Conti: Berkshire League Deserves Respect, Not Jokes


Noreen Chung

Nonnewaug goalie Dylan Chung bats down a ball during the Chiefs’ game against Shepaug last fall.

Samantha Conti, Editor-in-Chief

You play in the Berkshire League, it’s a joke. 

But what people don’t know is the so-called laughing stock of Connecticut sports has produced top-tier, Division I and professional athletes and has defeated other top-tier Connecticut teams a multitude of times. 

“I think there is some pride in trying to compete on behalf of your school,” said Toby Denman, head boys soccer and assistant girls basketball coach. “The level of competition is always high. People are always trying to have bragging rights over somebody else.” 

Most kids pride themselves in striving for a league title, but does a Berkshire League title carry any weight outside its small quarters inside Litchfield County? 

When deciphering an answer to this question, you can simply look back at the last few years. 

Does the name Dom Perachi sound familiar? 

The 2019 Shepaug graduate not only dominated as a pitcher in the BL, but went on to dominate at the collegiate level, well enough to land himself a draft pick for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Perachi, the BL all-star, played three seasons with Salve Regina before getting picked up by the Pittsburgh Pirates as an 11th-round draft pick in the 2022 Major League Baseball draft. The 6-foot-4 left-hander was named the Division III Pitcher of the Year before moving into the minors, representing the BL pretty well. 

Looking back even further, do the Scribner brothers ring a bell? 

Evan and Troy both attended Shepaug and went on to play in college, Evan at Central and Troy at Sacred Heart. The small-town boys eventually found themselves spots in the big leagues. 

Evan, after a successful career at Central, moved up to the minor leagues, and then landed with the San Diego Padres. Both brothers exceeded expectations when Troy joined his brother in the MLB. Troy played for the Los Angeles Angels and the Arizona Diamondbacks. 

The BL has pumped out more pro baseball players than most Connecticut leagues. In the Berkshire League, baseball is huge. 

Looking at last season alone, Nonnewaug didn’t just dominate inside the league’s small quarters. The Chiefs, last year’s BL title winner, defeated Holy Cross, the Naugatuck Valley League tournament champions two years in a row, 7-4 last season. They also topped Masuk, a Class L school in the South-West Conference, 10-8. 

In the Class of 2023 alone, Nonnewaug has produced not one but two Division I athletes who will compete at the best of the best: Brett Davino at UConn and Braeden Purser-Eber at Charleston. 

But is baseball the only good thing to come out of the Berkshire League? Would a sport like BL basketball survive in other tougher leagues? 

The answer depends on the school. For most sports, the BL can be split into two different sections, top and bottom. 

“The top of our league is competitive,” said Denman. “I think the top teams in the league can compete with other top schools from other leagues,” said Denman. 

Girls basketball is a perfect example of this — it’s competitive to a certain extent.

The upper half of the BL is as competitive as it gets, with all the BL girls all-stars in 2023 being from the same four teams: (Nonnewaug: Fiona Gengenbach, Mallory Tomkalski. Northwestern: Maddie Topa, Morgan Plitt. Thomaston: Nicole Decker, Ava Harkness. Gilbert: Emily Arel. 

With three out of seven of these All-BL players being seniors, the league looks to still be just as competitive next year. 

Gilbert placed 4th place in the BL and was eliminated in the semi-finals of the BL tournament, but despite this were led by one player who stands out from the rest, Arel. 

Arel entered the league last year as a freshman and shocked the BL by improving their in league record from 3-6 to 9-5. The All-Star made history by hitting her 1,000-point mark in just her second year at Gilbert and is on track to hit 2,000 by her senior year. 

But, would Arel have been so successful outside in the BL, in a league like the NVL, next to stars like Mya Zaccagnini, a commit to Division I Iona?

“I feel like playing in the NVL vs. the BL would be beneficial,” said Arel. “You have more teams to play against and better competition in some cases. Playing in such a small league makes it hard because the BL doesn’t get as much recognition as leagues like the NVL or some of the other ones throughout the state.”

How would our BL teams stack up against stronger teams in the NVL? 

“I think that for a while a lot of the BL teams would struggle against the stronger teams like Holy Cross,” said Arel. “The level of play and competition is completely different going from a team in the NVL to the BL.”

And that is exactly what happened. This season Nonnewaug faced NVL team Woodland suffered a 53-29 defeat. The Hawks were led by Casey Mulligan, who dropped 18 points on the Chiefs. 

“I think the stronger BL team could do alright in the NVL and compete,” said Mulligan, “but I don’t think they would be one of the top teams or beat any of the top teams.

The major difference between the BL and the NVL is the way they play. 

“They play at a way faster pace than any of the BL teams play at, which creates a completely different environment to play in,” said Arel. “Style of play would have to be changed and most of the teams would need some time to adjust.”

But this doesn’t attest to the fact that the BL is still a competitive, respectful league, which in most sports can hold their own against other leagues’ top teams. 

Last year, the Thomaston Golden Bears crawled their way through the girls basketball state tournament and claimed the Class S state title at Mohegan Sun Arena, putting the BL basketball back on the map. 

This year the Shepaug boys basketball team represented the BL well by competing its way through the whole state tournament. Despite a close loss in the Division V final, the Spartans’ Run to the Sun, proved the BL could contest with other leagues.

Is the BL the joke everyone thinks it is? You decide.

This is the opinion of Chief Advocate editor-in-chief Samantha Conti.