Last week the Staples High School senior captained his baseball team to their 2nd state championship in 3 years. In 2013 Chad starred on the Westport squad that reached the finals of the Little League World Series.
He’s been drafted by the New York Yankees — but he’s heading first to Duke University. He’s also an excellent piano player.
Yet one of his many other recent honors — Gatorade Connecticut Player of the Year — led to an especially fine moment.
As part of Gatorade’s Play It Forward Fund, Chad was given $1,000 to pass on to any national or local youth sports organization of his choice.
He chose Westport Little League’s Challenger Division. That’s the very successful program for boys and girls with disabilities.
Chad Knight (rear, center, white shirt) and Challenger commissioner Beth Cody (front, blue shirt) join Challenger players, buddies, and Staples baseball players today.
Chad’s generosity came from the heart. Throughout the years he has served as a “buddy” to the players. He always found time to help out. He loved the youngsters, and they adored him.
In appreciation of Chad’s gift, commissioner Beth Cody announced that Gatorade is the official drink of the Westport Winners challenger team. Today at Meyer Field, she presented Chad with a bottle with his name, number and the Westport Winners name.
Starting this fall, every Challenger player will get one too.
It was a quick, fun ceremony, before Westport took on Norwalk in their final game of the season.
Then Chad headed off to his next celebration: his own graduation party.
In 2014, Chad Knight (right) was a Challenger buddy with Dylan Curran. Dylan is now manager of the state champion Staples baseball team, and still plays with the Westport Winners.
For the 2nd time in 3 years, Staples won the class LL (extra large schools) title. The Wreckers shut out Southington today 3-0, in Middletown.
Staples pitcher Chad Knight — already drafted by the New York Yankees — was his usual commanding self. He struck out 10 Blue Devils, and gave up just 3 hits, in a commanding, complete game performance.
Pitcher Chad Knight celebrates the final out … (Photo copyright by Chris Greer)
Knight and 3 teammates — Harry Azadian, Drew Rogers and Charlie Roof — are no strangers to success. In 2013 they were part of the Westport team that reached the finals of the Little League World Series in Williamsport.
Two years ago — as sophomores — they starred on the Wreckers’ state champion team.
… and is quickly joined by his teammates. (Photo copyright by Chris Greer)
Today was the last time the longtime friends played together. How wonderful for them — and their teammates, head coach Jack McFarland and his staff, and the town of Westport — that they went out on top.
And — as they’ve done for the past 6 years — they did it again today with class, poise, and plenty of smiles.
The state champion Staples baseball team. The scoreboard behind them tells the story. (Photo copyright by Chris Greer)
After going 26-0, and winning both the FCIAC and state class L (large schools) boys volleyball championship last spring, everyone was gunning to take down Staples.
Their route to back-to-back titles was complicated when head coach Dan Cho — who lived and worked far upstate — resigned.
Of course — this being high school sports — the Wreckers also had to replace graduating seniors. There were 9.
But new coach John Sedlock — and the new squad was up to the task.
Last night at Shelton High School, the Wreckers faced longtime rival Darien. The Blue Wave had beaten them twice this year — including the FCIAC finals.
This time, the Westporters got revenge. It took them 5 long, nail-biting sets. But — once again — Staples is state champs.
Staples’ state champion boys volleyball team … (Photo/Gayle Gabor and Tom Carstens)
That’s not all.
Coach Paco Fabian’s girls tennis team completed a perfect 24-0 season with a 5-2 win over Wilton, to earn the class L state title. Alyssa DiMaio went on to become the first Staples girls player to win the state open singles crown.
The Wreckers are a very young squad, so the future looks bright indeed.
… and the state champion girls tennis team …
That’s not all.
Coach Kris Hrisovulos’ boys tennis team won the state championship too — for a remarkable 4th consecutive year. Robbie Daus and Tighe Brunetti then captured the state open doubles title.
… and boys tennis, also state champs.
That’s not all.
Senior Chet Ellis set a boys outdoor track state open meet record with a phenomenal high jump: 7 feet, 1/2 inch. Obviously, that’s a Wrecker record too.
That’s not all.
There’s a chance for one more state championship this spring at Staples. Tomorrow (Saturday, June 8, 12 p.m., Palmer Field, Middletown), the Wreckers plays Southington for the LL (extra large schools) baseball crown.
Chad Knight, meanwhile, was just picked — by the New York Yankees — in the 31st round of the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft. You won’t see him in pinstripes any time soon, though: The Connecticut Gatorade Player of the Year will continue his baseball career this fall at Duke University.
Congratulations, guys and girls! There’s only one thing left to say:
Six years ago, 11 6th and 7th grade baseball players mesmerized Westport.
The youngsters battled their way through through local, state and regional competition. They won in blowouts, and in nail-biting fashion.
They kept winning — all the way to the Little League World Series finals, in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
In 2013, Westport Little League All-Stars (front from left) Tatin Llamas, Chris Drbal and Chad Knight, plus Harry Azadian (rear) celebrated one of their many wins.
