NEW CANAAN, Conn. – New Canaan Cannons manager Dave Prutting expected results when he brought in several new players during the off-season to revitalize his baseball team. He never imagined the restructuring would work so well.
With nearly a month left in the regular season, New Canaan (14-1) has virtually clinched first place in the Fairfield County Men’s Senior Baseball League. The Cannons return to action against the Bridgeport Brewers Sunday at 9 p.m. at Mead Park. The league is for players 28 and over
“We combined the new talent with the core team, and we now have pitching depth like we haven’t had before,’’ said Prutting, whose team last won the league title in 2004. “The new guys have energized the veterans.”
New Canaan started with a strong core led by Brian Valentine, Scott Carew, Mario Lopez, Wally Hurd, Steve and Dave Benko, Robert Jones, Thayer Doyle, Bob Cody, Chris Cook, Dr. Robert Grossman and Tom Dunnam.
Chris Vartuli, a former Brien McMahon star who also played at Sacred Heart University, joined the team this year and “has been the best player in the league,’’ according to Prutting. Other new faces include Sam Iverson, Dan Kuga, Justin Parker, Mike Sandonato, Brett Conner, Peter Ackley and Josh Linnean.
“We’ve been trying to retool for the past few years,’’ Prutting said. “Mike Buzwell helped me get a lot of talent from the Bridgeport City League. We have a much deeper lineup and tremendous pitching depth. This is the best team we’ve had in a long time.”
A typical win for New Canaan occurred Sunday when it beat the Fairfield Mariners, 2-1, in 12 innings. Fairfield, a long-time league power, sent former Bridgeport Bluefish standout Mike Guilfoyle to the mound, and he allowed one run in seven innings. Vartuli, Carew and Dunnam pitched well for New Canaan. Iverson’s single scored Justin Parker with the game-winning run. Jones and Lopez had two hits apiece. It was the third victory this season for New Canaan over Fairfield, which won the title in 2010 and finished second last year.
“The thing that’s nice is it’s a nice mix,’’ Prutting said. “I have these 29-year-old guys and these guys in their mid 40s.”
Prutting, who coaches with assistant Henry Boyton, said building depth was important. Many of his players have family commitments that limit their playing time. Games are played Sunday mornings. “On any given Sunday I’m faced with weddings, bridal showers or guys coaching their kids’ games,’’ Prutting said. “I need six pitchers to get two for the weekend.”
New Canaan has been a good team in recent years, but nothing like this. Prutting is hoping the team can continue its run through the playoffs in September. “Hopefully we’ll earn the No. 1 seed and have the home field advantage for the playoffs,’’ Prutting said. “I like our chances.”