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Saluting the Bears - Again

POSTED June 27, 2014
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson


HARWINTON – You couldn’t kill the Bear and you can’t get rid of it either. Ask Fairview Farm Golf Club.

            The Bears were back in the Fairview Golf Club banquet room Thursday night although it is more like they never left. These were the Thomaston High softball Bears being saluted for earning the Class S state title.

            Less than two months ago it was the basketball Bears in the same room, maybe the same seats, taking bows for the Class S state title. So many of the faces were the same, so much of the pride still on center stage.

            All-everything Abby Hurlbert was prominent as was sister Gabrielle and cousin Morgan Sanson. Nicole Schaefer completed the core four that helped take the Bears though a year to remember and savor, going the distance with field hockey, basketball and softball.

            And once again the fire trucks were blowing their horns and sirens and the people of Thomaston were out on the streets welcoming their champions one more time. You could feel it, those in the house could revel in it. And it never gets old, it never will get old.

            There was a lot of the distant past in attendance (not that distant) that will not be allowed to grow old either. The Bears invited former coach Bev Lowden back and acknowledged and applauded her connection to what the program has become.

             Lowden toiled as the Bears coach for 37 years before retiring after the 2006 season and we mean toiled at times. She ran the gamut from kids in cut-offs doing homework on the bench to the state finals. She won four Berkshire League titles and earned two trips to the championship game. The father, mother, architect, focal part of the program through the decades.

             Bears co-coach Kelly Finlay was on Lowden’s last team to get to the championship game, a 3-0 loss to Coginchaug in 2005. And, while Lowden is now in camping mode, Finlay made sure her old coach (not a coach that is old) knew that her impact is still being felt.

             “We finished what coach Lowden started,” said Finlay. “When I graduated I knew my softball career was not over. Thanks coach Lowden for building a foundation and thanks to this team for finishing something we started then.”

             Co-coach Gene Torrence presented Lowden with a gold medal at the end of the evening for her contributions and the former coach, who was asked to speak at the banquet, was visibly touched.

              The journey to the title shared and will always share equal billing with the title.  It was a theme echoed often by speakers. The Comeback Kids, the darlings of drama, the refuse to lose bunch. Come up with your own name. Somewhere down the road the Bears will win another title. The way this one was won will not be duplicated.

              The comeback in the bottom of the seventh against St. Paul on sophomore Danielle Genest’s two-out, game-tying hit and then a victory in the 10th inning. The fifth inning comeback against Notre-Dame of Fairfield.

              The Morgan Sanson special in the semifinals on a night that Torrence said could be summed up two words – “Morgan Sanson.” The two-out, two-strike home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to tie the game. The winning hit to left in the ninth to win it. And she was the winning pitcher.

            Then the championship game which began like bad dream and ended in championship reality. Down 6-0, two in the fifth and four in the sixth to tie the game. Then Erin O’Neill’s RBI single scoring Gabrielle Hurlbert which secured her place in THS sports history and put the Bears on top of another sports mountain.

            “We expect more next year,” said Thomaston First Selectman Ed Mone. “That’s not pressure, you guys are pressure players.”

            Yeah, there were a few more gray hairs in the audience, maybe a few less hairs on some. Blood pressure readings are still up. But, the smiles have never been brighter.”

            Even in reality the Bears were still a bit taken back at that they accomplished.

            “I’m shocked and very, very happy we won the state championship,” said O’Neill.

            “Looking back, I just watched the game again, It’s truly amazing what we pulled off,” said Torrence.

            So they were all there in there finery Thursday night – rugged third baseman Nina Barone, Julia Romaniello, Sam Brostek, Jensyn Cleveland by picture phone from North Carolina who tried to get a ticket home, Cam Capaldo, Hurlberts, Sanson, Schaefer.

            And they were beaming one more time with a proud crowd looking on. They watched themselves on a video presentation and saw a team that willed itself to win one more time. State Representative John Piscopo once again presented citations.

            And once again the Bears didn’t rent the room, they owned the room. Time will pass, the story will be told, the papers will never yellow with old.

            You’ll never kill this Bear, heck you can’t even get them out of the room. Always champions.

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