Prep Baseball Report

2024 Spring Team Preview: Loomis Chaffee (CT)

Bruce Hefflinger
New England Senior Writer

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2024 Spring Team Preview: Loomis Chaffee (CT)

WINDSOR, Ct. - Youth will be needed to step up for Loomis Chaffee this baseball season.

“We brought in an unbelievable group of freshmen,” head coach Donnie McKillop said. “We’re looking at playing a lot of young ones. We went to Vero Beach and had six scrimmages there and saw that the freshmen and sophomores are going to be talented at the plate.”

The mound is the question mark at this stage for the Pelicans, with two pitchers out for the season, Navy commit Ian Brown and Holy Cross recruit Aidan Gilbert.

“I think positionally and at the plate we’re going to be as talented as we were,” McKillop explained. “But can we create the pitching we need to sustain the season?”

Post grad Jack Marshall is expected to be the number one pitcher while playing center field when not on the hill.

“He’s a really experienced player,” McKillop said of Marshall. “He’s a great base runner and can run like the wind.”

Brady Winn, whose brother T.J. is a freshman pitcher at St. John’s, will be the number two hurler to open the season.

“Brady’s a really experienced pitcher who has been around baseball since he was born,” McKillop said of the sophomore RHP. “In the long-term he will be the best pitcher of the group.”

It is a group that also includes John Bajaj, the 58th-rated junior right-handed pitcher in New England who could start or come in relief, and freshman Jacob Budarz, the projected number three pitcher according to McKillop.

“Bajaj has been around the zone a lot more this year,” McKillop pointed out.

Declan Ellingwood, the fifth-ranked 2027 outfielder in New England, will help in a closing role while starting at second base.

“Declan has the best curveball on the team,” McKillop said of the 13th-rated freshman in Connecticut. “With the way he competes and pitches, he can do anything with baseball.”

Fourth-year starter Gabriel Tirado, a UConn commit who had a broken finger last year, will be behind the plate backed up by sophomore Hudson Schmidt, a DH/catcher who played in 18 games last season.

“Gabby has the best bat in Connecticut,” McKillop said of the 25th-rated senior catcher in the nation. “He’s also a great catcher for our young pitching.”

The anchor to the infield is Jimmy Chadwell, another four-year starter for Loomis Chaffee who scored 16 runs and drove in 13 a year ago batting out of the three-hole.

“He’s a great defensive player,” McKillop said of the Columbia commit. 

Budarz will be at first base with another freshman, Sam Godbelt, a Power 5 projected 2027 according to McKillop, at third base.

“He played the last three years in Florida,” McKillop said of the 6-2 190-pound Godbelt. “He’s a great player who is primed to move to shortstop after Jimmy graduates.”

Post grad Shane Keo will be in right field with freshman Connor Budzik in left, sandwiched around Marshall in center field. Budarz can also play outfield when needed.

It has been a fun ride to date for McKillop, now in his seventh year of coaching highlighted by an 18-2 season capped off by a win over Avon Old Farms in the Founders League title game in 2022, with 20 on the roster going on to play in college, 11 at the D-I level.

“We continue to have a really good culture,” noted McKillop, whose squad last year lost a 2-1 heartbreaker to Avon Old Farms in the Founders League championship game to finish 15-5. “We focus on the depth of the program. This is the next wave with a lot of four-year guys. We also have a lot of young guys, but I think we might be young and ready.”

It has the Loomis Chaffee mentor excited about the 2024 campaign.

“I like the unknown,” McKillop said. “I like that our guys are going to be hungry every game. I like knowing every game these young guys are giving it their all. It will be fun so see these seniors in a leadership role. That’s a fun piece to see.

“The key is going to be the ‘best team’ buying into the little details. We’ve had dominant pitching in the past, now we need to fire on all cylinders. That’s a fun challenge, but I think the guys are ready.”

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