Outstanding season comes to an end for Thomaston baseball. Story by John Torsiello.
MIDDLETOWN-The Thomaston High School baseball team’s dream of a state title were dashed on the glistening green grass of Palmer Field Stadium Saturday afternoon, as the Golden Bears fell to Portland, 8-0, in the Class S tournament championship game.
Portland, the tourney’s 17th seed, roughed up Thomaston ace Brian Butkevicius for a four-spot in the top of the first inning and the Bears never bounced back. The Highlanders, who finished 16-9 and allowed just two runs to five tournament opponents, tossed two runs on the board in each of the third and sixth innings to complete the rout.
Portland, which won its second state title, got strong pitching the entire tournament and Saturday was no different. Senior right-hander Jason Staub allowed just two hits, both in the first inning to junior Mike Milius and senior Jake Tehan, and struck out seven batters. He faced only two batters over the minimum from the third through seventh innings and really was never in serious trouble the entire contest, played before a crowd of around 750 fans on a cool late spring afternoon.
“We got beat by a hot team,” said Thomaston head coach Bobby McMahon, whose club, ranked third in Class S, finished with a 21-4 record. “They just played real well today. And hats off to their pitcher, he was tough.”
Tough, indeed. Thomaston came into the final averaging seven runs in four previous tourney tilts, but Staub shut the Golden Bear bats down.
Thomaston did have a couple of opportunities to get to Staub, putting two runners on with one out in the bottom of the first, and two runners in scoring position in the bottom of the second. But the crafty righty worked out of trouble both times.
In the bottom of the second, Milius hit a ball that looked like it was going to drop in short left field, which would have plated one and likely two runners. But the ball was snared by the Portland leftfielder.
“We hit balls at people and if a couple dropped maybe it would have been a different story,” said McMahon. “The wind was blowing in and they had their outfielders playing in so those balls didn’t drop.”
Butkevicius went the distance in a workmanlike effort. The right hander brought an 11-2 mark into the game, with an earned run average hovering around one. But Portland came out swinging the metal bats and finished with 12 hits.
“I didn’t know anything about how they hit coming into the game,” said the hurler. “My thought process was to throw strikes. I don’t think we got down after they scored four on us in the first inning. We have a bunch of battlers on the team and we just kept fighting.”
The Highlanders got to the finals on the strength of solid pitching, having beaten Coventry, East Hampton, Old Lyme and Trinity Catholic.
Portland had an up and down season playing in the rugged Shoreline Conference. The Highlanders started the season 6-1, but then lost four of their next five before winning five of their next six contests. They ended the regular season with a three-game losing streak before catching fire in the tournament. They knocked off the tourney’s top seed, East Hampton, in the second round, 4-1.
Junior right hander Cole Ogorzalek, who caught Staub Saturday, threw a complete game one-hitter in the semifinal win over Trinity-Catholic, striking out nine batters.
Portland’s hitting was a bit of surprise Saturday, as the Highlanders were shut out four times during the regular season and scored just 14 runs in their four tournament wins.
The Highlanders’ Nick Adamsons doubled in two runs and later scored on a single by Hayden Manning, and Staub walked, went to third on a single by Josh Scovill and scored on a sacrifice fly by Mick Bordonaro.
In the top of the third, Jon Dolan knocked in two runs with a single, and Lee Thomas doubled and scored on John Muskatallo’s single. Muskatallo scored on another booming double by Adamsons.
Pretty much the only highlight of the day for Thomaston was the play of centerfielder Justin Taylor who made an over-the-shoulder catch of a rocket by Staub in the fifth and a brilliant diving catch to rob Bordonaro of a hit in the top of the seventh.
Despite the loss, Thomaston enjoyed a stellar season.
“It was great season for the core four seniors,” said Butkevicius, one of the graduating players along with Blaise Russo, Dan LeVasseur and Jake Tehan.
“The success we had this season was indisputable,” said McMahon. “Winning the Berkshire League title (for the first time in 29 years, 21 wins, getting to the state championship game, it was all terrific for our kids, especially the seniors. These kids love being at the ballpark and there were days when I couldn’t get them off the field. We’ll be back next year.”