That is not a misprint, as the Hartford Hawks struggled through the 2011 campaign. Then head coach Jeff Calcaterra found himself out of a job as the season came to a close, and the Hawks set their sights on snagging a young coach with a promising future.
The Hartford administration went after one of the top assistant coaches in New England and arguably in the country in Justin Blood. He served as an assistant coach under UConn’s Jim Penders for the past six seasons. Blood was a key member of the staff as they helped bring UConn consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. He also was key in bringing in two homegrown talents in Matt Barnes and George Springer, both 2011 MLB Draft first round picks. Before his time at UConn, Blood was a member of the coaching staff at Franklin Pierce University, one of the Northeast’s top college baseball programs.
Things are looking up for the Hawks, with a new indoor facility in construction. “It will be one of the best indoor facilities in the Northeast.” according to Blood.
He is also very impressed with some of the players he inherited when he joined Hartford.
Ryan Luckach out of Hillsborough, New Jersey is expected to lead the squad on the mound and at the plate. Last season he finished third on the team with .276 batting average, while hitting a homer and driving in 16 runs. He also made ten appearances on the mound with six starts, but was not able to get a win as he went 0-4 with a 7.02 ERA.
The most impressive incoming freshman has been Sam Newcomb from Middleboro, MA. The 6’5 220 pound lefthander impressed in fall practice as he sat at 88-91 MPH this fall and will likely be in the rotation this fall. Another steady freshman is Lynn, Massachusetts’ Alex Fistewho could also see time on the weekends.
Leading the hitters will be sophomore catcher James Alfonso, but lead the team in hitting at .309 batting average with a homer and nine RBI even though he was limited to 25 games. He will spend the summer of 2012 in the Cape Cod Baseball League on a temporary contract.
Two other key hitters are Andy Drexel and Simon Kudernatsch. Drexel is a redshirt senior from Pequea, PA who hit .182 with seven RBI in 13 games. Kudernatsch is a senior from the Czech Republic hit .233 with a homer and 21 RBI.
The Hawks open the season at Oklahoma on Febraury 24th when they open a three game set against the Sooners. A couple other highlights in the schedule are trips to Kansas State and Pittsburgh for three game series. The schedule was set before Coach Blood took over, but he is ready for the challenge on the road. “It will be exciting to go out there and the squad is using the tough schedule as a motivating factor during workouts.”