Valley Regional (CT)

Bruce Hefflinger
PBR New England Senior Writer

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To view the full list of 2023 Team Previews that we have already completed, please click here.

2023 Spring Team Preview: Valley Regional

DEEP RIVER, Ct. - It was not the finish Valley Regional and head coach Brian Drinkard was hoping for in 2022.

“We had a really successful season with the most wins in school history, but unfortunately it didn’t end the way we wanted,” reflected the Valley Regional head coach. “We lost in the conference finals and we lost in the quarterfinals.”

With a dozen players returning from the 22-4 squad, optimism is at an extreme high when it comes to the 2023 campaign.

“Our players are eager to get back out on the field,” related the sixth-year head coach, who is in his 12th season with the program. “It's a brand new season and we will have our work cut out for us.”

Nine seniors, including four that have made college commitments, are back to lead the Warriors with hopes of bringing home the first state championship in school history.

“We’ve never won a state title and it’s been a long time since we’ve even won a conference title, but the program has come a long way since I got here,” explained Drinkard, who has a record of 67-36 in his time at Valley Regional. “It’s this group of seniors who we can attribute that to, they are all baseball-first athletes.”

Sam Hutchinson, Colin Carver, Braeden Sparaco and Lucas Rogers will all serve as team captains this year. Hutchinson, the 25th-rated senior outfielder in New England, hit .388 with eight triples, seven home runs and 37 RBIs a season ago. The Central Connecticut State commit will be aided by Carver, a Marist signee who batted .405 with 10 doubles, six home runs and 24 RBIs; Sparaco, a Southern Connecticut State recruit who hit .353 with five doubles and 21 RBIs; and Rogers, a Wilkes commit who had just one error at second base a year ago.

Carver and Sparaco, the 59th-ranked 2023 right-handed pitcher in New England, will anchor the staff with Carver at first base and Sparaco third when not on the mound.

“Those two carried the team last year,” Drinkard noted.

Henry Breckenfeld, who threw in relief a year ago, is next in line to pitch for Valley Regional.

“We hope to get quality starts from Carver, Sparaco and Breckenfeld and plan to piece the rest of our pitching staff together around those three,” Drinkard explained.

Rogers will catch and play second base with three other key senior returnees bringing additional experience to the Warriors this season.

Jack Finnegan, who is first in his class academically, had a .302 average and is back for his third season at shortstop with Brayden Shea, a .274 hitter with two home runs, returning to right field. Reed Beighau, who batted .327, will catch and play left while Breckenfeld provides depth at first.

Senior Luke Buccaro is looking to see time at second base, third and outfield while a trio of sophomores are also looking to contribute in Caleb Winkley, Braeden Karchich and Jack McPherson. Winkley, the 88th-ranked sophomore in Connecticut, is a pitcher/infielder, Karchich, the 90th-rated 2025 in the state, an infielder, and McPherson an outfielder.

“Right now we only have a few uncertainties in our starting lineup,” Drinkard said. “We have three or four fighting for a couple of positions, but that’s a good problem to have.”

One key loss is catcher Mason Erwin going to Chester Academy, but Drinkard is optimistic about newcomers stepping up.

“There are always a few pleasant surprises in high school baseball from year to year and we are hoping that we find them again this season,” Drinkard noted.

There is a lot to like with the team in the eyes of the Valley Regional mentor.

“These guys have been playing together since they were little kids,” Drinkard pointed out. “They come to practice with a business approach. They want to have fun, but they want to win as much as the coaches. Their goal is to win the conference and win state.”

But Drinkard understands anything can happen on the diamond.

“In baseball you need a few things to go your way,” Drinkard concluded. “We have a strong enough team to compete, it’s who you run into. If they have a stud pitcher he can shut you down and it’s over. We hope to get to that position and overcome those mountains when we get there.”

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