Knights to play hard-nosed, gritty season

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Ellington - posted Thu., Mar. 29, 2012
Senior Mike Cleary will anchor the infield and the batting order for the Ellington Knights this season. Photos by Steve Smith.
Senior Mike Cleary will anchor the infield and the batting order for the Ellington Knights this season. Photos by Steve Smith.

With five seniors graduating last year, coach Keith Tautkus said a lot of players are fighting to make the starting varsity baseball squad for the Ellington High School Knights this season. Grit and determination are things that the coach has already seen in practice, and that he hopes will carry over into the season and become the team's identity.

“Opponents are going to see a hard-nosed, hustling, tough team,” Tautkus said. “We're going to be tough outs, and we're going to play defense well. We're going to get out there and really fight for every thing we do.”

The team should have some pop, according to Tautkus, who said the top of the order looks solid.

Senior Mike Cleary will be the cleanup hitter. Junior Neal Janiga will be near the top of the batting order, and P/2B Jake Gagne will likely bat second or third.

Defensively, the infield is fairly set, with seniors Nick Binkowski and Garrett Palmer returning at catcher and third base, respectively. Cleary will be the first-baseman and sophomore newcomer Joe Leslie will play second base.

Pitching will be “not deep, but good,” Tautkus said. Gagne will be the likely No. 1 starter, backed up by Matt Kramer.

“For the last four or five years, we've been pitching-rich,” Tautkus said. “We're not sure yet. We know who our 1, 2 and 3 are. We're hoping junior Justin Oliver can help out, but we're not sure who numbers four and five are yet.”

“Looking at our overall lineup, we could have a better hitting team than last year,” Tautkus said. “I like what I've seen so far.”

The defense and pitching will also take on that grittiness, Tautkus said, adding that the goal is to make sure opposing teams earn every 90 feet – the distance between bases.

“We don't want to give away any ‘free 90s,’” he said. “That's our goal.”

Tautkus said he thinks Enfield, Windsor Locks and Canton will provide challenges for the Knights, but they will use the same approach to each game.

“We don't look at any game as being easy,” he said. “We'll have to do everything well. There's not a lot of room for error this year.”

Ellington starts the season at Canton on April 4, and then hosts Bolton on April 6 and Tolland on April 7.

For a complete schedule, visit

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