The Darien baseball showed incremental improvement last season, raising its regular-season record to 10-10 after an 8-12 finish in 2012. However, the improved mark was still not enough to make the conference tournament, as the Blue Wave fell one game short.
Now with six starting fielders and two pitchers returned, Darien is aiming to not only make the FCIAC playoffs but compete well in the 2014 postseason.
"We feel like we have a lineup that is capable of doing some damage," said Mike Scott, who is beginning his sixth season as Darien's coach. "We're going to play pretty good defense and if we get the pitching to support it, we have a good chance to make a decent run."
The senior double play tandem of shortstop Bobby Fitzpatrick and second baseman Brendan Donohue project to lead an infield that is completely intact from a year ago. Manning the corner infield positions will be juniors George Reed at third base and Connor Davey over at first.
"We're definitely looking to build on last year," said Fitzpatrick, who has been starting since the end of his sophomore season. "We have great chemistry."
"We have a lot of returning starters so that's exciting," Donohue said. "We had a good showing in the first scrimmage (against Westhill last Saturday). Everybody hit well, we pitched well and everybody played the field well. I'm really optimistic about this year."
Darien does have to replace last season's outfield, and the team suffered a blow when senior Cameron Smith, who was expected to start in center, underwent knee surgery.
But Scott believes he has capable replacements in Peter Archey (left field), junior Mike Maccarone (center) and junior Mike O'Malley (right field). At this point, they are the leading candidates to start in the outfield, though Opening Day is still down the road on April 11.
Seniors Andrew Nault and Ames Murray filled the second and third spots in the rotation, respectively, last season and will now look to replace the graduated Mack Glavin, who is at Franklin & Marshall.
"These guys live and die baseball, so they want to compete," Scott said. "They want to compete, they want to get better and they want to represent the school well, so we're expecting some good things out of them."
Pitching depth figures to be a Blue Wave team strength, as Davey, Donohue, Archey and DiMeglio can all take the mound when not playing in the field. Luke Mangan, who is recovering from a wrist injury, is considered an effective lefty out of the bullpen.
Last Tuesday, Darien hurlers scrimmaged against Wilton and allowed only one hit over three scoreless innings.
"If we can play up to our capabilities, there's not a team we can't beat," Scott said. "It's all going to start with the guys on the mound. They're the guys who are going to dictate the pace of the game. As long as our pitchers can be effective, we can have a very special season."
Prior to its season opener on April 11, the Blue Wave will wrap up home scrimmages against New Canaan on Thursday and McMahon on Saturday.