copyright Kevin Roberts Re-American 7/2/22
The Bethlehem Plowboys and Winsted Whalers have taken similar paths over the past five years or so in the Connecticut Tri-State Baseball League.
Those paths met on Thursday evening at Gallop Field in a battle for second place in the league. Bethlehem rode the strong pitching of George Bielizna (six innings, four hits, five strikeouts) and a two-run homer from Matt Mancini to a 6-0 victory over Winsted. The Plowboys improved to 9-3 while “The Whale” fell to 8-4.
“George pitched very well. I was very happy with how he pitched today, then Kyle (Banche) came in and shut the door (in the seventh),” Bethlehem coach Rich Revere said.
Revere and Jon Wilson have rebuilt the Plowboys behind a strong youth movement. Revere sees similarities with the Whalers.
“It’s a younger generation for us, a younger generation for them, but both teams have stayed competitive throughout it, so it’s been good for both teams,” Revere said.
“Whaler ball three years ago was sparse and few in between. Now we’ve got a bunch of players,” added Winsted player/co-coach Mitch Gryniuk. “Johnny (Lippincott), our centerfielder, said last year was the most fun he’s ever had because it’s a great group of guys. And we started playing much better.”
Bielizna is one of several pitchers Revere can turn to. Jason Johnson went 6-1 with a 1.05 ERA, 43 strikeouts, 16 walks and a .191 batting average against in 11 appearances (eight starts) as a freshman at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine. Johnson earned All-GNAC first team and all-rookie team honors for his efforts.
Kyle Banche, who formerly pitched for the Torrington Rebels, was added during the season. Revere believes his team is primed for a run at the championship, but there’s plenty of competition around.
“With Terryville leaving, there’s a lot more teams that are in it,” Revere said. “I’ve been watching the standings all year. Winsted, Tri-Town, Amenia’s always tough. Blasius added a couple guys, so they’re going to be tough this year. I think overall it’s more
Gryniuk feels Winsted can be up there as well. At times, the Whalers are the best-hitting team in the league, according to Gryniuk.
“We have some hitting, it’s just how consistent do we stay,” Gryniuk said.
Justin Morhardt is on the roster. He was a major power hitter in his time at The Gilbert School and was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels (2012) and later the Atlanta Braves (2017). Lukas Gryniuk, younger brother of Mitch, hit two home runs into the tennis courts in right field at Walker Field in his first game of the season.
The brotherhood of The Whale
Winsted has four sets of brothers involved with its team in some capacity this season. Three sets went to Northwestern High while one pair attended The Gilbert School.
There’s Mitch (Northwestern, 2016) and Lukas Gryniuk (Northwestern, 2017). T.J. Kent (Northwestern, 2013) played third base Thursday while younger brother Tyler (Northwestern, 2019) kept stats as a college intern. Robert Weiss (Gilbert, 2012) and Ryley Weiss (Gilbert, 2019) both pitch. Tony Pucino (Northwestern, 2016) and young brother Peter Greenwood (Northwestern, 2022) joined Winsted this season. Greenwood came on in relief of starter Austin Brochu on Thursday. Pucino can play both third base and shortstop.
Mitch and Lukas Gryniuk are competitive with each other.
“Lucas is definitely the power hitter. I don’t hit for power, I hit for mostly contact, sometimes they’re power shots,” Mitch Gryniuk said. “I like to say I have a stronger arm than him. I pitch.”
One thing the four sets of Winsted brothers share is camaraderie.
“It’s very supportive. Not all brothers get along, but our four pairs do. It’s kind of nice,” Mitch Gryniuk said.