PITTSFIELD -- Like any good catcher, Taconic's Brian Bonacquisti recently admitted that at the beginning of the 2013 season, he was confident his squad would win the Northern Division of the Berkshire County Baseball League.
"Yes, I did," he said. "I was pretty sure we had the team to beat."
With the recent sweep against Southern champion Mount Greylock in the books, the Braves ended up as Northern Division champions for the third year in a row.
Does that -- and the fact that he's been the team's starting catcher the past three years -- have anything to do with Bonacquisti's confidence?
"Yes," said Bonacquisti with a smile.
"There were legitimate concerns at the beginning of the year," said longtime Taconic coach Kevin Stannard. "We had some injuries early in the season. And I didn't know how well we'd hit. But we also had a good nucleus of returning players. And I don't think you could have had better senior leadership than Brian Bonacquisti and Jordan Barbarotta. They've both done an exceptional job for us."
Barbarotta is part of the pitching staff, along with Joey Dewey and Kyle Card, that has been very effective for the Braves this spring.
"We've got a good staff," said Bonacquisti. "They've all done pretty well for us this year."
And the Braves are pretty "long," to use a baseball hitting term. After a slow start at the plate at the beginning of the year, they have developed hitters up and down the lineup.
But the Braves have hitters everywhere in the lineup. Shortstop Myles Candelet, the team's No. 9 hitter most days, had a pair of doubles in a recent win over Hoosac Valley.
The Braves are a Division I team. Through no fault of their own, they play a mostly Division II schedule, with a sprinkling of Division III games. The only other Division I team in the county is city rival Pittsfield.
The Braves' strength of schedule is listed as 15th best in Western Mass. No one on the team is under any delusion: A high seed and a home game for the Braves may not be in the cards.
"We'd almost have to go undefeated to get a top seed," said Barbarotta.
"Obviously, the Berkshire County schedule doesn't do us any favors in terms of seeding," Stannard added.
But Stannard has tried to fill up the schedule with Division I squads. The Braves swept perennial Division I power Westfield this season.
"That was big for us," Barbarotta said.
The past two years, the Braves have been knocked out of the tournament in the teams' opening contest, both times against West Springfield. Bonacquisti and Barbarotta both believe that trend will not continue this season.
"If we hit, we'll be okay," Barbarotta said.
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