Thomaston baseball looks for one more win in 2015 than last year. Preview by John Torsiello.
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
Thomaston High School’s baseball team enjoyed a dream season in 2014, one for the record books.
The Golden Bears captured their first Berkshire League title in 29 years, won 23 games and got to the championship game of the CIAC Class S state tournament. That’s where it all ended, however, as Portland upset the Bears, 8-0.
There is reason to believe that Thomaston can once again contend for a BL championship and make a deep run in the state tournament. The Bears did lose some key players, including star pitcher Brian Butkevicius, who won 11 games last season. But head coach Bob McMahon, in his seventh year at the helm, returns enough talent to give Golden Bear fans cause for optimism as the 2015 campaign kicks off this week.
“We have strong senior leadership and we hope to contend for the league championship,” said McMahon. “We have to throw strikes, pick up the ball in the field, and score runs to be successful.”
Among the players back this year are a bevy of veteran and battled-tested seniors, led by shortstop Mike Milius, catcher/outfielder Tyler Donofrio, catcher/infielder Anthony Moura, pitcher/infielder Frankie Romanelli, pitcher/outfielder Shane O’Bar, first baseman Brian Sousa, and junior outfielders Matt Tehan and Justin Taylor.
Milius nit over .500 last year with 12 RBI and 24 stolen bases and was the catalyst at the top of the order that made the Bears click. Donofrio hit well over .400 last year with 10 RBI; Matt Tehan hit over .400 with 15 RBI and 15 stolen bases; Moura hit around .230 with five RBI; Romanelli hit close to .370 with five RBI and eight stolen bases; and Taylor hit over .300 with six RBI and nine stolen bases.
The Golden Bear bats are expected to be as potent as they were last year when they scored 28 runs in victories over Valley Regional, St. Paul, Morgan and Cromwell to reach the Class S championship tilt. The Bears scored 10 or more runs six times during the 2014 regular season and lost only three times, 9-6 to Wamogo, 7-3 to Nonnewaug, and 5-1 to Lewis Mills.
Pitching, which was solid last year, will be the question mark facing the Golden Bears as a new season begins. In addition to Butkevicius, lefty Blaise Russo graduated, and a lot will be expected of Romanelli, O’Bar and sophomore prospect Justin Daigle this spring. Last year, Thomaston pitchers recorded three shutouts and gave up two runs or less in five other contests.
In addition to Daigle, who can also play a number of other positions, McMahon is looking for big things this year from other underclassmen, sophomore infielders Jake Torrence and Jared Kahn.
Thomaston’s superb 2014 season was a direct by-product of a blistering start that saw the Golden Bears come out of the chute to win their first 11 games of the year, including four one-run victories. Thomaston’s first loss was to Lewis Mills at home on May 7. The Bears then reeled off four more wins before stumbling a bit and losing back to back games in late May. But the Bears finished strong, beating Terryville, 7-3, and Prince Tech in a non-league game, 11-0, to close out the regular season before starting its fabulous post-season run.
Perhaps Thomaston’s biggest win of the season came in the semifinals of the Class S tournament, when it beat second-seed Cromwell (Thomaston was the tourney’s third seed), 5-4, in a nail biter. Butkevicius got the final two outs in the win over Cromwell after Russo started and gutted out six-plus innings.
McMahon believes his fiercest competition in the Berkshire League will come from Lewis Mills, Shepaug and Northwestern. Mills was 13-7, Shepaug 9-11, and Northwestern 12-8 last year. The Bears could also be pressed by Housatonic (13-7) and Terryville (10-9).
Thomaston opens up Wednesday against Gilbert at Winsted’s Walker Field at 3:45 p.m., plays its first home game against Litchfield at 3:45 p.m. at the Thomaston High School field Friday, and then entertains Coginchaug in a non-league affair Saturday at 1 p.m. Thomaston’s first real Berkshire League test will come next Monday when the Golden Bears travel to Washington’s Ted Alex Memorial Field to take on Shepaug at 3:45 p.m.
McMahon and his youngsters would love to take the season one game further this spring than it did last year and bring home the school’s first diamond state title since 2008. But there’s a lot of baseball to be played before that can have a chance of happening.