The dream ended in the championship game — on national TV — but they returned home to a heroes’ welcome.
It was a fantastic run. Unfortunately, too many times in youth sports, success at an early age is a recipe for disaster later on.
All that attention turns their heads. Other kids catch up — and surpass them. They discover other interests. Or they burn out.
Not every 12-year-old gets interviewed by ESPN. Harry Azadian did.
Thankfully, that is definitely not the case here.
Six years later, the Westport Little League All-Stars have become stars of the Staples High School baseball team.
Two years ago, they won the state LL (extra large schools) championship. This year, they’re battling for it again.
It’s a bittersweet time for them — and their parents. Four of the 11 players are seniors (the other 7 graduated last year). They’ve been together since they were 9 years old.
Soon — hopefully later rather than sooner, but in a single-elimination tournament, you never know — they will play their last game together.
Drew Rogers (7) and Chad Knight (27) celebrate. (Photo copyright Chris Greer)
It’s an especially emotional time for Tim Rogers. He was their head coach, from those 9-year-old days through Williamsport, then beyond in travel baseball.
He’s watched with pride — and helped immensely — as his son Drew, and fellow seniors Harry Azadian, Chad Knight, Charlie Roof, have grown as baseball players.
And grown up, from boys into young men.
Rogers is proud of many things. One is that they handled that Little League World Series experience so well. Despite the demands of the sport — and the media — they were still kids. They met other players from around the world. They hung out, and made friends.
Enjoying the 2013 parade, in the streets of Williamsport.
Then they took that experience, and brought it into the rest of their lives far beyond Williamsport.
Rogers is also proud that they have continued to play — and love — baseball. No one burned out. No one quit. No one peaked as a 12-year-old.
He is proud that 2 years ago — when other All-Stars, including Matt Stone, Tatin Llamas, Max Popken, Chris Drbal and Alex Reiner were still playing together — Staples beat 4-time defending state champion Amity High 5-1, in the LL title game.
Four years after the Little League World Series: pure joy, as Staples stops 4-time defending champion Amity High in the state class LL final.
All along, Rogers says, “they’ve found a way to win. They’re deep as a team, but that winning mentality is something intangible.”
He’s proud that they have become leaders. His son, Azadian and Knight are captains of this year’s Wreckers. They’re passing their competitiveness and values on to the younger players.
Rogers is proud that the Little League World Series finalists remained poised and humble. Ever since Williamsport, whenever they’re interviewed, they’ve put baseball in perspective.
Rogers may be proudest though that the longtime teammates still love being together. Through all their success — and occasional disappointments — they’ve remained close friends.
Captains (from left) Drew Rogers, Chad Knight and Harry Azadian, with Staples coach Jack McFarland. (Photo copyright Chris Greer)
Staples’ Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference is a brutal league. The Wreckers have had to fight for what they’ve gotten, every year.
This spring, they finished with the best record. On Wednesday night they avenged a regular season defeat to Fairfield Ludlowe by winning the FCIAC championship in storybook fashion.
Jake D’Amico — one of those younger players — drove in the winning run. On a 3-2 pitch. With 2 outs. In the bottom of the last inning.
Knight pitched a complete game, giving up only 2 hits and striking out 5.
Chad Knight (center) jumps for joy, as the Wreckers race onto the field after their dramatic FCIAC title win. (Photo copyright Chris Greer)
The final quest — the state championship — starts Tuesday.
Graduations are always wonderful, and hard. For Rogers — who just turned 50, and saw his oldest son graduate from college — watching Drew and his baseball teammates march down the aisle, and out of high school, will be “one more step in my process,” he laughs.
So right now, he — and all the other parents, who have been together through so much and so long — are hoping the season lasts as long as it can.
So do the boys of so many summers.
The FCIAC champion 2019 Staples High School baseball team. (Photo copyright Chris Greer)
Over the past 4 years, Amity High School achieved legendary status in Connecticut high school baseball. The Woodbridge school won 4 consecutive state championships — including an 8-1 drubbing of Staples in the 2015 title game.
That squad included several players from Westport’s storied 2013 Little League all-star team.
It took them 2 years, but today the Wreckers wreaked revenge.
A 2-run home run by Chad Knight — the Staples pitcher, and a mainstay of that Little League squad — staked the 11th-ranked Westporters to a 5-1 victory.
The game — at Middletown’s Parker Field — snapped the 1st-seeded Spartans’ spectacular streak of 24 straight state tournament wins. In denying Amity a 5th straight crown, Staples won their own 1st baseball state title since 2001.
(Graphic courtesy of @StaplesSports Instagram and Twitter)
Knight — just a sophomore — has already committed to Duke University. Senior Ben Casparius has had his own tremendous year. The University of North Carolina commit was named Gatorade Connecticut Baseball Player of the Year.
Congratulations to head coach Jack McFarland, his staff, and especially all the state champion Wreckers.
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