CT Capitals’ Camden Righi coils before hitting a three-run homer in the first inning.
By Rich Bevensee
Camden Righi said he never felt intimidated being a freshman on varsity and hitting third in the lineup this spring at Wethersfield High School in Connecticut. In fact he said the only pressure he felt was the pressure he put on himself.
But that heavy feeling of intimidation wore on his shoulders when he arrived at Diamond Nation in Flemington earlier this week with his CT Capitals Prospects team for Week 2 of the Super 17 Invitational. It’s a high profile tournament with dozens of college scouts watching thre proceedings carefully.
“Honestly I was a little intimidated coming here because there’s a lot of great players here,” Righi said.
Creating more mental strain for the 6-3, 200-pound Righi was his stagnant performance at the plate this week, scratching out but a few infield hits, and striking out twice against GoWags National on Wednesday. Immediately after that ballgame Righi and his father Tom made a late night trip to the batting cages to set things right.
Clearly, that’s when things began to come into focus for the lanky lefty hitter. The next day he belted a pair of doubles, and then Righi showed scouts and teammates the considerable power he’d been desperately trying to unveil.
Righi walloped a first-pitch fastball well over the right field fence for a no-doubt-about-it, three-run home run to fuel the Capitals’ three-inning, 15-0 victory over Locked In Baseball Expos 16U Blue 2024 on Friday morning.
“On the home run it was middle-middle and I just jumped on it,” Righi said. “I felt it off the barrel this time. It was a perfect hit.”
Apparently that late-night BP session was the key.
“After the GoWags game I needed to go hit so I took some BP with my dad – he’s been my main hitting coach all these years,” Righi said. “After that I started attacking the ball. My whole approach these past two days is if I see a pitch in the strike zone I’m gonna put a great swing on it.”
Righi laughed when he was asked if he had figured out hitting after this week of self-discovery.
“Definitely not. Hitting is a learning thing. There’s always something new.”
Capitals coach Matt Rondinone, a varsity assistant at Wethersfield, said he wasn’t surprised to see Righi rise to the challenge this week after falling into a brief slump.
“This year he was all-conference as a freshman hitting third, so there was a lot of pressure for him,” Rondinone said. “He expected to contribute right away. He had his peaks and valleys but he stayed pretty even keel and hit the ball hard all spring. He’s figuring it out. And he wasn’t intimidated at all, in fact he embraced the challenge. It allowed him to spark a fire and build his love for wanting to play college baseball.”
Righi said his upperclassman-laden team in high school made him feel welcome and that comfort level paved the way for him to succeed.
“The team helped me grow and everyone was just so encouraging,” Righi said. “It took the stress off my shoulders and allowed me to make mistakes as well as be the guy they needed.”
The victory over the Expos capped a solid week for the Capitals, which finished 3-0-2. They tied Rise 2023 Karidis 1-1, clobbered South Jersey Storm, 10-3, knocked off GoWags National, 10-2, and tied Maine Lightning Select, 2-2.
Another Capitals star Friday was right-hander Jayden Longdin, a rising senior at Lewis S. Mills High in Burlington, Conn. Longdin was in command from the start, getting ahead of batters with his four-seam and two-seam fastballs and curveball, striking out four in two shutout innings. He allowed one hit and one walk.
“My four-seam was away to righties and the two-seam was going into righties,” Longdin said. “I definitely had the spin on the curveball that I wanted today. The fastball, I don’t know my exact speed, but it felt good coming out of my hand. It was a good day.”
Righi is coming off a solid junior year campaign in which he went 6-1 with an ERA around 2.00 and 50 strikeouts. His highlight this spring was a five-inning shutout with 14 whiffs.
Like Righi, the 6-1, 190-pound Longdin had to do some introspective evaluation to get back on track after some recent struggles.
“Before we came here I had a rough outing, and then I took a few days to work on mechanics and figure it out so I could come here and give it all I got. Show the best version of me.
“Today it all started from warmups. I was feeling my release points stretching out the arm and getting loose, and with the heat here it doesn’t take much to get loose. Once I got to the bullpen I was making sure I was inside, outside, wherever I wanted to throw it. With my main offspeed pitch, the curveball, I just wanted to get it over on 0-1, 0-2 counts.”
Longdin allowed a hit and a walk in the first inning but shut down the Expos with two strikeouts to escape the jam and allow his teammates’ bats to go to work.
Alex Cappellucci doubled to lead off the bottom of the first, Joe Winakor walked, Brandon Gaer had an RBI single, and Righi unleashed his three-run bomb in which the Expos outfielders took two steps and became spectators.
In the bottom of the second, Patrick Fitzgibbons singled to left before the next eight Capitals batters reached on walks, the last five forcing in runs.
Continuing the damage in the second, Blake Beattie added a sacrifice fly RBI, Fitzgibbons had an RBI single, Nathan Acabchuk launched a two-run triple and Caleb Reed tacked on an RBI single.
Ryan Micari came on in relief of Longdin in the third and allowed a single to Expos leadoff man Nick Rossi before closing out his shutout inning. Connor Stokoe also had a hit for the Expos.
The Expos closed out their week 2-2-1. They were shut out by Maine Lightning Select 4-0 before bouncing back for an 8-6 victory over GoWags National. The Expos trounced Rise 2023 Karidis 12-0 and tied South Jersey Storm 4-4.