Two area baseball teams reached the state final this season, so it should be no surprise that this year’s All-Herald Baseball Team is loaded with talent that saw many recognized on the state level.
New Britain senior Danniel Rivera makes our squad for the second straight year, and with good reason. The shortstop and pitcher earned first-team All-State honors this year after batting .485 for the season, more than 50 points better than his junior campaign. Rivera ended his phenomenal Hurricanes career with 102 hits, the second most in program history, and a team-record 72 runs scored. One of Rivera’s brightest moments came in New Britain’s state tournament matchup with Southington, when he rocked a go-ahead home run in the 11th inning against the heavily favored Blue Knights. Rivera will be playing at the collegiate level next season for Southern New Hampshire University.
Southington survived that thrilling game against Rivera and New Britain thanks to a game-tying double by Andrew Paradis, our next All-Herald entry, in the bottom of the 11th. Paradis, another two-time All-Herald selection, was an all-conference honoree this season and was selected to the Connecticut Junior All-Star Team. Paradis also scored the game-winning run in the Blue Knights’ walk-off win in the state semifinals against Amity.
Paradis was driven in by teammate Jake Neuman in that semifinals win, as Neuman ripped a double to complement his complete game performance on the mound. Neuman’s all-around dominance on the diamond this year earned him All-State honors, and the junior will be joining Paradis on the junior All-Star team. Neuman was at his best on the mound this season, pitching to a microscopic 0.70 ERA.
Jake DelMonte rounds out our trio of Southington players, as the three-sport athlete shined in the spring thanks to a .342 batting average and an on-base percentage of .443. DelMonte also scored 25 runs this year, while playing flawless defense behind the plate. The catcher didn’t commit a single error all year, helping him to an all-conference selection.
Berlin also reached the state final over in Class L this year, and All-State outfielder Gianni Fanelli was a big reason for the Redcoats’ deep tournament run. Fanelli makes the All-Herald squad for the second straight year after hitting .487 as a senior, ripping 35 hits and creating havoc on the basepaths for opposing teams, swiping 16 bases. Fanelli will continue to run wild on the bases next year at Assumption College.
Fanelli, Berlin’s regular leadoff hitter, often set the table for teammate Ryan Hyde, the Redcoats’ standout catcher who batted .433 out of the third spot in the order in 2019. Hyde showed plenty of power in the middle of the order, collecting seven doubles and driving in 15 runs over the season, including two in the opening round of the state tournament thanks to a big two-run home run. Hyde was an All-State and all-conference winner this season.
Hyde’s regular battery mate Adam Bilinski rounds out the Redcoats, as the senior was Berlin’s ace throughout the season. An all-conference winner, Bilinski was head coach Leo Veleas’ most reliable arm for the entire season, all the way through the state final against Waterford, when Bilinski allowed just one run in a 1-0 loss.
Newington enjoyed a successful season this spring, and catcher Gunnar Johnson was behind a number of the Indians’ victories thanks to his spectacular performance at and behind the plate. Johnson, an All-State selection, batted .500 as a junior after storming onto the scene as a sophomore last season, when he hit .440. This year was Johnson’s second All-State nod, and another is likely on the way next year if he continues on this trajectory.
The Indians will have Johnson back in 2020, but they’ll miss outfielder Ethan Errera, an all-conference selection that thrived out of the leadoff spot for Newington all season. Errera, a UMass-Boston commit, formed a deadly one-two punch alongside Johnson at the top of the Indians’ lineup, and will be tough to replace next season.
Another member of the All-State selections rounds out our group in Plainville’s Tyler St. Onge. The senior outfielder hit .419 in his final season with the Blue Devils, tallying 27 hits and collecting 21 runs scored. St. Onge showed his value during Plainville’s four-game winning streak in late April, when he batted over .500, scored 12 runs and drove in eight during that stretch.