The CT Grind are a newly founded program that have been in existence for just a year and a half, and this past weekend their 17u team proved that they are now among the best programs in the New England region with their Super25 Regional Championship.
The Grind are led by Michael Moras, who along with his coaching staff are much younger than most of the coaches they face. However, Moras feels that the relative youth of his coaches gives them an advantage, explaining, “we’re energetic and passionate about what we do, and we have a fun time doing it. We have a great relationship with our kids. We relate to them very well, being younger and a lot of us just getting done with playing recently. It’s a good relationship that we have because we can be firm with them but put our arm around them as well.”
The Connecticut-based team has talent throughout its roster, and they relied on a collective effort from its position players and pitching staff to battle their way to the regional championship.
Jack Gethings led the Grind on the field and at the plate with his dynamic abilities. Gethings, committed to play at Fairfield University, had to go out of his comfort zone against the Wayland Blazers, as the coaching staff made the bold decision to start Gethings on the mound despite his lack of pitching experience. “We took a gamble and threw him in game 4 so we could be set up for games 5 and 6 hopefully [semifinals and championship], and it worked out for us,” Moras said. “He competed out there and threw us a great game. We ended up winning the game 4-0, and he hit a leadoff home run to get things going.”
Gethings was complemented up the middle by second baseman Nikko Liguori, who is a member of the 2017 graduating class while most of the players in the tournament are graduating in 2015 or 2014. Despite being younger than his competition, Liguori more than held his own. Moras was thrilled with what Liguori brought to the table this weekend, saying, “the kid just had a phenomenal tournament for us. He turned more double plays this weekend than I can count, and they were big-time double plays, and he also stuck two base-hits in the championship game.”
The Grind’s pitching staff had a great weekend overall, allowing no more than three runs in any of the team’s five victories. Ronnie Rossomando, who is committed to play at the University of Connecticut, pitched exceptionally in the Grind’s third game of the tournament. “Ronnie came up and threw Saturday night against the Boston Astros under the lights, and he looked great,” Moras said. “I told him after the game it was the best I had seen him look in awhile. He pounded the bottom-third of the zone and challenged guys with fastballs. I can’t remember more than one or two balls they squared up on him. He competed out there, kept the ball down, threw his breaking ball when he needed to, and he moved the ball in and out.”
The Grind got a surprise shutout from Gethings in their last game of pool play, and turned to their big lefty Turner French in the semifinals against the Ocean State Waves Select. French is committed to St. John’s, and while he is supremely talented, Moras explained that, “he didn’t have his best stuff through the first 3 innings.”
The Grind and the Ocean State Waves traded runs back and forth through the first 3 innings—including a big home run from Mike DeMartino to keep them in the game—after which Moras challenged French to do better. According to Moras, French responded to the challenge. “Turner is a gamer, and he got out on the mound in the 4th inning and he looked like a different kid than the first 3 innings, and he competed and gutted out the last 4 innings. He started doing what he always does well, pounding the bottom-third of the zone, pitching off his fastball and mixing in his breaking ball.” French didn’t allow another run, and the Grind won the game 6-3.
In the championship game, the Grind took on a tough East Cobb New England Expos team. Thankfully for the Grind, they had one of their big arms still available to start in right-hander Michael Krieger. “Michael’s a little bit funky, a little unorthodox with his delivery,” Moras said. “He has some crazy movement in there, and he gets real good sink on the ball. He’ll run his fastball up to 85-87, and he’s got a real sharp breaking ball as well with his three-quarter arm-slot. Michael’s a quarterback for his high school, and potentially a college-quarterback as well. He’s an absolute competitor on the mound, he’s tough to beat. He’s not the guy you want to face in a big game.”
The game remained scoreless through 5 innings. The Grind began to rally in the bottom of the 5th, as Joe Lord smacked a double off the left-field wall, advanced to third on a groundball, and then was hit home by a Richie Depalma single. After a couple walks, French stepped up and ripped a double down the line to put the Grind up 3-0.
In the bottom of the 7th, the Expos had runners on first and second with nobody out. The Grind got a big strikeout before walking a batter, but then they were able to cap off their championship run with a double play to end the game, winning 3-1.
The Grind are a Northeast program that has the talent and the baseball instincts to compete with the best teams across the country. They will have the opportunity to do so in the PG Super25 National Championship, but despite the stage and the big-name programs they will play, don’t expect the Grind to be intimidated. “We go about our business the same every day, whether we’re playing in a big-time tournament or a game in our backyard,” Moras said. “We teach our kids to go about our business the same whether they are playing in front of 10 people or 10,000.”
With their talent and mindset, the Grind look poised to make a run at the Super25 National Championship.