last year’s team and were going to be starting a few freshmen,” said Head Coach Miller.” If you had told me in March that we would have a thirteen-win regular season and the two or three seed in the CRAL playoffs, I would have been very happy with that.”

As the team moves forward into the next stage of the competition, the state tournament inches closer and closer. Sophomore Jackson Marchetti 25’ hopes to stand out amongst the rest in the state playoffs.

“I’m looking forward to playing in the conference playoffs and trying to beat every team that’s in our way to get another conference championship for our school,” he said.

Unfortunately, the team lost 18-8 to Bulkeley/Bloomfield/AAE in the CRAL semifinals on May 24, putting an end to hopes of repeating as CRAL champions. The team split their two games with Bulkeley/Bloomfield/AAE during the regular season. Bulkeley/Bloomfield/AAE won 6-5 on May 6, and the University/Classical team won 9-4 on May 17.

“We played two tight games with them this year and I think we were all expecting another close one in the playoffs,” said Coach Miller. “Dario [Bergantino ’24] was throwing well, they just came in and hit everything we threw. Give them credit. We’re disappointed for sure.”

Nonetheless, the team finished as the #11 seed in the Class M state tournament and will play vs. #22 Killingly, from the Eastern Connecticut Conference, on Tuesday, May 30.

“We’ve had a couple tough matchups in states and Killingly is going to be no different,” said Coach Miller.

Having strong goals can greatly motivate and enhance a team’s performance on the field. Head coach Miller explains his goals and expectations for the University/Classical team.

“Every season we have two goals: win the CRAL championship and advance in the state tournament. We still have a shot at the second one. Becoming the first team from our league to ever win a game in states would be a huge accomplishment for these guys.”

As of early May, key player Garrett Bartko ’23 was injured and expected to miss the rest of the season but was cleared to return in time for the CRAL playoffs. He will be available for the state tournament.

“It was one of those things you hate to see happen. Two guys got tangled up on the bases and unfortunately, Garrett got the worst of it. He had just pitched two complete games for us and was really stepping up down the stretch. There’s no way we have the season that we’ve had without him,” Miller commented.

Despite this, the team was able to overcome this challenge and secure their spot in the CRAL playoffs and state tournament.

“Garrett had just gotten hurt, we went out to East Windsor and got beat, and we were kind of reeling a little bit”, said Coach Miller. “The next week these guys came out and won two games against playoff teams from our league to get us in position for the postseason.”

A notable game from that week was their 9-4 win against Bloomfield/AAE/Bulkeley.

A player’s attitude can have just as profound an impact as their athletic ability. Marchetti explains how he learned the principle of persistence through baseball and applies these same principles off the field.

“Never give up because in baseball, if things aren’t going your way in the beginning it could always flip and I think that can be used for life, as there’ll always be a way for life to get better,” he said.

The team celebrated Senior Day at their 5-1 win over Prince Tech on May 22, honoring Bartko and Anuj Patel ’23.

In addition, it was announced on Friday that Patel and Dario Bergantino ’24 were named to the All-CRAL baseball team, as voted by all the coaches in the league. Patel hit .446 from the leadoff spot and played great defense at shortstop, while Bergantino had 46 strikeouts in 40 innings pitched and batted .370.

Coach Miller wants to end their season on a high note, as a reward to those players, especially seniors, who put their all into the sport these past years.

“I want our graduating seniors to walk off the field knowing they gave it everything they had, and I want our returning players to feel good about being part of this program going forward and knowing what they need to do to succeed next year,” he said.

After his seventh year leading the program, Coach Miller will pursue other career opportunities outside of teaching at UHSSE and thus, this will be his last year having this position.

“All year I’ve tried to downplay that, but the last game is definitely going to be an emotional day,” he said. “At our last huddle of the season, I always say ‘Next season starts now.’ It’s still hard to imagine I’m not going to be there for it, but these guys know I’ll be a phone call or a text away.”

Through impacting athletes on and off the field, the legacy Coach Miller left will never be forgotten.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen on Tuesday, but I told these guys if this is it let’s finish the season with a game we can be proud of,” he said.