CCSU Standouts Gianno Merlonghi and Aiden Redahan Shine with Westfield Starfires

By Beckett Calkins

Through 26 games the Westfield Starfires are on top of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League standings with a 16-10 overall record. The hot start for the Starfires has been fueled by two key players who are not just teammates over the summer, but during the school year at Central Connecticut State University as well.

Infielder Aiden Redahan and outfielder Gianno Merlonghi have played together at CCSU for each of the past three seasons. The two regulars in the Blue Devils lineup have become everyday faces at Billy Bullens Field this summer. Merlonghi entered play on Tuesday with a .353 batting average, ranking second in the Futures League while leading the Starfires. Redahan is not far behind his college teammate, hitting .305 and ranking eighth in the Futures League with 16 RBI.

“I’ve had a blast so far with the Starfires,” Redahan said. “I’ve never played in a summer league such as this before and it really makes me feel like a professional in all aspects of the game.”

Merlonghi, who leads Westfield with 24 games played, believes that the college season got the two ready for a successful summer run with the Starfires.

“Playing over 40 games in the spring really gets us ready,” Merlonghi said. “All we really have to transition to is switching to a wood bat, which I think we've done pretty well. We're just gonna keep grinding and winning games.”

It’s not just on the field where the two CCSU stars have built a relationship, but off it as well.

“Gianno since coming to Central has been one of my best friends,” Redahan said. “We were roommates freshman year and ever since that we’ve just had a really big bond that's gotten better over the years.”

Starfires manager Paul Bonfiglio noted how the chemistry between Merlonghi and Redahan has helped the team as a whole.

“They have a really good balance of being intense, focused, professional but fun. That’s a big deal,” Bonfiglio said. “I think when other guys see that they have that balance, it’s something for them to read and aspire to.”

Each of the two love baseball for specific reasons. For Merlonghi, it's the unpredictability that each game brings to the plate.

“I love baseball because I feel like it's different from other sports,” Merlonghi said.  “The fact that you can come to a field and a team can be better than you, but you can outplay them any day of the week. You know it can be a different game.”

Redahan gravitates towards the difficulties that come with playing the great sport of baseball.

“It's a challenge. It's one of those games that they say 90 percent of it is mental and I totally agree,” Redahan said.  “I mean it’s a mental battle every single time you step in between the lines, I think more so than any other sport. That's why I love baseball.”

Bonfiglio mentioned the experience that both players bring to the table and how it makes them stand out among other players in the Futures League.

“They do a really good job of finding a pitch that they can handle and putting an ace swing on it. That's something that comes with time in college, and you can tell that they've had a good amount of college bats underneath them,” said Bonfiglio.

Despite the great start from Merlonghi, Redahan and the Starfires as a team, they are taking the successes day by day, another thing that Redahan attributes to his success on the diamond.

“We’re just playing loose and having fun. When you're playing in school, there's obviously a lot more of an expectation to win every single time you step on the field,” Redahan said. “You come here, you have a bad night, you shake it off, you get back on the horse and you have a good game the next day. I think that that's a really important aspect of the game. Just having a blast every single time we step on the field.”

Redahan also credited the fans at Bullens Field with the success of the team.

“We love your guys' support. The more you guys get out here, the better we feel,” said Redahan on the fans. “Keep coming out, keep supporting us and we'll try and give you guys the best baseball we can.”

It isn’t just Redahan and Merlonghi off to quick starts in 2024 with the Starfires. The whole team is buying in under Bonfiglio’s leadership.

“There’s a lot of guys on this team that play good baseball. It’s a show every time we come out here.” Merlonghi said.

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