Another Golden Bear Spring
THOMASTON – Another Golden Bear spring.
The seasons changed, the calendar year changed, even some faces changed. But that championship feeling remains housed in Thomaston. When it comes to the diamond, look no further than the 227-student school situated off Route 109 to find your titles.
These are magical times for the Golden Bears. Titles are be cherished at any time but this is about sustained excellence, there are no one-hit wonders here. For coach Bob McMahon’s baseball team it is a two-time champions now with a Class S final on the resume.
The THS softball team is off the charts. Defending Class S state champions, coach Kelly Finlay’s team has roared through the season with an 18-0 record for its second BL title in three seasons.
The Bears have now reeled off a school record 26 wins in a row, their last loss coming more than a year ago (May 15) to Northwestern Regional.
With nine of the 13 girls on the team having played basketball you can’t separate the two seasons and that winning habit – two-time defending Class S basketball champs and four-time defending BL titlists. It is not a great year it is a great era.
People have noticed. There has been twitter chatter around the state. Channel 3 has come to games. People want to know what is in the water. One prominent state sportswriter from New London even offered this observation – “Thomaston is the small town that everybody wants to be.”
Like Bruce Sprinsteen belted out – “Glory Days.”
If there is a centerpiece it is Bob McMahon. He coaches the THS baseball team and the girls basketball team. He has won state and BL titles with both. He is 40-5 this school year. He has a basketball dynasty and a baseball power.
This baseball season was no assured thing. The Bears had a solid nucleus back but graduated their two top pitchers, Brian Butkevicius and Blaise Russo and pretty fair hitter in Jake Tehan.
So what happens. Senior lefthander Frank Romanelli (7-2) emerges as the top pitcher in the BL and senior Shane O’Bar and junior Justin Taylor step forward to provide a solid No. 2 and No. 3.
The bats led senior shortstop Mike Milius (UConn-Avery Point), Tyler Donofrio and O’Bar and the defense anchored by Brian Sousa at first base have been a solid compliment to the pitching. The Bears executed so well, that they clinched a tie for the title after just 13 games.
Only a late season loss to Northwestern Regional after the title was won has marred a near perfect BL season. The other loss and one that gnaws at the Bears a bit is a 12-8 defeat to Torrington.
In a feisty affair, the Bears led for most of the game only to falter in the bottom of the seventh inning with the help of two errors that set up a nuclear bomb of a home run from Kobe Covington.
It has been a Bear of a year and off to the side McMahon will tell you that. High hopes for another tournament run but the year is already an accomplished one. Again. The championship pedigree continues.
On the other side of the two-for-one Black Rock Field, the softball team does its business. Their success is explainable, their style is unfathomable. Their talent is obvious. The intangible quality to turn to defeat into victory is surreal and has earned statewide recognition.
Comeback after comeback after comeback after comeback…..And it has been going on for two seasons and two sports. Last week the Bears continued to baffle. Down by two runs to Nonnewaug, they came up with three in the bottom of the eighth inning for the win.
Two days later, trailing Wamogo, 2-1, going into the seventh inning, Julia Romaniello whacks a two-out, two-strike, two-run triple for a 3-2 victory. You just shake your head. The nine players from the basketball team are now 41-3 this school year and haven’t loss since Jan. 31.
The boys have picked up the beat. Down 5-3 with two outs in the seventh inning against Terryville, they tied the game and then won in the eighth on O’Bar’s RBI single. Stunning.
The softball names and faces are so familiar – Cousins Morgan Sanson and Gabrielle Hurlbert, Nicole Schaefer, Sam Brostek with more basketball titles than fingers. Then there is freshman Alexa Milius who has added a home run bat to the lineup and seniors Jensyn Cleveland and Nina Barone. Danielle Genest who beat St. Paul in last year’s softball tournament and Romanello.
Sanson has improved each year on the mound and if the Bears don’t always hit, they have a penchant to come up with the big hit. The state tournament road is filled with big shots including Wheeler and East Granby.
The Bears will be a target and thy have their hands full. But already they have helped make it another Golden Bear spring.
It is a fun thing to watch the boys baseball team en masse watching the girls team play when the schedule permits it. If you scanned the fence behind the baseball bench Friday among the fans you would have seen Sanson, Hurlbert, Schaefer, Clevleand, Barone, Milius and the whole gang watching the baseball team.
It is a special time in Golden Bear land, palpable pride evident in school and around the Clocktown. Once again it is a Golden Bear spring.