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Woodbury-Middlebury SportsBeat: Connecticut's Best

A national champion, player of the year, and a goalies quick start in the Stanley Cup Finals.

 

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Bryan Daniello capped off a brilliant career at by winning the most prestigious award a baseball player in Connecticut can receive. On Wednesday, the star of the Senators was named Gatorade Player of the Year, given to the best player in the state.

"I was ecstatic. It's a tremendous honor to be selected with so many great players in the state," said Daniello. "I knew I was up for the award, but to win it, really is a great feeling."

Daniello was the heart and soul of the Senators, hitting .407 with seven home runs and 19 RBI's. He also excelled on the mound where he posted an 8-1 record with a 1.22 ERA. Daniello, who will play at UConn next year, also had 78 strikeouts in 63 innings.

"I was more relaxed this season," he said. "I had already committed to UConn so I could just go out and play my game and have fun. There wasn't as much pressure on me as there was a year ago."

There is a chance Daniello could be selected in next week's Major League draft, but he's focusing on how he can improve his game in order to succeed at the college level.

"It would be great to be drafted out of high school, but I'm pretty much set to go to UConn," he said. "I'm going up there as an infielder and I'm looking forward to playing for the Huskies."

RUNKEL IS A NATIONAL CHAMPION

Fairfield resident Jack Runkel, who prepped at , played a key role in helping Loyola University in Maryland win its first national championship in Division I lacrosse. The sophomore goalie made 15 saves in the semifinal win over Notre Dame, then came up clutch in the title game last Monday, turning away five of six shots in the second half to help secure the 9-3 victory over Maryland

"I just got back to Fairfield and it really hasn't all sunk in yet," said Runkel, who posted a 16-1 record for the Greyhounds. "I'm sure as the summer goes on, it'll sink in more."

Runkel took over as Loyola's starting goalie in the fourth game of the season and the Greyhounds got hot and rolled into the post-season brimming with confidence.

"I didn't feel any pressure," said Runkel. "The defense in front of me played great and coach just reminded us to keep playing our game."

Runkel and the Loyola defense only allowed three goals in the final game against Maryland, which was the lowest total in a national championship lacrosse game since 1971. After hoisting the trophy, Runkel became an instant celebrity to his friends in Connecticut and around the country.

"My cell phone, Facebook, Twitter, and e-mails were just blowing up," he said. "I had so many messages from my friends, it was great."

For his stellar play in the NCAA's, Runkel was named to the All-Tournament team, "It's a great honor to selected to a team with so many great players. But I really have to give a lot of the credit to the defense because they really played so well in front of me."            

Phil Dobson, a New Fairfield graduate, along with Tyler Foley, Justin Shaw, and Alex Yackery, all Darien residents, were also part of Loyola's national championship team.                         

QUICK SHINES ON UNDER THE BRIGHT LIGHTS

If Milford native was nervous about playing in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time, he certainly didn't show it against the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night. The former and Avon Old Farms standout, stopped 17 shots and allowed only a fluke goal in the Kings' overtime win in Game 1.

"I didn't think he felt any pressure at all," said Hamden High School hockey coach Bill Verneris. "He loves that kind of atmosphere. The bigger the game, the better he plays. That's what makes him Johnny Quick."

Verneris coached Quick during the goalies sophomore year at Hamden High School. He gave his former star high marks for his performance against the Devils.

"I thought he was phenomenal," Verneris said. "He played his angles really well and handled the puck great. If he has a weakness, that might it. But he controlled the puck really well. He and the Kings are loaded with confidence and they could make this a short series.

Game 2 is Friday night in New Jersey.

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