Canton looks for more wins, playoff berth in 2016

Copyright Collinsville Press – Gerry DiSimas Jr – May 22,2016
CANTON, May 20 – The Tri-State Baseball League season begins their 83rd season on Sunday with a record 19 teams including the Canton Crushers, who will be searching for their first-ever playoff berth.
It’s the third season for the Crushers, who have managed to win three games in their first two seasons. Canton (2-16) is hoping for more victories in 2016 – enough to finish among the top 12 teams in the league and in the playoffs. The Crushers open year three at Terryville on Sunday morning at 11 a.m. at the Eli Terry Middle School in Plymouth (old Terryville High).
It won’t be easy. But manager Tom Dubois hopes a year of experience in the league will help the Crushers, who were more competitive last year than in their first season in 2014. Last summer, Canton played well in their last four games, going 2-2.
They had had 11 hits but couldn’t hold the lead in a 5-4 loss to Burlington. The Crushers had a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning on the road in Amenia, N.Y., but had to forfeit when a player got hurt and had to leave the game. Canton didn’t have the required nine players to continue.
Canton had just two hits but converted on several opportunities to beat East Mountain, 4-1 as pitcher Miguel Sanchez struck out nine and scattered three hits. In the season finale, veteran pitcher Jim Spirito fanned 11 as Canton beat East Mountain, 3-2.
“We have high hopes for a winning season,” Canton player/manager Tom Dubois said. “I think the bats will be better than they were the first two seasons. We’ll have Jimmy (Spirito) on the mound and we hope to get some (pitching) production from guys like Chris Van deBogart, who will get some more innings, Taylor Riley, Jake Bryant and Justin Mulchay.”
Spirito is the ace of the Crushers staff. A former Canton High and Eastern Connecticut State University pitcher, Spirito has been playing in the Tri-State League for years. He struck out 15 batters in a 2007 game against the Naugatuck Dogs and was drafted to play in the Stan Musial state tournament. He struck out 11 in the season-ending win over East Mountain last August.
Riley, who grew up in Simsbury, was a pitcher at Manchester Community College and with the Simsbury Sabercats in the Connecticut Collegiate Baseball League. Avon native Jake Bryant has some pitching experience for his days at Eastern Connecticut State and last summer with the Crushers. Heath Cotton, Sean Bahre and Justin Mulchay each pitched at Canton High.
Steve Dubois, a former Tri-State League All-Star infielder slowed by injuries the past two seasons, returns for the Crushers along with Bryant, who led the team in hits in his first Tri-State campaign. Utility specialist Jon Scippa returns along with catcher Jeff Mulhall and infielder Ben Sullivan. Andre Eason, Jr., returns to the squad after a fine junior campaign at Lyndon State in Vermont where he hit .298 with 18 stolen bases.
It won’t be easy to move up in the Tri-State League, which added two new teams in Southington and the Valley Thunder.
Defending league champion Litchfield won their third championship in the last five years by beating the Tri-Town Trojans in the best-of-3 championship series, 2-1. The Naugatuck Dogs won the regular season Tri-State League championship a year ago with a 16-2 record and then won the Connecticut Stan Musial championship before being upset in the Tri-State League quarterfinal round by Brass City.
Tri-Town won the Stan Musial state championship in 2013 and 2014 and Wolcott Scrappers took home the Tri-State championship in 2014.
On July 4, the league will host its All-Star game with the Tri-State League All-Stars facing the Torrington Titans of the Future Collegiate Baseball League at Fuessenich Park at 12:30 p.m. The Tri-State League/Titans home run derby begins at 11 a.m.