the westminster news
Published by the students of Westminster School
By Ryan Jainchill '23
Sitting at 7-3 at the time of writing, the Westminster Martlets won seven games in a row in Founders League play before falling to Taft. Three years ago, the team was 0-15, with their closest defeat being by three runs. This 2022 Martlets squad has defeated both Avon Old Farms and Loomis Chaffee, a feat that had not taken place in at least a decade. So, what gives? What turned a once dormant program back to competitiveness? The answer, according to their Manager, is in the approach.
Even before Tyler Wosleger arrived at Westminster from Hotchkiss, he wanted to establish his philosophy of accountability, effort, and competitiveness. He held Zoom meetings for returning and incoming players during the pandemic in anticipation of his Fall 2020 arrival. These meetings emphasized his core principles and his approach toward practices and games. When the team finally met in person in the fall, his work to turn the group into a competitive bunch had already come to fruition. “When I came here in the fall of 2020, my first goal was to change the culture of the program to competitiveness, and eventually into winning,” said Coach Wosleger. “I knew that attempting to make the program more competitive would bring a winning culture and a culture that many would want to play for.”
From September to November, the team practiced three times a week, going over plans for the upcoming season and beyond, and getting a lot of work in as well. In the winter, it was confirmed that the team would be able to play seven games in the spring against other schools. With five returning members from the last season in 2019, the two returning captains, Ben Mihailovich ‘22 and Kendrick Freeman ‘21, were cast as leaders. This young Martlet group got the Coach Wosleger era off with a 17-5 victory against the Choate Wild Boars. Despite finishing the season 2-5, the team had two very competitive games with Loomis, pushing the Pelicans to the brink of defeat twice but ultimately falling short in both contests. They also bounced back nicely after a rough showing at Taft to have a one-run game with the Taft Rhinos the next day on Osborn Field. The season ended on a high note, with Joey Scrofani hitting a walk-off single against Hotchkiss to beat Coach Wosleger’s former Bearcat bunch. Although a below .500 record was not ideal, the shortened season laid the building blocks for a big 2022. The Martlets would add three postgraduates, including the reigning Southern CT Conference player of the year Jake Pisano ‘22, Richmond commit Davis Wallon ‘22, and John McMahon IV ‘22. Also joining were three freshmen, all of whom were ready to play pivotal roles on the Martlets.
When the spring of 2022 arrived – the first full baseball season in three years – the Martlets came in ready to win. After a strong showing in Vero Beach for their spring training, the season got underway with the team traveling to West Hartford to take on the Kingswood Oxford Wyverns. An uneven first showing resulted in an 8-4 loss, but the boys bounced back the next day, traveling up to the glorious Kent campus and defeating the Lions 2-1 on the back of a stellar Tyler Gutsfeld ‘22 pitching performance. The Martlets’ measuring stick game would arrive that Friday, as the Avon Old Farms Winged Beavers took the drive up Route 10 to Simsbury. The game started off with the Martlets going up 1-0 and eventually 4-2, but the Winged Beavers kept fighting. After Avon took a 6-4 lead in the fourth, the Martlets tied the game at 6 on a Gutsfeld sacrifice fly. But in the seventh, Avon went ahead 7-6, setting up a pivotal bottom of that inning. With two outs, sophomore Jack Sheldon ‘24 sent a ball into right field that scored both Scrofani and Mihailovich, giving the Martlets their first win against Avon in baseball in more than a decade. The monumental victory was just the start for the team; five straight wins followed, including walk-off wins over Williston and Loomis, and victories over Trinity-Pawling, Hotchkiss, and Kent.
The Martlets likely were lightly regarded given their previous season results. Being underestimated has been to their advantage. Even with early success, the Martlets continue their underdog mentality. “I think we all knew that everyone was going to underestimate us,” said captain Ben Mihailovich, who walked it off for the Martlets in a 12-11 thriller against Williston Northampton that featured an eight-run comeback. “We wanted to make sure they knew that underestimating us was a mistake. We added a lot more talent, and, after last season, we knew we could compete with the class of the Founders League this year; so this year we figured, ‘why not us?’”
Coach Wosleger has a different view. “I’ve been most impressed with the team's ability to fight,” said Wosleger. “We faced adversity in almost all of our games this season, and our ability to bounce back and be resilient has been great. This team is not fazed and defines the term ‘grit’.” Overcoming adversity against two top opponents in Avon and Loomis and coming out with wins in both games has been crucial to the success of the team through the first ten games, and that experience will continue to help them as the playoffs inch closer.
As Coach Wosleger said, “My teams tend to play their best baseball in mid-May and into the postseason. Having a great start is beneficial, and continuing to get better day in and day out will be important come mid and late May.”
The 2022 Westminster Varsity baseball team has surprised many so far and is primed for its first playoff appearance in many years. But, win or lose, this season has been a great building block for the foundational culture change within the baseball program. With Coach Wosleger at the helm, the sky is the limit.