Windham Tech baseball ends a strong season
By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Windham - posted Tue., Jun. 7, 2011
Coming off of a 13-9 record for 2010, Windham Tech’s baseball team faced 2011 with relative inexperience. With just five seniors, “We were a pretty young team,” said head coach Bill O'Connor. O'Connor had a freshman on second base for the first half of the season, replaced by a sophomore partway through. Also relatively inexperienced were the team's first baseman (a sophomore), third baseman (a freshman) and right fielder (a sophomore).
In 2010, Windham Tech won its division for the fifth straight year. This year, the team finished fourth in its league. “We felt that we were better,” said O'Connor. “We didn't play well against the teams we needed to play well against.” Though they were scoring runs, “we just were giving them right back,” said O'Connor.
The team wiped out Vinal Tech during round one of the state tournament, with a final score of 26-8. But their season ended with a loss to Stratford during round two, with a final score of 10-3.
With the younger team members gaining some valuable varsity experience this year, O'Connor thinks the team will be in good shape for 2012. “I'm kind of a hard-nosed coach,” he said. “The kids call me old-school. I think it's kind of shell-shock for the younger kids at first. But they realize I'm trying to make them good baseball players.”
O'Connor said that this group of kids will hold a special place in his heart. “I had my 100th career win as a coach this year,” he said. “Something like that, you remember who was there, what happened.” And despite the way the season ended, O'Connor is proud of his team. “When I took this job seven years ago, it hadn't been a good team in a long time,” he said. “I didn't know what to expect. But I've got kids who would run through a brick wall if I asked them to. These kids are hard-working, respectful. They pushed themselves. I can't say enough good things about these kids.”
And despite the unique nature of a tech school, with students drawn from diverse communities in surrounding areas, “I think they bought into what I've been telling them. Nobody's greater than the whole,“ said O'Connor. Despite the difference in backgrounds and perspectives, “they all come together to make the whole better,” said O'Connor. “Sometimes that's not easy to do. But these kids do it — they do it every day.”
This is Bill O'Connor's seventh year coaching the Windham Tech varsity baseball team. According to his players, O'Connor is a coach who believes that there are life lessons to be learned through baseball. “Coach knows this game and loves this game more than anybody I've ever seen in my life,” said senior center fielder Connor Anniello. “He's tough. But he's trying to benefit us in any way possible. Not just in terms of baseball, but in general. I've learned a lot from him about life.”
Joshua DeJesus - #12, Catcher: DeJesus is a senior from Willimantic who has been involved in the sport since his t-ball days. He's been a member of the varsity team since his freshman year. DeJesus also plays football, where he was named All-Conference for the past two years. DeJesus was named All-Conference in baseball for 2011, as well. He plans to attend Three Rivers in the fall, concentrating on criminal justice.
Connor Anniello - #11, Center field: Anniello is a senior from Scotland, who has been involved in baseball since the first grade. He has been a member of the varsity team since his freshman year at Tech. Anniello also plays soccer, and was named All-State goalie for the past two years. He will attend Southern Vermont College in the fall on a soccer scholarship, where he plans to study criminal justice.
Chris Gonnelli - #6, Pitcher: Gonnelli has been playing baseball since his t-ball years. He is Windham Tech's number-one pitcher, and he also plays basketball. Gonnelli feels that errors in the field were the team's weakness in 2011. “They didn't beat us, we beat ourselves,” he said. Next year, “We'll give any team a run for their money,” said Gonnelli.